Prague firmly opposed to EU refugee quota plan

Photo: CTK

The Czech Republic has strongly rejected freshly announced European Union plans for a quota system for accepting refugees. The EU wants the country to take in over 500 refugees permanently and to process the asylum requests of thousands more. But the Prague government insists any such scheme should be voluntary.

Photo: CTK
The European Commission has just unveiled plans to combat a refugee crisis that has this year seen over 1,800 migrants die at sea trying to reach Italy.

The proposals include a scheme under which member states would in the next two years take in 20,000 asylum seekers.

The blueprint envisages the Czech Republic accepting 525 of them on a permanent basis. In addition it would process the asylum requests of nearly 10,000 more.

The Czech Republic has long been opposed to the compulsory quota idea. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka reiterated the country’s position on Wednesday, and pointed to what he regards as a flaw in the plan.

“We are willing to help. But we want to do so on a voluntary basis and on the basis of our own sovereign decision… There are no rules, and no limits, that would prevent such migrants – if they are divided up in a quota system – from travelling on to countries that have a much higher standard of living and higher social benefits, and where they have relatives or coreligionists.”

Bohuslav Sobotka,  photo: CTK
Jakub Janda of think tank European Values says the Czech government sees another danger in the concept of compulsory quotas.

“They don’t want it to be a directive, being imposed by Brussels on member states. Because they are afraid of the political implications it could have, in the sense that far-right or anti-European parties would get a great chance to challenge the political mainstream.

“They could say, Look Brussels is imposing thousands of immigrants on us. And in this they would be right – they would be telling the truth, in this sense.”

How likely is it that this idea will become reality? Will the Czech Republic just have to accept this plan and perhaps prepare the public for the arrival of asylum seekers?

“Right now coalitions are forming for and against the quotas. At the moment it looks like the bigger and older members are mostly supporting the quota system, and Central European countries such as the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland are against.

Jakub Janda,  photo: Czech Television
“It looks like the blocking minority against this proposal is really tiny. So it’s really possible, because the vote would be in the qualified majority system.

“This basically means that you could be outvoted. It could end up that the Czech Republic would be strongly against the proposal but it could be voted in.”

Indeed, at least four states with a population amounting to 35 percent or more of the EU would be required to block the plan. The Czech Republic may well have to accept a set number of refugees, whether it likes it or not.