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HN: Prague lacks allies to block EU’s permanent migrant quotas

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Prague, Aug 3 (CTK) – The Czech Republic is ready to oppose the planned introduction of permanent migrant relocation quotas but it lacks allies to block the plan’s approval by a majority of EU members, Ondrej Houska writes in daily Hospodarske noviny (HN) today.

The current binding quotas have been opposed by all Czech political parties and a strong majority of Czech citizens, though they are a temporary measure that will expire next month, Houska writes.

The EU approved the two-year temporary quotas in 2015. However, after their expiration, EU members might agree on introducing new migrant quotas that would be unlimited in time. The crucial vote may be held as soon as this autumn, Houska writes.

Addressed by HN, diplomats and officials said the Czechs probably will not have enough allies to block the new quotas’ approval, he writes.

For the time being, the permanent quotas are expected to be applied only in extreme situations where an EU country were hit by a very strong migrant wave, similar to that in 2015-16, when more than million refugees and migrants arrived in Greece, Houska writes.

“The Visegrad Four (V4) is not ready to strike any compromise in this respect,” Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka emphasised at the latest V4 (Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Slovakia) summit in June.

The V4 countries want the permanent migrant quotas to be voluntary. They want it to be up to each member country to decide whether to accept asylum seekers from a war-afflicted country and how many of them, Houska writes.

A high-ranking diplomat in Brussels told HN that the vote on permanent quotas might be held after the German general election this autumn, and that he expects the quotas to be approved.

The permanent quotas proposal was drafted by the EC last year and now it is being assessed by EU member states. They still fail to reach consensus on it, which is why they are focusing on other, less controversial parts of the proposal, such as the upgrading and extension of migrants’ fingerprint databases. The latter step has been supported by the Czech Republic, Houska writes.

The V4 countries are the loudest opponents of the quotas. Romania and Bulgaria have reservations as well, but they are seeking accession to the Schengen area, which is why they do not oppose the quotas aloud, Houska writes.

The Baltic countries, too, are unlikely to side with the V4 against the quotas.

“They have realised that this is not worth doing because of [the duty to accept] a few dozens of refugees. They can see how the V4’s position in the EU is harmed by the group’s sharp opposition to the quotas,” a Czech official dealing with migration is quoted as saying.

The outcome of the EU’s vote may depend on the concrete form of the quotas proposal, Houska continues.

Italy and Greece want the redistribution of as many asylum seekers as possible, i.e. also those who eventually would not be granted asylum with a high probability because they faced no danger in their respective homelands, Houska writes.

This kind of quotas probably would not make it through and would be even rejected by countries such as France and Germany, according to diplomats. If the proposal promotes the redistribution of genuine refugees only, like the proposal two years ago, the V4 will probably be outvoted once again, Houska writes.

At the close of his article, he mentions the EU court proceedings that Prague, Budapest and Warsaw face over their refusal to meet the current temporary migrant quotas. Slovakia, which also failed to meet them, does not face any proceedings because it has offered the acceptance of some more refugees now, Houska adds.

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