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Minister: EC threat not to change Czech stance on refugee quotas

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Brussels, May 18 (CTK correspondent) – The Czech Republic will not change its negative stance on the quotas for the accepting of migrants from Italy and Greece even after the European Commission’s (EC) threats, Interior Minister Milan Chovanec told reporters on Thursday.

The EC recently warned that it may start infringement proceedings against the countries that refuse to accept the refugees from Greece and Italy.

The Czech Interior Ministry refuses to give up its thorough checks of the migrants whom it might take from both South European countries within a one-off redistribution of refugees on the basis of quotas, Chovanec said.

The Czech Republic is to accept some 2600 people by September, but it has only taken 12 migrants from Greece so far. Since May 2016, it has not offered to accept any other migrants within the programme according to which 160,000 people will be redistributed across the EU by September either.

The EU bases its attempt to reform the asylum system on “rotten grounds” and the current form of the reform would not tackle a future massive migrant crisis, bigger than that Europe faced in 2015, Chovanec said before the talks with his counterparts from other EU member states on Thursday.

Prague has still a deep problem with the persistent effort to establish a permanent mechanism of the redistribution of migrants from the afflicted EU countries to the rest of the EU, he said.

On the contrary, some elements of the reform of the Dublin system, proposed by Malta’s EU presidency, make sense and Prague would agree with them, for instance, shorter deadlines for the decision-making on asylum application, he added.

In reaction to the migrant crisis in 2015, the EC proposed an overall reform of the asylum system, known as the Dublin regulations, a year ago. Since then the member states have been debating it. Some of the proposed changes enjoy a broad support, while others remain controversial.

Chovanec also expressed regret at the Maltese EU presidency abandoning the effort of the previous Slovak presidency to push through “efficient solidarity.” Slovakia wanted to enable the EU countries to offer another form of aid to the afflicted instead of accepting refugees.

Malta originally submitted a similar proposal suggesting that after fulfilling a half of the quotas the countries may offer finances or personnel to protect the outer border, for instance. However, it returned this draft for further debates on working levels before Thursday’s meeting of the EU interior ministers.

The Czech Republic has clear arguments for its stance (on the quotas) and the other three Visegrad Four (V4) countries, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, share this view, Chovanec said.

He pointed out that the redistribution mechanism, in effect since September 2015, was basically not functioning.

As of May 12, only 18,418 migrants have been relocated in the EC. The EC alone admits that the planned number will not be achieved.

Despite that, EU Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos gave Hungary and Poland, which had not accepted any refugees yet, a one-month deadline to change their attitude. If not, the EC will launch proceedings against them for the violation of European law that might end before the European Court of Justice.

Besides, Avramopoulos called on the Czech Republic to resume its admission of migrants.

The countries might be fined by the EU court eventually.

Chovanec did not want to speculate about the fine’s level.

He only said the Interior Ministry’s experts mentioned up to ten million euros as the basic fine plus further dozens of thousands for each day of the delay until the duty is fulfilled.

“We are playing a game about who has accepted 20 and who just 12 people. He who has accepted 20 is the good guy and he who took 12 a bad guy,” Chovanec said, hinting at the fact that many West European countries did not meet their agreed quotas either.

Slovak Interior Minister Robert Kalinak added that life itself has confirmed the inoperability of the concept during the two years since the decision on the mandatory quotas was made.

“Not even the countries that supported the system eventually fulfilled the set quotas,” Kalinak said.

Chovanec will submit a document dealing with the situation to the government on Monday.

The Czech Republic has been willing to help the countries hit by the refugee wave since the beginning and it provided financial and personnel aid whenever it was asked for it, Chovanec told reporters.

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