Viségrad group calls for sealed borders

With their "plan B" the Visegrád states want to shut down the Balkan route if Greece proves unable to seal its EU external border. The press evaluates the group's tough stance in the refugee crisis.

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The flimsy foundations of the Visegrád alliance

The only things keeping the Visegrád states Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Sovakia together right now are the refugee crisis and the demand for Eastern European workers in the UK to be protected, writes economist Miklós Losoncz in the centre-left weekly Élet és Irodalom:

“The collaboration among the Visegrád states could be a useful inter-state institution for coordinating individual state interests. But in recent times the only issues the states have stood united on are rejecting the quota system for distributing refugees and Britain's plans regarding Eastern European workers. Rather than setting positive, constructive goals and initiatives, the similarities in the nature of their respective state systems (illiberal democracy) and prejudices regarding the European Union form the common basis for cooperation among the Visegrád states.”

Český rozhlas (CZ) /

Czech Republic should side with West

The Czech Republic should think very carefully about whether unquestioning loyalty to the other Visegrád states is a good idea, warns the public radio station Český rozhlas:

“The criticism of the Prague Summit shows just how problematic the role of the V4 within the EU is. Germany made it very clear that a Schengen border together with non-Schengen member Macedonia was out of the question and that any reinforcement of the Greek-Macedonian border could only be decided on the basis of European consensus. From that point on the V4 under its Czech leadership spoke only of a backup solution. It could damage the Czech Republic to align itself too closely with the other V4 states. We cannot exclude the possibility that this crisis will destroy the EU. It would not be in our interest if the new European border were to run West of the V4. It would be better for us to belong to the part that lies west of that border.”

Magyar Hírlap (HU) /

German pensioners will flee to Hungary

Anyone with any sense in Europe will back the Visegrád states' initiative, the commentator of the pro-government daily Magyar Hírlap writes, adding that he knows where German pensioners will be spending their twilight years:

“We must preserve the unity and cooperation among the Visegrád states, and we must seek to incorporate more and more countries. It is in the best interests of the European states to belong to this alliance. Anyone with a soul, a European awareness and of course common sense will follow Eastern Europe's course. … Soon German pensioners will start flooding into Hungary to start a new life in its villages. They want to hear the bells ring at midday and they want to meet white, Christian people on the street.”

Pravda (SK) /

Merkel is isolated, not the Visegrád states

Criticism of the Visegrád (V4) countries' Prague resolutions is misplaced, warns the left-leaning daily Pravda, which is close to the Fico government:

“The system with Germany as the leader of Europe only works in good times. Its weaknesses become apparent when the continent faces major problems. The principle whereby German solutions are always good is not universal. ... Angela Merkel took the wrong approach in the refugee crisis. The representatives of the Visegrád countries - as is becoming increasingly clear - were right from the start. You can't close your eyes to reality forever. That reality includes the introduction of upper limits in Denmark, Sweden and Austria. ... Only Luxembourg's Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn still supports the chancellor and is warning the V4 against defecting. In reality only one person stands alone: Empress Angela.”

Nézőpontok (HU) /

Western Europe doesn't take the East seriously

It is because their concerns aren't being heeded that the four Visegrád states are now presenting a joint front on refugee policy, writes analyst Mátyás Lajtai on the blog of political research institute Nézőpont:

“The refugee crisis has demonstrated that in the eyes of the Central and Eastern Europeans Western Europe's social and political patterns of behaviour don't work. The decision makers in these countries have reached the conclusion that only by forming an alliance against Western Europe's dictates will they have any say. … The Central and Eastern Europeans are also becoming more aware that the Western leaders don't treat them as equal partners. The so-called 'European values' are Western values; Eastern European peculiarities have no place there. ”

Standart (BG) /

Bulgaria right to reject plan B

Bulgaria won't be participating in the Visegrád states' "plan B", Prime Minister Boyko Borisov announced on Monday. This was the right decision, the daily paper Standart comments approvingly:

“During his visit to Sofia a few weeks ago Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán put forward the idea of reinforcing the Bulgarian and Macedonian borders with Greece. This plan carries several risks: it would put a severe strain on economic relations in the Balkans, it could create a very unpleasant political atmosphere and it would give the EU an excuse to shirk its responsibilities regarding other problems in the Balkan region. Clearly the refugee crisis can only be resolved at the pan-European level.”

Die Presse (AT) /

On removing the weakest link

If it were up to the Visegrád states, the border between Greece and Macedonia would be closed. But if Greece is left to cope on its own in this way the EU's cohesion will be gone forever, the liberal conservative daily Die Presse fears:

“If this idea prevails the weakest link in the chain will be removed, but the sense of solidarity among EU states would also disappear. At first Hungary and Slovakia might be delighted at having to cope with even fewer Muslim migrants, but the day will come when they themselves need help in dealing with a wave of refugees from the East or other crises. And they won't get it. None of the EU states would be able to count on the others. And once the weakest link has been removed someone else will become the weakest link.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Visegrád states balk at taking clear stance

Despite the plans agreed with Hungary and Slovakia, Poland and the Czech Republic argued for a pan-European approach at the Visegrád summit. They may well come to regret this watering-down of the group's clear stance, the conservative daily Lidové noviny believes:

“The summit put a damper on things from the start. Germany complained and Macedonia and Bulgaria refused to back an alternative version of the Schengen Area [with Greece left to fend for itself]. … This is sad because the starting point was good: Greece can't manage even the registration of refugees and - like Turkey - is doing nothing to stop the influx of migrants. If Germany follows Austria's lead and also sets an upper limit the West Balkans would become a pressure cooker. And if the pressure became too great Visegrád could be the last remaining coalition that can act as a vent.”

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Tages-Anzeiger (CH) / 18 February 2016
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