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EU migration policy: Eastern European leaders harden new plans


Hungarian Viktor Orban, Polish Mateusz Morawiecki and Czech Andrej Babis have rejected the migration reform planned by the EU ahead of scheduled talks. The Visegrad group rejects quotas for asylum seekers.

The Prime Ministers of Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic expressed their unanimous disapproval of the European Commission’s migration plan after meeting with European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen on Thursday.

The meeting with three of the leaders of the so-called Visegrad Group, which also includes Slovakia, took place as EU member states prepare to discuss a common migration policy next week. All three expressed skepticism about the envisaged reforms at a joint press conference.

The proposal is ‘unacceptable’
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban rejected the idea that the Commission’s plan represented a breakthrough for the common policy of the European bloc. “The breakthrough will come when the Hungarian proposal is accepted, which says that no one can enter the territory of the European Union until one of the member states has completed their asylum procedure,” he said.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis told reporters that the EU should stop migrants at the border and send them home. “We have to change the subsidy system and the quota system, this is unacceptable to us. That is why we should continue to negotiate … the strategy should look like this – people in these countries should be arrested and fired in their country, and get help there, ”Babis said.

In turn, Pole Mateusz Morawiecki said the Visegrad group would stick to its demands for “the most rigorous and effective border control policies”. “We want to avoid problems at the source rather than having to then deal with the huge and controversial proposals we have in 2016, 17, 18 on migrant policy,” he said.

What is the Commission’s proposal?
On Wednesday, the European Commission proposed a “compulsory solidarity mechanism” comprising quotas for each country hosting refugees, as well as a grant of € 10,000 ($ 11,750) per housed adult, funded from the EU budget. He also proposed tighter controls at the bloc’s borders, which would include screening for arrivals who are sick or considered a security risk.

What could happen next?
The plan has already been strongly criticized by some EU countries. This could create problems for next week’s talks, as unanimous approval is needed to push through big changes in the bloc’s migration policy. If successful, the proposal could enter into force by 2023. However, previous attempts to introduce reforms similar to this one have not received sufficient support.

The outright rejection of the proposal by Eastern European states dealt a blow to the deal even before the actual negotiations began. The plan has also come under attack from migrant rights activists who have been disappointed with reforms that have not gone far enough and that the Commission gives in to right-wing populism and xenophobia.

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