Refugee Crisis Puts EU on Collision Course with Central Europe
Visegrád Four reject migrant quotas even in face of sanction threats
Central European leaders denounced European Union migrant quotas and are defending their nations’ immigration policies, as tensions between the more traditionalist, Christian countries and their liberal Western neighbors continue to grow.
Leaders of the Visegrád Group (also known as the Visegrád Four or V4) — Poland, Hungary, Czechia, and Slovakia — held a summit in Warsaw on Tuesday as the EU ramps up its efforts to force those nations to accept masses of predominantly Muslim refugees. Brussels has threatened to withhold funding from the V4 countries unless they comply.
“We are defending the countries behind us and we can say that Austrians and German can sleep in peace.”
“The Visegrad Group, including Poland, will never agree to blackmail and will never agree to conditions being dictated to them,” said Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo.
The V4 opposes “linking the debate about migration to European funds,” said Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka. “This is blackmail, that we reject in the name of the Slovak government,” said Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico.
The EU’s migrant resettlement program has effectively been a complete dud, due largely to Central European stubborn refusal. Earlier in the month, the supranational organization proposed cutting off funds to V4 countries in a desperate bid to get them to comply.
“If we don’t have tangible efforts by September … the commission will not hesitate to make use of its power,” Dimitris Avramopoulos, the EU commissioner for migration, said in early March.
“But if it is not the case in the future, infringements might be an option,” he said. “Infringements” refers to EU “infringement proceedings,” the official mechanism for imposing fines on member states that violate EU diktats.
Surely adding to the EU’s desperation is Austria’s request, also on Tuesday, that the country be exempt from the EU’s refugee resettlement program. “We believe an exception is necessary for Austria for having already fulfilled its obligation. We will discuss that with the European Commission,” Chancellor Christian Kern told reporters.
“Austria is now expected to fulfill its legal obligation … to start relocating [refugees],” said EU commission spokeswoman Natasha Bertaud. “No country can unilaterally withdraw from a legally binding decision.”
The group’s defiance in the face of EU threats comes in the same week that Hungary implemented a new policy of detaining illegal migrants. The country also has double fencing along much of its border and recently created a force of “Border Hunters” to apprehend illegal migrants trying to enter the country.
“We are able to halt any wave of migration, no matter its size,” Viktor Orbán bragged on Tuesday. But despite the vocal opposition from the weak-willed liberal leaders of Western Europe, Orban was adamant that his country’s approach to the migrant crisis was not just in Hungary’s interest but in the interests of those Western European nations as well.
“We are defending Hungary, we are defending the countries behind us and we can say that Austrians and German can sleep in peace,” Orban said.