Brussels adamant about refugee quotas

"Decisions that have been made are applicable law, even if one voted against them". With these words EU Commission President Juncker has defended the infringement procedures against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic. The three states refuse to comply with the quota system for the distribution of refugees decided in 2015. Are sanctions justified? And what should Brussels do next?

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El País (ES) /

The EU must demand solidarity

The EU's rules must apply equally for all member states, El País stresses:

“If this breach of an agreement adopted according to procedure were to go unpunished, it would establish a dangerous precedent. Any country could refuse to comply with an agreement, arguing - as Poland is doing now - that it was taken against its interests. In this particular case the countries refusing to comply are the very ones that receive the most from the EU budget. So they're net recipients, but refuse to share the common burden. … The refugees continue to arrive, and leaving the states on the outer borders to cope with the problem on their own isn't a sustainable approach.”

Le Vif / L'Express (BE) /

Border protection and clear asylum rules needed

The EU must not be content with initiating proceedings against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, Guy Verhofstadt, the leader of the liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament, demands in Le Vif:

“We must look farther than the 'treaty infringement proceedings'. We need to rapidly and resolutely establish a European border and coastline surveillance system so that we know precisely who is coming to Europe. And we need uniform regulations on asylum and migration so that those authorised to enter will benefit from a status that is recognised everywhere in the Union. Only in this way will the plan for distributing the refugees extend beyond treating the symptoms and become the logical cornerstone of European asylum policy.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Big topic in election campaign

The refugee dispute is made more complicated by the fact that it has broken out in the middle of the Czech election campaign, Der Standard explains:

“Following Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka's resignation as leader of the Social Democrats, Interior Minister Milan Chovanex, a hardliner on refugee policy, is taking over the reins. And conservative ex-president Václav Klaus has popped up again, blustering about leaving the EU which wants to 'force the Czech Republic to obey'. The politicians in Prague would do well to remember the anti-refugee election campaign led by Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, which was only modestly successful. But now the far right has seats in parliament in Slovakia.”

Sme (SK) /

No place for xenophobia in Europe

Sme has nothing but praise for Brussels:

“The European Commission's decision is correct and commendable. These three countries are behaving like crass egoists, citing concerns about security to hide their true, absolutely unpraiseworthy reasons for rejecting refugees: cultural and religious chauvinism. ... The message from Brussels is clear: the desire to ensure a comfortable life for oneself is far less urgent than protecting the lives and security of hundreds of thousands of people. In Europe, which was founded on the respect for human rights, the 'but this is our home' slogan has no bearing on collective humanitarian decisions.”

Die Tageszeitung taz (DE) /

The whole EU botched refugee policy

Strictly speaking Brussels shouldn't just punish the Eastern Europeans but others, too, taz comments:

“Because the Commission, hand in hand with Merkel, crashed Europe's refugee policy. The new start that was promised at the height of the crisis in 2015 has failed. … Germany never really participated in the jointly agreed redistribution of refugees. And the UK and Denmark didn't do their bit either. France and Benelux also ducked out of it. The entire distribution policy was messed up from the start. Punishments won't make it any better. It would have been better to create legal escape routes with official contingents approved by the EU member states. The routes from Greece and Italy to Central Europe are still closed to this day. That, too, is scandalous.”

PestiSrácok (HU) /

Don't export terror to Hungary!

Kommentator Gyula Máté T. explains why the government in Budapest is so adamant in its rejection of the refugee quotas on the pro-government web portal PestiSrácok:

“In the eyes of Juncker and his lot, solidarity means that we end up with some of the terrorist madness they've brought on themselves! It's not right that only the people in Brussels, Paris and London should be filled with fear! No, the Czechs, Poles and Hungarians should be crippled with fear too! It's not enough that the Eastern European 'colonies' are fobbed off with food products of inferior quality, now they are to be flooded with terrorists, too? If we go along with this there will be no stopping them. They'll do whatever they please with us 'unruly' people and we'll have to keep our mouths shut and put up with it.”

Rzeczpospolita (PL) /

PiS wants to be sure of re-election

Former PiS MEP Marek Migalski explains in Rzeczpospolita why Poland's national conservative PiS government is behaving so stubbornly in the conflict:

“Both the government and the president see fuelling fear of refugees as a guaranteed way to win the [parliamentary and presidential] elections in 2019 and 2020 respectively. This is why they are entering an open conflict with the Commission. This will bind the majority of Poles to the PiS and [President] Duda and drastically reduce their trust in the EU. … And precisely that is the government's plan: to maintain society's fear of refugees, make it the main theme of the election campaigns, escalate the conflict with Brussels and cast the opposition in the role of defenders of terrorists.”

Heti Válasz (HU) /

Row over distribution just a sham

The row over refugee distribution isn't really about the refugees, Heti Válasz explains:

“Hungary certainly wouldn't go to pieces if it took in the 1,294 migrants Brussels has prescribed. … And for the EU's leading member states as well as for Italy and Greece, which are demanding more solidarity, it won't make much of a difference whether the Central Europeans take in ten thousand migrants or not since within the next few months far more refugees will wash up on the coast of Sicily alone. The quota system is not a viable solution. The Commission is insisting on it because it wants to convey the impression that it is doing something about the refugees. But in reality it doesn't have any kind of plan.”

Gazeta Polska Codziennie (PL) /

The fight must be fought

The conflict is about more fundamental issues, Gazeta Polska Codziennie agrees:

“The core of the controversy between the EU Commission and Poland over refugee quotas revolves around the question of the leadership of the European Union. We're facing a situation in which decisions that have no legal basis are being forced on certain member states. ... That risks setting a precedent for decisions that violate existing treaties and violate the sovereignty of individual states. ... Today the issue is migrants, but once this decision-making model has been used one time it could be applied at will in the future. Of course we can't accept that, so this conflict is well worth the trouble.”

Hospodářské noviny (CZ) /

Prague's migration policy unserious

If the Czech Republic rejects the EU's migration policy it should at least do it in an honest and consistent way, Hospodářské noviny criticises:

“We're lying up our sleeves. We don't reject the distribution quotas because we're afraid they won't work, but because we're afraid they will. ... De facto, however, we're not offering any other solution either to Europe or the refugees. ... For instance we could make a serious attempt to negotiate a permanent exemption in this area with the EU, as Denmark has done. Naturally that would entail many risks. Imagine, for example, if the Ukraine conflict escalates, the Czech Republic is flooded with hundreds of thousands of refugees, Germany closes the door and no one will help us. As things stand, however, as long as we're part of this mechanism we're obliged to respect it.”

Mladá fronta dnes (CZ) /

Prague to blame for fine

Brussels has warned the Czech Republic and the other Central Eastern European countries often enough of consequences, Mladá fronta dnes stresses:

“There's a limit to everything. The Czech minister of the interior, Milan Chovanec, has often repeated that his country won't take in any more refugees on the basis of the EU quotas. In the end he pushed this through in the form of a government resolution. Entirely unnecessary. This was the last straw. Prague deliberately ignored all the warnings coming from Brussels. The EU Commissioner for Refugees stressed once more last week that solidarity in the migration crisis was a moral, political and legal obligation. Now he has proposed legal steps that could result in very high financial penalties.”

Dennik N (SK) /

Flexible solidarity is just a scam

The politicians in Brussels have realised that the "flexible solidarity" the Visegrád states talk of is in fact no solidarity at all, Dennik N observes:

“According to the official announcements by Slovakia, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland, 'flexible solidarity' means that each state contributes to solving the crisis depending on its resources. However in Brussels and other member states people aren't as dumb as the Central and Eastern European countries had hoped. They have understood that this was just a cheap ploy. … We shouldn't get upset now that Brussels is contemplating financial sanctions against us. And we certainly can't accuse the EU of lacking solidarity. Solidarity is a word we should avoid altogether.”