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Sobotka: Prague, Berlin differ on how to curb illegal migration

ČTK |
24 August 2016

Prague, Aug 23 (CTK) - The Czech Republic wants the number of illegal refugees to decline in Europe, which is an interest it shares with Germany, but Prague and Berlin differ on how to cope with the problem, Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka says in daily Pravo out on Tuesday, shortly before Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit to Prague.

Merkel's visit, due on August 25, will be her first visit to Prague during the rule of the present Czech government, said Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD), head of the centre-left cabinet of the CSSD, ANO and the Christian Democrats (KDU-CSL) established in early 2014.

"Germany is our partner in the EU and NATO, and it is clear that the weight of Germany and France will increase after Britain's [expected] departure from the EU," Sobotka is quoted as saying.

"Moreover, Germany is our biggest trade partner and its companies are the biggest investors in the Czech Republic. There is a number of issues [for bilateral discussion]," Sobotka said.

He confirms his plan to promote the formation of a common European military.

"Europe cannot depend on NATO only. We have to defend our own borders and security interests. If every [EU] country provides a part of their military units and if joint command instruments are introduced and joint exercises reinforced, it would be a model feasible in practice," Sobotka said.

"The demand [in this respect] will rise, I can guarantee it. The USA is no longer willing to solve all problems for Europe. Europe will have to cope with some problems itself," he said.

Sobotka said he is primarily interested in Germany's view on the strengthening of cooperation in defence.

"I think we share very similar interests with Germany, Austria and Slovakia. Apart from airports, we have no outer Schengen border and we have to rely on the countries such as Greece and Italy, where the border protection should be effective," Sobotka said.

He admitted that Prague and Berlin differ on how to solve the problem of migration.

"We differ on the [introduction of refugee] quotas, but this is what the chancellor knows...I am convinced that [EU] member countries must enjoy sovereignty in deciding on the number of refugees [to accept]. It is the national governments that have to guarantee safety for their peoples," Sobotka said.

"It is impossible to lump all [migrants] together and brand all refugees terrorists. In the same way, however, it is impossible to take the approach that Germany took last year, when it enabled a totally uncontrolled influx of a huge number of people," Sobotka said.

"It will be very difficult to cope with this. After a huge number of people reached the centre of Europe, without the EU closing the Schengen border, the security risk increased," he continued.

He says the people who help organise terrorist attacks often include the offspring of the immigrants who came to Europe 15 to 20 years ago.

"The question is whether we are capable of successfully integrating the people who come from areas with a different culture and religion, and why they get radicalised," Sobotka said.

"Of course, these are questions which are topical in Germany. We do not have any strong Muslim community in the Czech Republic. To tell the truth, we do not wish a strong Muslim community to arise here, also regarding the problems we can see [abroad]," Sobotka said.

Germany, for its part, has finally realised that it cannot endlessly accept further refugees without any control. Now it is necessary to discuss how Europe should ensure its safety, he said.

"We have to discuss ways for us to win people's support for the European project. It is clear that the quotas are an element that causes the support to fall," Sobotka said.

Asked whether he fears people's dissatisfaction with Merkel's visit now that she is supported by 18 percent of Czechs only, Sobotka said some Czechs would like to enclose the Czech Republic and withdraw from the EU and NATO.

Nevertheless, "we have to be an open, liberal and self-confident country that has good relations with its neighbours, though our stances on selected issues differ from theirs. I am glad that Czech-German relations are very good," Sobotka said.

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