Central Europeans reject European Commission migrant proposals

  • World
  • Wednesday, 04 May 2016

PRAGUE (Reuters) - Central European countries dismissed on Wednesday the EU executive's proposals to share out migrants among member states, saying any plans for forced relocation of people were unacceptable or, in Hungary's view, amounted to blackmail.

The European Commission published legislative proposals to reform EU asylum rules, including a "fairness mechanism" under which each of the 28 member states would be assigned a percentage quota of all asylum seekers in the bloc that it would be expected to handle.

The quotas would reflect national population and wealth and, if a country found itself handling 50 percent more than its due share, it could relocate people elsewhere in the bloc. States could refuse to take people for a year - but only if they paid another country 250,000 euros per person to accommodate them.

Central European countries fought the EU's decision last year to relocate 160,000 asylum seekers, with Hungary and Slovakia challenging the decision in EU courts, and the new proposal also ran into immediate stark opposition.

"Regarding the fines proposed by the European Commission, it is blackmailing," Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said after the Visegrad group of central European countries, which includes the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland, met in Prague.

"The quota concept is a dead-end street and I would like to ask the Commission not to run into this dead-end street any more."

Last year the Visegrad countries were outvoted on quotas. Czech Foreign Minister Lubomir Zaoralek said the EU should now act on the basis of consensus.

"I am somewhat unpleasantly surprised that the Commission is returning to play a proposal upon which there is no agreement," he said. "It should not propose something that divides us, that will help nothing."

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said of the proposal: "It sounds like an idea announced during April fools day."

Speaking earlier, Poland's interior minister said the plan violated member states' rights while Slovakia's interior minister said the proposal would set back the bloc's efforts to tackle its migrant crisis by months.

Central European countries have refused to take in any large numbers of migrants, with fears that Muslims could not integrate into their largely Christian societies.

Only a fraction of the more than a million asylum-seekers that reached Europe last year, many of them Syrian refugees, aimed for central Europe, with most only crossing the region to reach Germany or other western European countries.

(Reporting by Jan Lopatka and Robert Muller; Additonal reporting by Tatiana Jancarikova in Bratislava and Wiktor Szary in Warsaw; Writing by Jason Hovet; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)

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