Prague is hosting a Visegrad Four summit on the migrant crisis. The prime ministers of Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary as well as invited representatives of Macedonia and Bulgaria will be discussing ways of bringing the influx of migrants under control, including the possibility of beefing up borders between Bulgaria, Macedonia and Greece. The Prague meeting is being held ahead of an EU summit on the migrant crisis on February 18th.
Czech State Secretary for European Affairs Tomáš Prouza has confirmed
that he was contacted by the German ambassador to Prague with regard to the
agenda and goals of the Višegrad Four summit due to be held in Prague on
Monday. According to Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico Germany has voiced
objections to the fact that the Višegrad Four, comprising the Czech
Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, as well as representatives of
Macedonia and Bulgaria would be discussing plans to beef-up security at the
Bulgarian and Macedonian border if Greece should fail to bring the flow of
migrants under control. The German weekly Der Spiegel wrote that plans by
the Višegrad Four undermine EU unity in the need to secure the EU’s
outer borders and Chancellor Merkel’s plan to solve the migrant crisis
with the aid of Turkey.
Mr. Prouza dismissed these claims saying the Czech Republic and other V4 countries supported cooperation with Turkey in the solution to the migrant crisis but at the same time, they were prepared to intensify aid to Greece as well as to Macedonia and Bulgaria to help bring the influx of migrants under control. He noted that European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently called on EU member states to provide bilateral aid to Macedonia. We consider it a natural part of the European solution to the migrant crisis, Prouza said.
The State Secretary for EU Affairs added that he had also debated the summit’s agenda with the Dutch ambassador to Prague as a representative of the EU presiding country and the head of the European Commission Representation in Prague in the past days.
Czech Foreign Minister Lubomír Zaorálek said he did not perceive German questions about the Visegrad Four summit on migration as objections, but considered them a natural effort to clarify certain points and seek a joint approach in the migrant crisis.
The Czech government says it has not registered any signs of German objections to the Višegrad Four summit due to be held in Prague next week. According to Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico Germany had voiced a protest against the fact that the Višegrad Four, comprising the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary, as well as representatives of Macedonia and Bulgaria would be discussing plans to beef-up security at the Bulgarian and Macedonian border if Greece should fail to bring the flow of migrants under control. According to Der Spiegel these plans by the Višegrad Four undermine EU unity in the need to secure the EU’s outer borders and may lead to an open conflict with Chancellor Merkel. Czech government spokesman Martin Ayrer said the Višegrad summit would focus on the 25 th anniversary of the Višegrad Four and migration issues and rejected the idea that the alliance aimed to counter Germany’s proposals at the upcoming EU summit.
Minister of Defence Martin Stropnický has said that the Visegrad four regional grouping should consider sending a rotating contingent of troops to the Baltic States for training with local forces. The minister made the suggesting during an ongoing two-day ministerial meeting at NATO headquarters in Brussels. The idea would in part answer the Baltic States’ repeated demands for a stepped up military presence from its allies given the increased fears and tension with neighbour Russia.
The Czech Republic has called a special summit of the Visegrad Four in connection with the migration crisis, Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka announced on Twitter on Tuesday. He and his counterparts from Slovakia, Poland and Hungary are likely to discuss efforts to boost the protection of the Schengen Zone when they meet on February 15. Mr. Sobotka has said that if deals on safeguarding Turkish and Greek borders do not start working by the time a European Council meeting takes place in mid-February the Visegrad states had prepared a variant under which Schengen’s borders could be moved to the southern frontiers of Bulgaria and Macedonia.
In a joint memorandum issued in Prague on Tuesday, the interior ministers of the Visegrad Four countries again rejected the idea of compulsory refugee quotas for European Union states. The Czech minister of the interior, Milan Chovanec, announced the move at a news conference following a meeting with his counterparts from Slovakia, Poland and Hungary. The four called for the fulfilment of a commitment to establish functioning “hot spots” on the EU’s external borders; such centres should also be detention facilities with refugees not allowed to leave them until their identity is verified, they said.
German chancellor Angela Merkel could visit the Czech Republic this spring, the Czech News Agency reports, citing unnamed diplomatic sources. Her visit would possibly coincide with the 25th anniversary of the founding of the Visegrad Four in late March or early April or could be a bilateral meeting. Czech Prime Minister Buhlas Sobotka said last year he hoped to meet with Merkel to discuss the migrant crisis, the Schengen zone, economic ties, industry modernisation and other issues. Relations between the V4 and Germany were strained last year by differences over the migrant crisis, including Prague’s rejection of EU quotas.
Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said that the Bavarian government’s views on immigration are a lot closer to that of the Czech Republic and Visegerad Four countries than that of most Western countries. Sobotka’s comments came during a visit to a Siemens plant at Amberg where he was accompanied by the Bavarian minister president, Horst Seehofer. Seehofer’s conservative CSU party has clashed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel over her open handed immigration policy.
Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski met with his Czech counterpart Lubomír Zaorálek in Prague on Monday, for the first Czech-Polish talks since the new conservative government of the Law and Justice party took office late last year. I spoke to Michal Kořán, an expert from the Czech Institute of International Affairs about how the change of guard in Poland could affect bilateral relations:
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