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Prague upset by Renzi’s words on lower EU subsidies to V4

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Prague, Feb 26 (CTK) – Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s statement that the subsidies going from the EU funds to the Czech Republic and the other Visegrad Four (V4) states might be reduced due to their position on migration has caused uproar among Czech politicians, who have rejected it resolutely, Pravo wrote on Friday.

The V4 also includes Hungary, Poland and Slovakia.

Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (Social Democrats, CSSD) said the European funds are an instrument aimed to modernise member countries and bridge differences between them.

“I disagree with the EU funds being used as a form of pressure or even punishment with the aim to force out a change in a member country’s position,” Sobotka told Pravo.

Finance Minister and Deputy PM Andrej Babis (ANO) said the original EC-proposed refugee relocation quotas are dead. In addition, the V4 countries, including the Czechs, have a completely different migration history than the big EU countries, he said.

“It is impossible for the EU to blackmail the V4 countries by saying they would not receive money unless they accept refugees. We had no colonies in the past, nor did large waves of immigrants reach our respective countries, unlike France, Britain or Germany,” Babis is quoted as saying.

“Moreover, refugees do not want to settle in the V4 countries, which the EU should realise at last,” he told Pravo.

Deputy PM Pavel Belobradek (Christian Democrats, KDU-CSL) said Renzi’s words probably reflect his misunderstanding of the V4’s position, which is responsible and shows solidarity.

Stanislav Polcak, MEP for the Czech right-wing opposition TOP 09/STAN, said Renzi’s proposal goes counter to European law.

“Setting of ultimatum demands towards East European member states is at variance with the principles the EU is based on, which undoubtedly include the requirement of matter-of-fact negotiations,” Polcak said.

“The threats to cut the European subsidies, for which no legal justification exists, would not bring any progress but, on the contrary, they would set particular member countries against others,” Polcak added.

In an interview Pravo published on Wednesday, Renzi said EU membership means the sharing of certain values and mutual solidarity, which must be visible in all fields.

Renzi said in a situation where it has been stated that the all-European refugee problem cannot only be borne by Greece, Italy, Germany and Sweden, and that other states must help tackle it, he expects all in the EU to understand it.

As a result, it will not be necessary to emphasise it when the debate on the [subsidies from EU] funds in 2020-2026 will start, which will be soon, Renzi said.

The V4 has been long opposed to the refugee relocation quotas and it has been calling for an effective joint protection of the Schengen outer border.

At their Prague meeting last week, the V4 prime ministers agreed on the necessity to prepare the Plan B, or a reserve Schengen border along the Greek borders with Bulgaria and Macedonia, in case Turkey and Greece failed to stem the migrant wave in accordance with their commitments.

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