The foreign ministers of the Visegrad Group have convened in Prague on Monday to establish a common stand on the inflow of refugees into Europe.
Alongside V4 countries Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary, the talks were also attended by Latvia and a representative of Luxembourg, currently at the helm of the EU presidency. The meeting comes ahead of a Brussels summit on Wednesday, where European leaders will strive to establish a common policy on accepting refugees into the EU.
Ahead of Monday’s event, Polish Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna issued an open letter to several European papers, including the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung and Le Monde, stating that Poland was ready to take in a larger number of immigrants than the quota of over 10,000 recently proposed by the European Commission. Schetyna, however, made it clear that the European Union should engage in “complex and effective” actions regarding the bloc’s asylum and immigration policies. These include tightening Europe’s external borders, collaborating with neighbouring states, but also stepping up efforts aimed at stabilizing the situation in the refugees’ countries of origin.
“If we as a united Europe fail to undertake brave steps in the spirit of solidarity, but also with a sense of responsibility for our citizens’ security, then the crisis will only continue to grow,” Schetyna stated.
Last week, V4 countries vetoed the European Commission’s proposal to relocate 120,000 asylum-seekers among the EU nations. The member states underline they are ready to take on the responsibility, but on a voluntary basis rather than a mandatory quota system. The Central European leaders argue that individual EU states should have the right to decide themselves on the number of accepted refugees.
Europe’s rift on migrants was particularly visible at an extraordinary meeting of interior ministers in Brussels last Tuesday. Czech and Slovak leaders, backed by Poland and Hungary, insisted that the meeting’s final document included a clause on voluntary acceptance of migrants, to which Germany and many other countries could not concede.
The European heads of diplomacy convene again in Brussels on Tuesday in an effort to broker a consensus on the distribution of refugees. If the attempt at reaching common ground fails, a qualified majority vote is to be taken at Wednesday’s emergency summit in Brussels. In line with the procedure, 55 percent of member states must vote in favour and the states must represent at least 65 percent of the total EU population for a given measure to be passed. (aba/rk)