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17th Jan 2021

Czech Republic advocates use of army to protect borders

  • A Belgian ship during Frontex's Operation Triton in the Mediterranean. Czech president wants more military boats. (Photo: Frontex)

The EU could better protect itself from migrants if it had a common army, Czech president Milos Zeman said Tuesday (25 August), while the Czech finance minister, Andrej Babis, called for the closure of the Schengen area's external borders and for Nato help.

Speaking to Czech ambassadors at Prague castle, Zeman regretted that Frontex, the EU border-control agency, has only three unarmed ships and a few armed ships to patrol the Mediterranean.

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“The EU's fundamental lack is a lack of will for a common border protection”, Zeman said.

"Today, a common European army would come in handy" to address the issue, he added.

Collective action

Czech authorities recently floated the idea of using the army to secure the country's borders.

“The defence ministry is ready to allocate a maximum of 2,600 soldiers in case of further requests from the police”, defence minister Martin Stropnicky said on Friday.

The Czech republic is is on the way between Hungary, where more than 100,000 migrants have arrived so far this year, and Germany, their main destination.

It is itself expecting up to 7,000 asylum seekers next year, according to a defence ministry report revealed by the CTK press agency earlier this month.

Interior minister Milan Chovanec said he would seek about €40 million of extra spending next year to face migrant arrivals.

On Tuesday, the Czech prime minister, Bohuslav Sobotka also called on Europe to take collective action to protect Schengen area's external borders, especially in Italy, Greece, and Macedonia.

"The migrant crisis is a pan-European problem. It is a challenge that we cannot run away from. There is now a great deal at stake. Among others the future of the Schengen border-free zone”, he said.

Giant camp

His finance minister, businessman Andrej Babis, went further and asked for Nato help.

"The question is whether Macedonian or Bulgarian armies don't need Nato help”, he told reporters, pointing to the fact that, Greece, their neighbour, is isolated from the rest of the Schengen area.

On Tuesday, Bulgaria announced it was sending 25 soldiers and armoured vehicles to help monitor the four border-crossings with Macedonia.

Babis also said that Schengen's external border should be "immediately" closed and called on the EU to warn migrants' countries of origin that it would take no more.

"It must say: You cannot come to us to be unemployed and take immediately social benefits”, he said.

He added the EU should create a giant camp where economic migrants would be sorted from people in need of protection, especially women and children.

In an interview to Austrian radio O1, Austrian chancellor Werner Faymann criticised the Czech government, and also Poland and Baltic states, for refusing European quotas of refugees.

"How would you want to make [frontline countries] protect external borders if they think that hundreds of thousands of migrants will stay there, while the others [like the Czech republic] continue to wait and discuss calmly?”, Faymann asked.

"It is necessary to solve these things simultaneously, one influences the other”.

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