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vendredi 20 novembre 2015

The EU, migrants & Visegrad 4

Hungry, Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia are collectively known as the Visegrad 4 or V4, which will celebrate its 25th anniversary next year.  PM Orbán congratulated the new Polish PM, and urged "the necessity of more intensive coordination between Visegrad nations."

Back in August, the V4 countries caused a stir in the EU by throwing a spanner in the EU works by refusing to accept an EU wide quota on migrants.   The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius responded by saying that this was "scandalous” and also said that the border barrier being built by Hungary at that time "did not respect Europe's common values".

[Ed-  I’m wondering what he has to say now that Slovenia’s is putting up its own border barrier, (sorry “temporary technical hurdles” in form of razor wired fences).   Or the fact that of Austria has constructed  its own fence on the border with Slovenia.]

Interestingly, the V4 countries did manage to shift Brussel’s position on quotas, as can been seen in their communique in September.  

On the ground, the Visegrad 4 countries are providing border patrols along the Hungarian border with Serbia.   This ties in with what Vitkor Orban stated recently that the EU must first establish its own lines of defence.,polish-border-patrol-units-in-hungary

There is still a deepening unease within the Visegrad 4 countries on the handling of the huge influx of migrants since late summer.  Hungary is acting in accordance with the Schengen Agreement that obliges countries with external Schengen borders to protect it from illegal crossings.  Yet the EU Commission countered a few times this by stating that Hungary was going against EU values!

"The commission does not promote the use of fences and encourages member states to use alternative measures," Natasha Bertaud, the European Commission's spokeswoman for justice and home affairs, in July.

Recently they have deployed around 300 police officers to patrol the Greek – Turkish borders. 

The Hungarian president, Viktor Orban, is quite scathing about the EU leadership, especially in relation with Turkey.  Last week, in Malta, he said “We do not want the EU to sit down to negotiate with Turkey, while giving the impression that it is Turkey which will save the EU. One cannot negotiate if the other party thinks that they are their negotiating partner’s last hope”.

On one hand, the ‘rebellion’ by the Visegrad 4 seems to be a clear cut example of disunity within EU ranks.  On the other hand, it also seems that they are acting as a kind of lifebuoy for the whole EU by taking the initiative & micromanaging a response themselves. This potentially might backfire on them, if Brussels does in the long run doesn't take into consideration the V4 countries’ political agenda concerning the ‘migrant’ flow into the EU. The signals from Brussels are still erratic to say the least, with Berlin still taking the limelight but at the same time staying quite inflexible.

According to a German newspaper Politico, Merkel said  Those who can consider themselves lucky that they have lived to see the end of the Cold War now think that one can completely stay out of certain developments of globalisation. It just strikes me as somehow very weird,” Merkel then said "“When someone says ‘This is not my Europe, I won't accept Muslims,' I have to say, this is not negotiable".  Merkel’s message from Germany didn't always reach a sympathetic audience. A Czech Republic newspaper, Mladá fronta Dnes, stated that it wanted Merkel to be replaced by someone “with a sense of reality” & then said that “We must quickly forget how Germany tried to force us and the other Visegrád states into obedience, how it threatened and insulted us.

It is quite revealing how the V4 are effectively responding in their own way to the sudden influx of migrants, and did so quickly, albeit in small measured steps. While Berlin generates more hot air & seen to be doing practically nothing at all to stem the migrant flow, it seems that the V4 are putting talk, aka “jaw jaw” into real concrete measures by micromanaging a partial unified response to the ongoing challenges, yet still remaining within the EU framework.

Lately, a number of high level V4 politicians seem to be pulling away from Brussel’s position on several issues.  First we had Viktor Orban firmly nailing his political colours to the mast in a number of speeches, now we have Miloš Zeman, the president of the Czech Republic, with his latest defiant speech regarding dissent views, migrants and Islam.   Then of course, a political swing towards the right in Poland recently took place along with a change in policy direction.  So that leaves Slovakia.  Well, the Slovak President doesn’t seem to share the same memo as his other V4 politicians.   AndrejKiska said that the Visegrad 4 cannot become a "troublemaking bloc... with a 'blame it on Brussels' attitude".  Yet, Robert Fico, the prime minister took different line back in August:

"We strongly reject any quotas ... If a mechanism for automatic redistribution of migrants is adopted, then we will wake up one day and have 100,000 people from the Arab world and that is a problem I would not like Slovakia to have." And Fico also send that “"As long as I am prime minister, mandatory quotas will not be implemented on Slovak territory."

Looking at the wider context: George Soros, of Hungarian descent, apparently outlined a 6 point plan in which the following is stated:

First, the EU has to accept at least a million asylum-seekers annually for the foreseeable future. And, to do that, it must share the burden fairly – a principle that a qualified majority finally established at last Wednesday’s summit.”

As if reading the Soros script, Brussels & Berlin did made calls to share the load out to all members of EU, through a quota system.  Notably the Visegrad 4 have officially stated that they are very unhappy at the 'political correctness' behind what they perceived as being 'failed' EU migrant quotas being imposed upon them.  The Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Péter Szijjártó, said “Efforts at political correctness, as well as hypocrisy, prevent some from admitting that this is not a migrant crisis, but mass migration”. Moreover he too alluded to Berlin’s initial handling of the migrant influx, when he said that it is unacceptable to make political statements which that can be interpreted as “invitations”.

The mandatory imposition of an EU –wide quota has now been openly challenged by all of the V4 countries, with Poland being the latest member to do so. The Polish foreign minister, Witold Waszczykowski, has recently expressed his concerns over the whole migrant EU quota issue, after the terror attacks in Paris.

Soros’s article specifically mentions Viktor Orban’s own 6 point plan, where he criticizes it since in his opinion it “subordinates the human rights of asylum-seekers and migrants to the security of borders, threatens to divide and destroy the EU by renouncing the values on which it was built…”    The sparring match between Soros & Orban is quite evident.  Orban is not apparently approved of by the EU elites for a while now.  The MSM, right from the very beginning of the migrant ‘crisis, has been highly critical of the Hungarian government’s move in trying to the situation.  Now we can see that the V4 countries are lending a hand to Hungary.   Will this on-going political saber-rattling have wider repercussions on the V4 countries as a whole? Will Brussels be rattled by Orban and also V4’s general political direction?

The reality is that the V4 countries are not only deepening their cooperation between themselves but also wider across with Balkan countries. The Visegrad countries are currently holding a meeting in Prague along with Western Balkans states.  It is interesting to note that Slovenia is increasingly participating in the V4 group, but it is not as a member though. Also noteworthy was a trilateral meeting between Greece, Bulgaria & Hungary at the beginning of November.

While Brussels & Berlin appear to be totally frozen like a rabbit in the lights of a car, the V4 countries are continuing to establish & consolidate their political agendas and measures.

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