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The V4 divides instead of connecting

Visegrad leaders have once again shown just how their solidarity with migration-affected EU countries looks like. A meeting, held on the occasion of the end of the Hungarian annual V4 presidency, was not only a missed chance, but also exposed the true faces of the leaders. A true face of those who neither want to be solidary, nor active in solving the migration crisis.

The main outcome of the V4 meeting was a boycott of the informal EU summit on migration, held yesterday in Brussels, as requested by Chancellor Merkel and Commission President Juncker. It is still not clear if the V4 countries were even invited to the summit. In any case, their decision to not participate in the summit, which they claim was aimed at solving domestic political disputes, sounds at best cynical.

By domestic disputes they refer to the dispute between Chancellor Merkel and her Minister of Interior Seehofer from the sister party CSU, which threatened a collapse of the coalition government in Germany. The Polish Prime Minister has expressed his concern that the mini-summit could “hatch a plan” which the others will not agree. Thus, the V4 leaders are once again complaining about the hypothetical option of somebody deciding ‘about us without us’.

They dread this option, especially when it comes for a mandatory quota for the redistribution of migrants. This time the V4 leaders’ alibi was their concern about the format and timing of the summit. Instead of excuses and alibies, they could use the opportunity to promote their solutions on how to tackle migration, as Sebastian Kurz.

Meanwhile, it would be good to remind the V4 leaders, but not exclusively them, that:

  • The migration issue was not caused by Germany or by Chancellor Merkel. It is a European problem, a long-term challenge and its solution lies only in a common European approach
  • Chancellor Merkel is bearing the political consequences of a decision - the admission of refugees that Germany has taken to prevent a catastrophic humanitarian crisis in 2015 in Hungary
  • If the proposal of controls at national borders forced by the German Interior Minister Seehofer will preserve, then nobody will ask V4 countries how many refugees they are able to take. The controls at the borders will cause a pressure on the V4 countries, especially the Czech Republic and Hungary. Notwithstanding the economic impacts of such controls, as the V4 countries are dependent on export to Germany. For instance, the current security checks at the Slovak-Austrian borders complicate the everyday life of Slovaks traveling to a work or schools in Austria. The reassessment or even abolition of these checks was requested by the Slovak Prime Minister to his Austrian colleague at the V4 meeting, to which Sebastian Kurz was invited

The Slovak Presidency of the V4, which begins on 1 July and whose main priorities are a strong Europe, a secure environment and intelligent solutions, should use this opportunity and contribute to halt the deepening of the migration problem within the EU. The problem has come so far and it isis so complex that the flexible solidarity, proposed by the V4 in the past, looks like a cherry picking policy, if not mockery.

According to the annual report of the European Asylum Support Office, 728 470 people applied for legal protection in the EU in 2017 alone. Of these, 1455 applied in the Czech Republic, 5090 in Hungary and 3390 in Poland. Slovakia with only 160 asylum applications is at the last place of the EU countries https://www.easo.europa.eu/.

Compared to Germany, where 222 560 people applied for asylum, it could be manageable to accommodate such amount by the V4 countries. However, politicians have to change their approach to this problem, not to continue in fueling of emotions and fears in societies, like recent events in Hungary demonstrate. The adoption of a law that criminalizes aid to refugees and restricts the work of NGOs engaged in humanitarian activity is just another step into the wrong direction.

Whatever we will call a mechanism for receiving refugees, it is clear that without re-distributing a manageable number of refugees throughout each EU country, the tension within the EU will not be eased. The reluctance and insensitiveness of  V4 countries to perceive migration as pan-European problem, will contribute to even greater distrust among member states. This can even mount up to a paralysis of the functioning of the EU. Then, instead of solving serious problems, we will be busy by ourselves.

We will be busy with finding ways and options to punish misbehaving member states, how to persuade them or how to make them cooperate. This has confirmed the latest proposal made by French President Macron, who calls for financial sanctions against countries that reject asylum seekers.

Therefore, any consensus on the distribution of the migration burden will contribute to a better atmosphere for further steps to bring the EU into control not only of its external borders, but also to be more active in the countries where migration originates. Therefore, the V4 leaders should change their attitudes towards migration as soon as possible, because it can happen that nobody will be curious about their opinions in the future.

Photo source: Dailynews Hungary