European Union member states remained mostly divided to start June over how to embrace and share burdens of the aftermath of the migrant crisis in a troubling sign, that political divisions will continue to develop.
While millions of people have escaped the world’s worst war zones and poverty-stricken areas in Africa and the Middle East, they have made the treacherous journey by land and sea to Europe. In 2015, the number of people applying for asylum in Europe peaked at 1.26 million and triggered the current migration crisis, which has created unwanted stress for numerous member states in the Eurozone.
In particular, Czech Republic Prime Minister Andrej Babiš has had enough with Brussels. Babis on Monday rejected a new “flexible” European Union strategy for refugee migration peddled by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis arrives at a news conference at government headquarters in Prague, Czech Republic, March 2018. (Source: Reuters)
Over the weekend, Merkel proposed a “flexible system with division of labor” which could severely penalize member states that refuse to take in migrants and refugees.
Prague, along with numerous other European member states, has rejected a new quota system drawn up by the European Commission to redistribute asylum seekers around the bloc, said Reuters.
“We don’t want to compensate, why should we compensate with a contribution?” Babiš said in an interview with the daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.
“We have said clearly: it is our people, our businesses who will decide who will work and live with us.”
Merkel’s proposal for a “flexible” system could see some European member states like the Czech Republic who reject Brussels’ request to take in refugees — instead provide financial assistance to other member states on the front lines of the crisis.
Babiš, a populist billionaire media mogul whose anti-establishment party won the Czech election last year but failed to form a coalition government, has entirely rejected Brussels’ approach to immigration.
“We must stop this migration across the European continent and help these people in Africa and Syria,” he said.
The European Council will meet on June 28-29 to discuss the deepening immigration crisis. “Merkel called at the weekend for a flexible system in which countries that refuse to take in refugees could compensate by making contributions in other areas”, said Reuters. Merkel also said that the European border police force Frontex should be allowed to operate independently — this is something that Babiš has strongly opposed.
“The idea that Frontex will guard everything by itself is not realistic in the long term,” he told journalist when questioned about Merkel’s comments. “Individual states must guard that.”
On Monday, Babiš took to Twitter — he was not against border controls, but the European Union should use the potential of member states first. “We support all EU initiatives to fight against illegal migration,” he tweeted.
Babiš pointed out that the Czech Republic has made meaningful contributions to neighboring member states in resolving the migrant crisis and was willing to continue providing the same level of financial and expert aid, however, the country will not accept new quotas from Brussels’ for additional assistance.
The Czech prime minister further accused his predecessors of neglecting the Czech citizens in Brussels. Babiš said, “the elections in Slovenia which were won by an anti-immigration opposition party and developments elsewhere in Europe indicated that the stance of the Visegrad group on migration was spreading,” he also suggested, “it was time for the EU to acknowledge its past mistakes in handling the migrant crisis, review its policy and channel its resources in a more effective way.”
Nevertheless, Italy’s new populist government has wasted zero time and effort to fulfill a campaign pledge to deport as many as 500,000 illegal migrants. While many European member states are finally recognizing that Brussels’ immigration policy over the last several years has been nothing short of disastrous, the apparent trend of revolt against Brussels is undoubtedly at play.
Meanwhile, under the radar, President Trump’s ex-strategist Steven Bannon has been whipping up revolutionary excitement for his global populist plan in Europe. He was last spotted making his round in Italy not too long ago. If the trend persists and more governments in Europe jump onto the populist train in the region, well, this could be bad news for the unelected officials in Brussels.