Commission frowns on ‘Christian only’ solidarity with migrants

Council President Donald Tusk and Slovak PM Robert Fico. [European Council]

Asked to comment today (19 August) on a statement by the premier of Slovakia that his country would only accept Christian migrants, the European Commission reiterated the principle of non-discrimination, which is at the core of EU legislation.

The question was prompted by press reports about Slovakia’s sectarian preferences, in response to the EU plan to to relocate a total of 40,000 migrants from Greece and Italy.

Slovakia will receive only 100 refugees – Syrian Christian families that it will itself select – Prime Minister Robert Fico announced at a press conference on 21 July.

According to Fico, the initial version of the EU plan had foreseen a mandatory quota for Slovakia, obliging it to accept 1,200 migrants. Moreover, in such cases, Slovakia wouldn’t have had the opportunity to have any say in selecting these people, Fico said.

“We refused this, stating that a voluntary principle must be in place, and we’ll show a certain level of solidarity this way,” Fico concluded..

Indeed, the Commission proposal was rejected by EU leaders, and now the goal is to relocate the same number on a voluntary basis, until the end of the year.

>>Read: EU fails to relocate 40,000 migrants

“We’ll select ourselves [these 100 refugees] in Italy and Greece. These families will come to Slovakia, and we’ll see whether they’ll want to stay. One hundred is the number of people we’re ready to accept; this is our contribution to the quota of 40,000 people who’ve been decided by the EU to be distributed among individual member countries,” said Fico.

Later, in an interview for an Austrian newspaper, Fico said the number of immigrants his country would take would be 200, but repeated that all of them should be Christians.

‘We don’t have mosques’

A spokesperson of the Slovak Interior Ministry was quoted as saying “We don’t have mosques.”

According to the CIA World Factbook, 10% of Syria is Christian.

Asked to comment on Fico’s statement, Spokesperson Annika Breidthardt said that the Commission doesn’t react to press reports, and that the “letter and spirit” of the EU treaties’ prevents any form of discrimination.

Polish hesitations

Poland has also made noises about accepting only Christian migrants, but appears to have changed its position since.

Polish Prime Minister Ewa Kopacz was quoted as saying last May that her country would only welcome 60 Christian families to start.

But in July, Poland agreed to accept 2,000 migrants from Syria and North Africa, as part of the EU plan to ease the burden on Italy and Greece.

Meanwhile, Some 50 Christian families fleeing Syria have arrived in Poland to begin new lives.

Bulgarian concerns

Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov has warned that more immigrants in Bulgaria could change the country’s ethnic balance.

Bulgaria is a country where a substantial proportion of the population is Muslim (ethnic Turks, Islamised Bulgarians and a significant proportion of the Roma minority). According to the CIA Factbook, 59.6% of the population of Bulgaria is Orthodox Christian, and 7.8% are Muslims.

Speaking to journalists at the 23 April EU summit, Borissov said:

“Bulgaria has regions with mixed populations. We have nothing against Muslims. But if other Muslims come from abroad, that radically changes the country’s demography.”

Borissov said that the country’s secret services told him that “between one and two million migrants wait on the other side”. “If one hundred thousand arrive in Bulgaria, we are finished,” he said.

Growing numbers

Commission spokesperson Christian Wigand said today that this July, the number of migrants entering the EU borders has tripled to the number of 100,000 for the first time. From January until June, the EU 28 had already received more than 400,000 asylum applications, compared to more than 600,000 for last year in total, he added.

Wigand also said that in September, as soon as the European Parliament votes, the Council will adopt its decision, and the relocation of 40,000 migrants relocation will start to be implemented. 

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