Pehe: Czech government has taken somewhat ‘alibistic’ stance on refugees

Bělá-Jezová detention centre for illegal migrants, photo: CTK

The Czech Republic will accept no new migrants this year under EU plans, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said on Monday in Brussels. Mr Chovanec criticised the EU’s hot spot system which has so far seen only a small number from tens of thousands of refugees in Italy and Greece relocated to other parts of the EU.

Milan Chovanec,  photo: Filip Jandourek
I discussed the Czech position with political analyst Jiří Pehe, asking first whether the interior minister had a point that the EU needed to get its house in order.

“I think that the interior minister definitely has a point that the hot spots system is not yet working as it should. At the same time, I would argue that some EU member states were able to transport some of the refugees to their own countries. While there is a problem with the hot spots system, I would also say there is an issue with the Czech government not really being overly eager to accept refugees.”

Certainly the government has taken a tough stance on EU migrant quotas from the very beginning, but also agreed to accept several thousand by 2017. But even that, it appears, could be under threat unless the EU gets the system up-and-running, so to speak…

“I am afraid that it is a bit of an alibistic approach: on the one hand, the government says we will take them but has otherwise not been very helpful. It would be possible to go to various refugee camps in Turkey or Jordan or Lebanon and, if they really wanted to help, to choose refugees eligible right there.”

Bělá-Jezová detention centre for illegal migrants,  photo: CTK
One gets the sense that some of the politicians opposing quotas, in their statements, are confident they will eventually be proven right: politically, the situation has begun to change in some of the countries which were initially much more willing to accept refugees…

“The fact that the situation is changing in Germany and some of the other countries is not good news for us. There may be some kind of a backlash there when the number of incoming refugees reaches a kind of saturation point. But I would argue the Czechs will not be - as they think - ‘proven right’ but that there will be anger against the Czech Republic and the other Visegrad 4 countries for ‘contributing’ to the problem and not accepting their share. I think we are in a bad political situation which could negatively affect our place in the European Union.”