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Czech President rejects all migrants, EU Commissioner says he is mocking the law

5.8.2016 9:28
Refugees at a European border crossing, 2015. (PHOTO:  iniciativa Pomáháme lidem na útěku - We Help People on the Run Initiative)
Refugees at a European border crossing, 2015. (PHOTO: iniciativa Pomáháme lidem na útěku - We Help People on the Run Initiative)

Czech President Miloš Zeman says he believes the question of refugee reception needs to be discussed by the Czech Parliament. His spokesperson, Jiří Ovčáček, also said earlier this week that the President absolutely disagrees with refugee reception.

Zeman does not want the country to receive either the 80 migrants coming from refugee camps in Turkey or the total number of 2 691 migrants that the Czech Republic has already pledged to receive. His spokesperson said the "influx" of migrants to Europe is "absolutely uncontrollable and uncontrolled".

"That means we at this moment are not capable - and this is seen in the case of Germany also - of differentiating economic migrants from refugees fleeing war. That has been demonstrated in the case of these terrorist atacks," Ovčáček said.

The spokesperson went on to say that the Czech Republic should not receive any more migrants. To do so, he said, would turn the territory of the Czech Republic into a "hotbed for barbaric attacks".

EU Commissioner for the Digital Economy and Society Günther Oettinger responded to the Czech head of state's remarks on 3 August. "Whoever mocks European legislation as Zeman does is weakening Europe as a whole," he said in an interview with German radio station ffn.

The Commissioner said that since the Member State interior ministers adopted the refugee quotas by majority vote, they are now EU law. "I actually believe we must ask ourselves, with shame, whether we cannot offer even more to the 300 000 Syrians who are surrounded in Aleppo," Oettinger said in the interview.

The Commissioner, who is from Germany, said people in that city in northwestern Syria, which is surrounded by the forces of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad, are starving and on the brink of death. Be that as it may, Czech Finance Minister Andrej Babiš is speaking in the same vein as Zeman, saying he wants the reception of migrants into the Czech Republic to be discussed by the Chamber of Deputies in extraordinary session.

On Wednesday Babiš tweeted that it is necessary to respond to citizens' concerns and needs, to provide for their safety, and that he would not respect the EU quotas even at the cost of the threat of sanctions. In a commentary published on the news server Expres.cz, he went on to say that he does not want a single refugee in the Czech Republic, not even temporarily.

"I have stopped believing in successful integration and in multiculturalism," wrote the Czech Finance Minister, who is himself of Slovak origin. The EU plan to redistribute migrants on the basis of mandatory quotas was approved last September. 

The Czech Government repeatedly took a stand against the quotas, but unlike Hungary and Slovakia did not file a lawsuit against them with the European Court of Justice. "It's too late to take legal action today. On the other hand, in the EU, sometimes the Commission's decisions [sic] are not respected by the Member States," the Czech Finance Minister said.  

The Czech Republic should not respect the refugee reception decision, according to Babiš. If doing so means sanctions will be levied against the Czech Republic, then the country should defend itself in the courts.

"From the standpoint of our approach to migration, we should follow the example of Hungary and Slovakia," the Czech Finance Minister wrote for Expres.cz. His opinion piece was published while Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka is on vacation.

According to the press department of the Office of the Government, Sobotka has previously repeatedly expressed the Czech Government's position on the issue of migration. That standpoint has not changed, the press department says.

Sobotka has said politicians should not exploit people's concerns about the migration crisis in order to build their own political careers. The PM believes that is not a good road for the country to go down and that it will also not have a positive impact on resolving the issue of immigration into Europe.

The Czech PM has also previously said that what is crucial is to protect the EU's external borders and to open the question of a common EU Army. At the same time, he has emphasized that it is necessary to aid people who have the right to asylum.

agw, bau, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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Migrace, Miloš Zeman, Politika, refugee



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