Zaorálek concedes Prague may be outvoted soon on quota issue
The Czech Republic is one of a small number of member states holding out against European Union plans for a quota system to share refugees around the bloc. The country’s foreign minister, Lubomír Zaorálek, plays down talk of Brussels withdrawing funds from states that refuse to accept set numbers of migrants – but concedes that Prague may be outvoted over the matter in the not too distant future.
Tensions over the issue are escalating. German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere on Tuesday slammed what he called the “opportunistic behaviour of the minority” and suggested Brussels pressure them by threatening to withhold EU structural funds.
This idea had previously been floated by the president of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker.
However, speaking on Czech Television, the Czech minister of foreign affairs, Lubomír Zaorálek, played down the danger.
“That has been spoken about. But for me it is not at the present time the position of Mrs. Merkel. The European Commission hasn’t said it either. It isn’t good to threaten one another like this. But the debate can be tough and complicated.”
Though this argument perhaps presupposes the Schengen zone returning to business as usual, it was repeated by the country’s foreign policy chief on Tuesday night.
“I can’t imagine, and neither can my Czech government colleagues, how we will order these people to remain in the Czech Republic. Whoever says this isn’t a problem is wrong. We contend that they will leave this country, because if they have relatives elsewhere, and so on, then we won’t keep them here.”
Brussels would like the quotas debate to end in consensus rather than rift. However, a unanimous vote on the quota plan is not required and, with all the major players behind the idea, the decision can be made by a qualified majority.
Lubomír Zaorálek conceded the possibility of this happening soon.
If the proposal is pushed through, the Czech Republic will be required to take in around 3,000 asylum seekers in the next two years.