Saturday, 18 November 2017

Respekt: Czech leaders should back rather than reject migrant quotas

ČTK |
20 June 2017

Prague, June 19 (CTK) - People in the Czech Republic are evidently opposed to the acceptance of refugees within the EU's migrant relocation quotas, but still Czech politicians should promote the quotas instead of rejecting them as dead, Tomas Lindner writes in weekly Respekt out today.

In the past months, sceptical conviction prevailed among Czechs that the refugee quotas have been dead for a long time and that Europe has confirmed this with a certain of late, Lindner writes.

However, the quotas are considered dead by no one else but Czechs. In Europe, on the contrary, the quota system started to be implemented last autumn, he writes.

Portugal, a country that is comparable with the Czech Republic in terms of population and economic performance, has accepted 1,300 refugees from Greece and Italy. Romania has accepted 600 migrants and even the tiny Luxembourg has accepted more than 300 of them, Lindner writes.

As a logical consequence of Prague's stubborn unwillingness to accept even a single refugee, in spite of the EU's approval of the binding quotas in September 2015, the EC filed a legal action against the Czech Republic last week, Lindner writes.

The "dead quotas" illusion is the latest example proving that the Czech debate about the quotas has diverted from reality, he continues.

The problem actually originates as early as before the migrant crisis when south European countries asked their northern allies to take over a part of the inflowing asylum seekers and when a discussion about a reform of the European asylum system started in western Europe, Lindner writes.

Before the outburst of the crisis, the Czechs were convinced that they had nothing to do with the problem and no Czech leaders dealt with it, he writes.

Furthermore, Czechs widely insist that the relocation quotas are no way to solve the problem of mass migration. This position, too, proves their disconnection from reality. This view is even shared by otherwise clearly pro-European Czech politicians such as leaders of TOP 09, Lindner writes.

Of course, the quotas are no solution, but not even the EC has ever asserted that they are. Since the beginning, they have been meant as a part of a series of reforms that make sense only as a whole package, Lindner writes.

It is not a mistake of Angela Merkel or "Brussels" that politicians, most media and the public in the Czech Republic (and the other Visegrad Four countries, i.e. Hungary, Poland and Slovakia), keep silent about the other partial solutions and only hysterically react whenever the quotas are mentioned, Lindner writes.

What else has Europe done to tackle migration? It has markedly reinforced and raised the effectivity of the EU's external border protection. The main entrance gate to Europe, which is the Turkey-Greece section, has been sealed, as a result of which the immigrant wave has considerably subsided, Lindner writes.

The EC has submitted a draft reform of Europe's asylum system.

The EU's humanitarian aid to Syria has increased. In Jordan, the EU participates in an attempt to fundamentally change the system of aid to refugees with the aim to outline life prospects for those in need and prevent their exodus to Europe, Linder writes.

The priority of countries such as Germany, Austria and Italy is to return unsuccessful asylum seekers to their homeland. Especially the Germans are seeking a closer cooperation with western European countries from where most economic migrants come, Lindner writes.

None of the above partial steps can be implemented in a month or a year. Nevertheless, a solution to the crisis has been underway and it is a pity that information about it has been so scarce in the Czech Republic. If provided with more information, Czech people could better see the way European cooperation looks in practice, Lindner writes.

The lack of information on the Czech scene is also unfortunate because the Czech government has been contributing to the European efforts. It has met its pledge to financially support the trustee funds for Africa and Syria, which serve the EU to cover projects aimed to prevent migration, Lindner writes.

In 2016, the Czech Republic raised its development aid budget by 25 percent. On the other hand, Prague's generosity is not as formidable and its projects as innovative as to justify the Czech refusal to accept any refugees, Lindner writes.

Compared with the Czechs, Slovenia and Estonia spend a larger portion of their GDP on development aid. Greece, tormented by troubles, spends about the same portion as the Czechs and Western European countries spend much more, Lindner writes.

Czech people's resistance to the acceptance of refugees is evident. Nevertheless, it should not prevent politicians from trying to persuade people again and again that an evener distribution of migrants across Europe has sense, Lindner writes.

As a part of the Schengen area, the Czechs should show responsibility and share the refugee aid burden with the fellow Schengen countries, partially at least, Lindner adds.

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