Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis arrives at a European Union leaders summit in Brussels, Belgium. (REUTERS File Photo)
PRAGUE, June 4 (Reuters): The Czech Republic on Monday rejected German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s idea of a flexible European approach to migration underpinned by a European border police force, saying protecting frontiers should be up to individual countries.
It was reacting to Merkel’s remarks at the weekend casting border controls and a common asylum policy as “existential questions” for the European Union, urging a “flexible system” in migration and letting Frontex become a European border police force that can act independently.
“The idea that Frontex will guard everything by itself is not realistic in the long term,” Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis told reporters when asked about her comments. “Individual states must guard that.”
The migration topic has divided the EU’s 28 member states since the influx in 2015 of more than 1 million mainly Muslim migrants from mainly the Middle East and Africa.
The Czech Republic and other central and eastern EU members Hungary, Slovakia and Poland – known as the Visegrad group – have strongly opposed a quota system drawn up by the European Commission to redistribute asylum seekers around the bloc.
EU leaders will again discuss migration at a summit at the end of June. Merkel said over the weekend she was not sure any deal to break the impasse over burden-sharing for taking in migrants could be reached by then.
Unlike western EU states, the Visegrad quartet have scant experience of immigration historically and voiced fears for their Christian culture from any notable intake of migrants.
Merkel said the EU needed to have a European migration body and a Marshall Plan for Africa. She endorsed a “flexible system” in which countries that refuse to take on refugees could compensate by making contributions in other areas.
Babis questioned how countries could compensate for refusing to take in migrants. He also said elections this weekend in Slovenia, won by an anti-immigration opposition party, and in Italy which yielded the EU’s first anti-establishment government, showed how the policy stance of Visegrad had spread.
“So this opinion on migration will prevail in the whole of Europe, and we have to stop migration outside the European continent and help the people in Africa and Syria,” he said.