The electoral victory of Czech politician Andrej Babiš, who based his campaign on opposition to refugee migration, is causing concern. While critics condemn his stance he searches for allies in Eastern Europe and beyond. EURACTIV’s media partner “Der Tagesspiegel” reports.
Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn criticized the winner of the Czech elections for his stance on migration policy. “I don’t understand how a potential future prime minister of the Czech Republic, home of the Charta 77 and Václav Havel, in his first declaration after the election is telling the world that his country will not accept a single refugee,” Asselborn told the “Tagesspiegel”.
“In 1968 in many EU-countries, also in Luxembourg, we were proud to give refugees from the former Czechoslovakia the chance to start a new life”, said Asselborn. The Charta 77, which was signed in 1977 by prominent authors like Havel, later paved the way for the Velvet Revolution of 1989. After the invasion by troops of the Warsaw Pact and the suppression of the Prague Spring in August 1968, more than 80.000 citizens fled Czechoslovakia for the West.
Migration causes: Brok for stronger Eastern European engagement
Elmar Brok, MEP for the German Christian Democrats, voiced expectations that Babiš will “work normally” in the EU bodies. When it comes to EU migration policy, a possible solution to the current stalemate could be that Eastern European member states, which currently defy taking in refugees, could contribute through stronger participation in fighting against the causes of migration and flight instead, Brok told the “Tagesspiegel”.
Besides the Czech Republic, other EU member states like Hungary and Poland are currently opposing refugee redistribution inside the EU. Despite the resistance from Eastern Europe, Council President Donald Tusk plans to conclude a “comprehensive agreement” on migration at the level of European leaders in June 2018.
In Brussels, when it comes to Babiš’ possible refugee policy, most want to wait and see what course he will pursue in practice. Not everything said during the election campaign is about to happen in reality, according to EU sources. In addition, the migration package proposed by the Commission last year to reform the Dublin system also contained a set of measures to manage and organize migration.
It included the protection of EU borders, acceleration of asylum procedures, the strengthening of the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) as well as migration partnerships with African countries. Looking at these proposals without ideological mind cuffs, even a migration sceptic could accept this as a considerable improvement, according to EU sources.
The controversial billionaire Babiš won the parliamentary elections in the Czech Republic in a massive landslide. The populist politician and his protest movement ANO (“YES”) reached 29,6%, an increase of nearly 11% compared to 2013. The former Finance Minister Babiš announced he wants “to rule the country like a company” and therefore is referred to by the media as the “Czech Donald Trump”.
Babiš in search of support
Babiš wants to gather support in his anti-immigration course. “We have to prepare topics, we have to make clear in the European Council what we want to change,” Babiš said in an interview with Reuters in Prague on Saturday. As examples, he named “a solution in the area of migration and the fight against immigration”.
In his initiatives, Babiš will not restrict himself only to the Visegrád Group, which is strongly connected through a strict anti-immigration policy. With the Austrian conservative election winner Sebastian Kurz, there might be another potential ally, said Babiš, as he is also said to have the same views on migration policy as him.
“The Visegrád Group needs more allies; we need Austria and other countries, in the Balkans, Slovenia, Croatia or maybe even others.”
Difficult government formation ahead
With 78 of the 200 mandates, the ANO movement will be represented as the strongest party in the new Czech parliament. Nevertheless, the billionaire is facing a difficult task of forming a government.
In total, nine parties entered parliament. Bohuslav Sobotka, the incumbent head of government from the Social Democrats, as well as the Christian Democrats, who both formed a coalition with ANO in the previous legislature, already declared they will not enter into a coalition with Babiš. Babiš, on the other hand, said in the Reuters interview that he wants to talk to all parties, but ruled out an alliance with the far right.
In his election campaign, Babiš promised to lower taxes, replace corrupt politicians and cordon off the European borders, so that not a single refugee is taken into the Czech Republic.