The state of votes
Negation of the country’s public opinion
Fight against xenophobia
Barbora Kvasnickova | 2018. May 04. 11:00
What we now call the European migrant crisis stands for a period lasting for the last four years. A rapid rise in the number of people arriving into the EU (European Union) after April 2015 affected each country differently. It is therefore no surprise that member countries are deeply divided on the issue.
Following the putting off of the Dublin III Regulation, the EU’s top court ruled that “member states would be forced to accept thousands of asylum seekers under a compulsory quota system.”* If quotas proved to be the right step, wouldn’t there still be someone supporting them now, three years later? How can then the Czech Republic in particular be sued today for not fulfilling an already ineffective system?
The Czech Republic opposed the mandatory quota system since its very beginning in 2015. At that time, at the peak of the migrant crisis, the EU’s top court ruled that member states would be forced to accept thousands of asylum seekers under a compulsory quota system. While the majority of the European Commission backed the system, some countries were still arguing they were not equipped for such radical change. Having to integrate people from mainly Muslim countries represented for Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Romania a big issue, because they claimed not to be fully equipped to welcome refugees. Those countries that voted against the system had to implement the common scheme nevertheless or face charges. This means that the decision to mandatorily provide asylum to a predetermined number of refugees didn’t originate in any part from inside the Czech Republic.
For its strong disagreement with the quotas that is now shared by the majority of member states, the Czech Republic shouldn’t be sued as a country committing an offence. When the quota system proved ineffective in reaching its target of refugee redistribution, the EU upheld the Dublin regulation. Bohuslav Sobotka, the Czech Prime Minister at the time even stated that if necessary, the Czech Republic will defend itself at judicial institutions rather than to support “dysfunctional quotas”.** Outvoted, unsatisfied and presented in bad light: that is not how the Czech Republic wants to be remembered.
Unlike the other countries that are being sued by the European Commission with the same charge, the Czech Republic has accepted at least some refugees. Poland, for instance, has not taken any relocating actions since December 2015 and moreover, has voted in favor of the quota plan. Considering the size of the Czech Republic, it seems like accepting at least 12 refugees and others from the total of 1445 asylum seekers that applied in 2017 was a very small, but still a symbolic step toward European solidarity. In return, a mutual respect would be expected. In fact, the Czech immigration system is one of the least adapted to work with large numbers. It is a lengthy process of questioning, tests, family tracking and therefore takes several months to undergo.
The European Council gave one month to the Czech Republic before taking it to court, in order to respond. Interestingly enough, the custom is to give a two-month deadline and so when no reply was received, the tensions only ascended. Lack of transparency of the process is definitely another one of the key issues that worsens the situation, but doesn’t justify the charges.
Actions speak louder than words and when Czechs had Parliamentary elections, their fear of immigrants proved crucial. As already mentioned, the Czech Republic accepted 12 refugees in total - a number so small that meetings through social networks are organized for the public to actually see them. However, the small amount didn’t prevent almost 11% of the entire population from voting for extreme right parties in the past Parliamentary election in October 2017. In particular, a party with the slogan “NO to immigrants” called SPD now holds 22 out of the 200 seats in the Parliament, exceeding the number of refugees accepted. Any extra pressure from the EU therefore only strengthens the dislike of the institution in the country.
Following the model of Great Britain that has voted to leave the EU and abandoned its asylum policy after the referendum, what happens if the Czech Republic manages to exempt itself from the scheme as well? Taking into consideration that the most pro-EU party TOP 09 reached just above the level of entry to the Parliament (5%), in order to uphold the EU’s position in the nation, it seems wiser to ask for lowering its demands than to push on already warm ground.
To sum up, it seems like the approach of the Czech Republic is lacking support of other EU member states and that is why the Republic is now facing charges for things that it didn’t agree to in the first place. Last, it was once again Bohuslav Sobotka – the former opponent of the quota system – who warned against the drop in confidence in the EU among the population, three years ago. Since that, not much has changed on the inside of the country and every disagreement is one more reason for a radical intervention. To prevent such downslide, the European Commission should drop the charges against the Czech Republic and welcome further changes on their immigration policy.
Simona Otrisalova | 2018. May 04. 11:00
Europe is marked by the migration crisis. Millions of people are crossing the border of the European Union (EU), in particular Greece and Italy. The EU has decided to help these two states by redistributing asylum seekers according to quotas, which provoked protests and opposition from some countries, including the Czech Republic. As a result, the European Commission has decided to sanction the country.
Czech society seems to be uneasy at the thought of accepting refugees. Their attitude also seems hostile regarding the decision of the European Union. President Milos Zeman and Prime Minister Andrej Babis have once again refused to accept refugees that should have been redistributed following the predetermined quotas. According to the quota system, the Czech Republic had to accept 2700 people, while it has accepted (until now) only 12. It is therefore not surprising that the European Commission sanctions this non-compliance.
The Czech Republic does not fully realize the importance of actively resolving the migration crisis. So far, the President, the government and the media have been discussing only why migrants should not be accepted, but they do not think about the consequences and the obligations to be met.
The acceptance of refugees is above all a question of honour. Morality and international law conduct us to help those in need. It's our humanitarian duty. Asylum seekers are people who are leaving their countries for good, regardless of whether it is because of war, human rights violations, famine or persecution. These people go to the unknown, to our culture, and we must help them and integrate them.
There is also the issue of solidarity towards other EU countries, especially Italy and Greece, which alone will not be able to cope with the migratory wave. If all the countries cooperated, we could very well control the situation. It is also wrong to say that the Czech Republic lacks the means to care for 2,700 people. It is currently hosting 500,000 foreigners and 2,700 more would not make much difference on condition that refugees are spread over the entire Czech territory which currently accommodates 10.5 million inhabitants. It's simply the willingness to do so with a thoughtful strategy that we are missing.
The European Union has taken a decision on quotas in accordance with the laws that the Czech Republic recognizes. The EU followed the proper process to make this decision, following its principles. The representatives of the Czech Republic could express their concerns in a democratic framework. The fact they were not able to convince representatives of other countries, it is not the fault of the EU. It is therefore necessary to respect the obligations instead of rebelling against them, against a ratified decision. Member States must respect EU laws. Once a country becomes a member of the EU, it has to honor its signature. The EU is a union built on democratic laws. If someone does not respect the laws, they will be punished, as in all democracies. Such is the system that we have freely chosen.
Instead of viewing refugee admissions as an imposed obligation, it should be approached as a possible benefit. People arriving from the other side of the world can enrich our society, our culture. This can put an end to prejudices against other nations that are rooted within the Czech society. This can also bring new points of view and new knowledge contributing to the modernization and improvement of the country. A young population with many children could improve the situation of retirees and revive the aging population This migration can also be understood as a kind of brain drain. The Czech Republic could benefit from it by accommodating a young workforce bringing new economic opportunities.
The Czech Republic must therefore change its migration policy as soon as possible. If the sanctions can reach this outcome, it is then necessary to use them. Indeed, the Czech Republic left the European Union no option.
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