Friday

29th Jul 2016

Eastern EU states want migration 'plan B'

Eastern EU countries want to see an alternative plan on Europe’s migration policy by mid-March, their leaders have said.

However, during a conference in Prague on Monday (15 February), Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic held off on plans to help Macedonia and Bulgaria seal their borders with Greece to stem the flow of migrants.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

But the leaders of the so-called Visegrad Group said they were ready to help Bulgaria and Macedonia to strengthen the protection of their borders if other measures failed.

The prime ministers, who met their Macedonian and Bulgarian counterparts in Prague, called for the swift establishment of the common European Border and Coast Guard and credible results from a deal with Turkey on stemming the influx of migrants.

The leaders also warned that if Europe's migration policy continued to fail by the time of the March EU summit, an alternative would have to be put in place.

“At the same time, an alternative back up plan ready for implementation should be developed in case the progress in border protection and cooperation with Turkey falls short of expectations,” they said in a joint statement.

“The March European Council should then decide on the next steps.”

Work with Greece

The Visegrad group, founded 25 years ago to further the nations' European integration, has been revitalised by its unified opposition to accepting large numbers of migrants.

Their attitudes are a stark contrast to German chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming policy towards migrants, a divide to be highlighted when EU leaders gather in Brussels for a summit on Thursday and Friday.

Referring to Merkel's promise last summer to welcome asylum seekers from Syria, Slovak PM Rober Fico said: “It wasn’t us who invited migrants to our territory and it wasn’t us who destabilised the countries from which these people come.

“Certain European politicians made big mistakes in the migrant crisis.”

The Visegrad leaders, while emphasising the need for common solutions, also criticised the EU’s migration policy.

“Hungary’s position is that what Europe has done so far is a failure, has led to trouble, terrorism, violence and fear,” Hungary’s PM Viktor Orban said.

Hungary has already sent personnel to Macedonia to assist border guards. Slovakia offered 300 policemen.

Orban has long criticised Greece for failing to protect the EU’s external borders in the south and argued that a “second line of defence” needed to be established at the Macedonian and Bulgarian side of the border, practically cutting off Greece from the 26-member passport free Schengen area.

That idea has been gaining ground among European policy makers, as the EU last Friday gave notice to Athens that its failure to control hundreds of thousands of refugees arriving via Turkey over the past year would see a long-term suspension of some passport-free travel.

"We don't think that closing borders is the response. We prefer managing borders," a commission spokesman said on Monday.

“The European response to the refugee crisis will be done with Greece, not against Greece.”

However Polish PM Beata Szydlo insisted "the alternate plan is not aimed against any EU partner".

Czech prime minister Bohuslav Sobotka is expected to present the V4 position to Tusk in Prague on Tuesday.

Report: EU failing migrant children

Just under 90,000 unaccompanied minors applied for asylum in the EU last year, up from around 13,000 in 2013. A UK report said many were treated with "suspicion and disbelief" by authorities.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceThe Trans Adriatic Pipeline: An Opportunity or a Scam in the Making for Albania?
  2. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen: I Condemn All Threats to Turkey's Democracy
  3. GoogleHelping Emergency Services Find You When You Need It Most
  4. Counter BalanceWhat's New in the Investment Plan for Europe: Business as Usual or True Innovation ?
  5. Belgrade Security ForumMigration, Security and Solidarity within Global Disorder: Academic Event 2016
  6. GoogleHow Google Fights Piracy: Creating Value While Fighting Piracy
  7. EJC"My Visit to Israel" - Opinion by MEP Lopez Aguilar, Chair of the EP Working Group on Antisemitism
  8. World VisionChildren Migrating, Out of School and at Work as Hunger Deepens in Southern Africa
  9. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceStand-Up (and Exercise) to Prevent Chronic Diseases
  10. Centre Maurits CoppietersLaunches a Real-time News Hub Specialised in EU Stakeholders
  11. GoogleEU-US Privacy Shield: Restoring Faith in Data Flows and Transatlantic Relations
  12. World VisionWorld Leaders & Youth Advocates Launch Partnership to End Violence Vs. Children