Sunday

11th Apr 2021

Visegrad countries immediately push back on new migration pact

  • Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki (l), Hungarian premier Vitkor Orban, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and Czech PM Andrej Babia in the Berlaymont HQ (Photo: European Commission)

The prime ministers of the central European 'Visegrad Four' countries pushed back against the EU Commission's migration reform package on Thursday (24 September) - only a day after it was presented.

After a meeting in Brussels with EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban and Polish premier Mateusz Morawiecki, and the Czech prime minister Andrej Babis said the plan was unacceptable to the V4 group, which also includes Slovakia. (Prime minister Igor Matovic was not present, but was represented by his Czech counterpart.)

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

Orban - a staunch opponent of migration - said of the plan that the "tone of the proposal" is better, but still not acceptable to Hungary.

"There are many changes, but there is not yet a breakthrough. A breakthrough would mean outside hotspots," Orban said after the meeting.

"Nobody can enter the EU without having a permission to do so because their request for asylum is accepted. Until that moment they have to stay out of the territory of the EU," he added.

The proposal does not include a once-popular idea with some EU governments, of establishing hotspots outside of the EU in third countries.

The so-called hotspots would be designed to deal with asylum requests beyond the bloc's borders, so EU countries would not have to manage migration themselves.

"We have to stop migration and the quotas and relocation. These rules are not acceptable for us," Babis added.

"The strategy should be that these people really should stay and live in their home countries, and we have to do the maximum for this and we have really to discuss it," he added.

The central European countries were the key opponents of earlier plans to overhaul the bloc's asylum policy, in the wake of the 2015 migration crisis.

They opposed relocating asylum seekers in their countries, and lost a court battle over it.

In 2015 they had been outvoted by other EU member states on the issue, which has soured negotiations on migration ever since.

Italy, and other frontline countries where migrants first set foot in the EU, have argued for mandatory relocation.

The new commission plan does not include an obligation for EU countries to take in asylum seekers, instead it offers the option to return someone from a member state under stress.

The member state which choses return will have eight months to do it after which it will be required to take in that person to finalise the return from their own territory.

But the Hungarian prime minister criticised the proposal for what he perceived as only making the relocation obligation more opaque.

"'Allocation' or 'quota', to change the name is not enough. Hungary is against it. The basic approach is still unchanged. They [the commission] would like to manage migration, and not to stop the migrants. The Hungarian position is stop the migrants," Orban said.

On Thursday Austrian prime minister Sebastian Kurz also told AFP that mandatory quotas for refugees for EU countries "won't work".

German interior minister Horst Seehofer, whose country heads the EU presidency, said Wednesday that he would like to see a political agreement on the package in December.

However, the V4's political opposition to some of the key aspects of the plan makes that difficult.

EU home affairs ministers will have their first discussion on the commission's proposals on 8 October.

Budget tangle

The three premiers and von der Leyen also discussed the EU budget and recovery package, climate, and rule of law conditionality linked to the budget.

Poland and Hungary want to make sure that the link between the distribution of EU funds and the respect of the rule of law remains narrow, focusing only on fraud and corruption, before they give the green light to the recovery package.

A spokesperson for von der Leyen said the commission president told the prime ministers that "the ball is in the court of the council" of member states to come up with a common position on the issue.

EU migration pact to deter asylum

The EU commission's newest pact on migration and asylum seeks to deter people from claiming asylum by speeding up procedures and sending most of them back home.

Legal complaint filed with EU Commission over migration

The European Commission is being legally pressed to investigate alleged infringements by Greece on migration and asylum - following reports of push-backs and the denial of basic rights for people demanding international protection.

Opinion

Unsung hero: Portugal showing EU way on migration

Portugal has sought to be a leader at the EU level with regard to refugees and migrants, advocating a liberal position. It has consistently shown a willingness to take in refugees.

EU seeks political accord on migration this year

The German EU presidency is striving to sort a political agreement on the migration and asylum pact before the end of the year. In reality, it means two months when factoring Christmas holidays.

News in Brief

  1. Turkey blames EU for sexist protocol fiasco
  2. France to close elite civil-service academy
  3. Covid-19 cases in UK drop 60%, study finds
  4. White House urges 'calm' after Northern Ireland riots
  5. Italy's Draghi calls Turkey's Erdoğan a 'dictator'
  6. Slovakia told to return Sputnik V amid quality row
  7. EU risks €87bn in stranded fossil fuel assets
  8. Obligatory vaccination not against human rights, European court says

Feature

Covid-hit homeless find Xmas relief at Brussels food centre

The Kamiano food distribution centre in Brussels is expecting 20 people every half hour on Christmas Day. For many, Kamiano is also more than that - a support system for those made homeless or impoverished.

Top court finds Hungary and Poland broke EU rules

EU tribunal said Hungary's legislation made it "virtually impossible" to make an asylum application. Restricting access to international protection procedure is a violation of EU rules.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersDigitalisation can help us pick up the green pace
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersCOVID19 is a wake-up call in the fight against antibiotic resistance
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region can and should play a leading role in Europe’s digital development
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council to host EU webinars on energy, digitalisation and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAEU Code of Conduct can showcase PPPs delivering healthier more sustainable society
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersWomen benefit in the digitalised labour market

Latest News

  1. The Covid bell tolls for eastern Europe's populists
  2. Four deaths after taking Russian Sputnik V vaccine
  3. Post-Brexit riots flare up in Northern Ireland
  4. Advice on AstraZeneca varies across EU, amid blood clot fears
  5. Greenland election could see halt to rare-earth mining
  6. After 50 years, where do Roma rights stand now?
  7. Why Iran desperately wants a new nuclear deal
  8. Does new EU-ACP deal really 'decolonise' aid?

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us