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PM Sobotka: Prague against all permanent redistribution quotas

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Prague, April 6 (CTK) – The Czech government will agree with no system of mandatory permanent quotas for the redistribution of asylum seekers across the European Union, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said on Twitter in reaction to the new asylum rules that the European Commission proposed on Wednesday.

“The migration policy must remain under control of the individual member states,” Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said.

The EC presented two variants of new rules for the decision making on asylum affairs in the EU, which both include the redistribution of migrants. The first variant introduces permanent redistribution quotas. The other variant replaces the system, within which the first EU member state that refugees enter deals with their asylum applications, with an immediate redistribution system.

The Czech government has been against the introduction of permanent quotas for a long time.

Sobotka said the EC proposal introducing a permanent refugee redistribution mechanism is “absolutely unacceptable” for the Czech government.

“A number of member states, including our country, repeatedly rejected these plans. I consider it counterproductive that the EC again tabled this dead proposal of permanent quotas, especially as it is fully aware that it cannot win support from the member states,” Sobotka said.

However, he said he supports some of the other EC proposals, such as improving information exchange and knowledge about who enters and leaves the Schengen area, making prevention of secondary movements within the EU more effective and interconnecting information databases.

President Milos Zeman resolutely opposes “the masked quotas,” his spokesman Jiri Ovcacek said about the EC proposal.

Finance Minister Andrej Babis (ANO) is against the quotas, too. He says it seems that the EC has never learnt a lesson.

The EC “keeps presenting its nonsensical proposals. We should return to the possibility of taking the quotas to court,” Babis said on Twitter.

Unlike Bratislava and Budapest, Prague decided to respect the mandatory quotas that the EU approved last year despite its disagreement.

Interior Minister Milan Chovanec (CSSD) said he believes the refugee redistribution quotas would never work. He said the case of 25 Iraqi refugees who left the Czech resettlement programme last week and asked for asylum in Germany proved this.

He said the quotas reminded him of social engineering.

“The deal with Turkey has only started, yet an alternative solution is already being prepared. This is either not enough self-confidence, or Euro-confusion,” Chovanec said on Twitter.

Czech state secretary for European affairs, Tomas Prouza (CSSD), told CTK that speeding up the asylum procedure may be discussed.

“In some countries the procedure takes too long. But I can’t imagine the member states giving up their right to decide on whom they would accept and according to what criteria,” he said.

Prouza said the two variants show how divided Europe is.

The EC tabled two variants, although it knows well that the proposal of permanent quotas is absolutely unacceptable, he said. In consequence, the EU members will talk about how to support countries that suddenly get under pressure, he added.

The right-wing opposition Civic Democrats (ODS) consider the EC proposal an attack on the country’s sovereignty.

“The EC misuses the migrant crisis to further centralise power in Brussels,” ODS leader Petr Fiala said.

ODS deputy chairwoman Alexandra Udzenija said on Twitter the EC proposal is a dangerous attempt at weakening the sovereignty of the member countries.

Opposition TOP 09 deputy head Marek Zenisek said the EC proposal is no solution in a situation where some countries follow neither their own nor EU rules at present.

The asylum system is set well enough in the Czech Republic and this right should not be handed to the EU, Zenisek said. It has turned out that the redistribution of asylum applicants works neither from the point of view of the applicants nor from that of the EU countries, he said.

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