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Czech PM: Prague wants Greece, Turkey to fulfil commitments

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Brussels, Feb 18 (CTK correspondents) – The priority of the Czech Republic and the other three Visegrad Four (C4) countries is that Greece and Turkey meet their commitments in connection with the migrant crisis, Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka told reporters ahead of the EU summit on Thursday.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico expressed a sceptical view of the Greek ability to protect the border.

Sobotka said the V4 group, which is also comprised of Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, wants Greece to better protect its border with Turkey, and Turkey to fulfil the agreements it had signed with the EU in 2015.

“Similar to the European Commission (EC), we, too, are critical of the way Greece is functioning in the Schengen system and we would like Athens to remove all shortcomings for which the EC blamed it in its report,” Sobotka said.

He added that only if Greece and Turkey did not meet their commitments, the Plan B to mark out a new Schengen border north of Greece would have to be applied. The V4 countries dealt with it at their summit on Monday.

Sobotka discussed the Greek progress in the border protection and its cooperation with Turkey with his Greek counterpart Alexis Tsipras in Brussels in the afternoon. Sobotka got him acquainted with the results of the Monday meeting of the V4 countries with Bulgarian and Macedonian representatives.

Tsipras reproached Sobotka for “sending police and military to the Greek border,” which, he said, was “no friendly act,” the server of Greek paper To Vima reported.

He hinted at the fact that the Czech Republic had sent 27 police officers to Macedonia to help guard the border with Greece.

Tsipras pointed out that Athens would not agree with any step that would violate international law, such as unlawful readmissions.

The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia admit that Greece is in a very complicated situation, but they insist on taking the agreed measures. They are also prepared to help Athens protect the Schengen border and register refugees in the same was as they are helping the countries on the Balkans route along which refugees are flowing to Europe, Sobotka noted.

In an interview with Czech reporters, Fico gave Greece a deadline by March to improve its border protection.

“If it turns out that nothing is working, then other alternatives must be taken into consideration,” Fico said.

He stressed that such a solution would also be European and that Slovakia was ready to deploy 300 police with the required language proficiency and the necessary know-how and equipment within a few weeks.

The V4 opinion about the necessity to have such a reserve plan is supported by Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia and Slovenia, Fico said.

Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said during his visit to Greece last week that Prague would provide finances for Greece to buy devices to verify fingerprints of the registered refugees.

Sobotka said he would like to reach agreement on the British demands for the EU reform at this summit and not to protract the talks much. However, the proposals that have been submitted do not accommodate the Czech Republic, he added.

Prague primarily fears that other countries might follow Britain’s model, proposed in the draft agreement with the EU, and start lowering child benefits, which would considerably afflict even Czech citizens working abroad, Sobotka pointed out.

“Our aim is to maximally limit the potential negative impact on the citizens of the Czech Republic,” he added.

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