Slovakia hopes to forge a common position with three other central European states on tackling the migrant crisis engulfing the continent, which would include rejecting any EU quotas for redistributing refugees, its premier, Robert Fico, said today (31 August).
Fico said he would meet with the prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland on Friday (4 September) or Sunday (6 September) in Prague to discuss the crisis, as the death toll among migrants continues to mount. The four countries constitute a group inside the EU known as the Visegrad Four, of V4.
Hungary’s status as an eastern outpost of Europe’s passport-free Schengen area has made it a magnet for tens of thousands of migrants from the Middle East and beyond heading for Western Europe via the Balkans. Hungary has responded by erecting a fence along its border with Serbia.
The central Europeans have blocked proposals from the European Commission that envisage EU member states accepting binding quotas to share out asylum-seekers crossing the Mediterranean to Italy and Greece.
On Sunday (30 August), French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius called their stance “scandalous”.
But Fico stuck to his guns.
“We strongly reject any quotas … If a mechanism for automatic redistribution of migrants is adopted, then we will wake up one day and have 100,000 people from the Arab world and that is a problem I would not like Slovakia to have,” Fico told a news conference shown live on television.
“We are prepared to do what is needed and what is within our possibilities. For people who really need help, separate them from economic migrants,” he added.
Fico said Europe should focus on tackling the causes of the migrant crisis and he criticised Western support for opposition groups in Syria and Libya, saying this had helped to fuel the civil wars there and thus the exodus of so many people.
“Let’s stop destabilising Syria,” he said.
Similar statements were made in Sofia by Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov. The sources of migration are the destabilised countries in Africa and the Arab world, and those who can solve the problem are “the world’s big bosses”, he said.
Most of the migrants arriving in Hungary aim to move on to wealthier countries further west such as Germany, which is expecting an influx of some 800,000 people this year alone.
Austria, another popular destination, tightened border controls on Monday, days after discovering an abandoned truck near the Hungarian border containing the rotting remains of 71 people thought to include Syrian refugees.
Slovakia, which lies to the north of the main ‘Balkan route’ for migrants heading west, through Hungary, has received only 109 requests for asylum since January.
Interior ministers from the 28-nation EU will hold an emergency summit to discuss the migrant crisis on 14 September.
Juncker spokesperson Margaritis Schinas hinted today at what his boss will say on 9 September, when the head of Europe’s executive delivers his first State of the Union speech.
“Everything the Commission has proposed, and that some people chose not to see, is on the table”, Schinas said, in a clear message that the Commission was in favour of the mandatory migrant quotas as proposed in its 13 May ‘European agenda on migration’ paper, as well of a more permanent approach beyond 2016.