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Czech PM: Whole EU, EC functioning must be changed

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Brussels, June 28 (CTK correspondents) – It is necessary to change the functioning of the whole European Union and the European Commission and it would be unfortunate to start any personnel battles now, Czech PM Bohuslav Sobotka said after meeting European Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday.

Sobotka reacted to the statement by Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek (both Social Democrats, CSSD) criticising EC President Jean-Claude Juncker on Sunday. He said Juncker was not the right man in the post after the Brexit referendum.

“I would be glad if the European Commission helped seek an EU compromise more intensively and tried to solve possible discrepancies between the EU member states more,” Sobotka said.

“I would also like the Commission to more respect the European Council’s decisions,” he added.

Sobotka pointed to the situation during the migrant crisis where individual EU member states agreed on something, but the EC kept promoting the obligatory refugee quotas.

The replacement of one man will not solve the current situation in the EU, Sobotka said, hinting at Juncker.

“We need to change the functioning of Europe as such and reduce the red tape. I would be pleased if we sent a clear signal in the early autumn at the latest about how we would like to change Europe positively,” he pointed out.

Apart from Brexit, the summit starting in the afternoon is to deal with other issues, such as migration. However, all politicians are waiting mainly for the evening when British PM David Cameron should explain the situation in his country after the Thursday referendum, in which almost 52 percent of people voted for Brexit.

Afterwards, Cameron announced that he would resign and a new head of government would be known in September or October.

“Britain must make a sovereign decision alone on whether it will ask for withdrawal from the EU or not, it is still hesitating. If it asks for it, there will be a subject to negotiate about. If not, no talks about the Brexit conditions can be launched,” Sobotka said.

Britain primarily needs a new government as soon as possible, he added.

“The Conservatives said they would be selecting for two months a new party chairman who would be a potential new prime minister. I do not know if Britain can afford such a luxury of living in a political uncertainty for two months,” he added.

However, he said in his opinion, there were no economic and social reasons for exerting pressure on London in this respect.

If Britain does not leave the EU, it keeps the same rights and duties as other EU member states, it will further contribute to the common European budget and Czechs in Britain will enjoy the same rights as Britons in the Czech Republic, Sobotka said.

Everything depends on the British government’s decision now, he added.

Before the referendum, Cameron negotiated an agreement with the EU that would enable London to apply the “emergency brake” mechanism for seven years, which is to temporarily restrict the payment of selected welfare benefits to immigrants from other EU countries.

London originally demanded even more severe restrictions, but the Visegrad Group (V4), including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, were opposed to it.

However, Sobotka said he did not think this had influenced the referendum result.

“It was not the Visegrad Group that proposed a referendum on Brexit to be held in Britain,” Sobotka said.

“If the compromise had been even more painful for the V4, I do not think it would have changed the current atmosphere in Britain. Unfortunately, resistance to workers from Eastern Europe became a substantial part of the debate before the referendum. I suppose this tells something about the state of the British society,” he added.

It is natural for the Czech government to insist on Czechs getting the same treatment as the French, Germans and Britons, Sobotka said.

Asked about tackling the migrant crisis, Sobotka said an agreement with third countries must be sought, similar to the EU agreement with Turkey. The EU must be more able to return illegal immigrants to their countries of origin and retain migration in the countries from which they come, he added.

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