“The actions of Poland and Hungary are not in line with Czech interests”, complained Czechia’s increasingly frustrated Prime Minister. Commentators have pointed out that such a statement would have been unimaginable from Petr Fiala only a few years ago. Under the weight of their coalition with the radical left-wing Pirates Party, his Civic Democratic Party (ODS) are tilting strongly to the left, even though not so long ago they used to be firm supporters of the Polish and Hungarian governments.
Petr Fiala’s remarks came after the EU summit last week, where Poland and Hungary both vetoed a system, where illegal migrants would be distributed across EU member states, thus sharing the legal, social and financial burdens that stems from their ever increasing arrivals. The Polish and Hungarian prime ministers opposed the chapter on migration in the summit’s final communiqué on Friday, even though the Czech delegation had worked extremely hard to include a passage that was of great importance for them for domestic reasons.
This is because in return for accepting tens of thousands of migrants, the government in Prague had demanded, and was promised, financial help with the large numbers of Ukrainian refugees currently residing in Czechia. The Czech Republic has the highest number of Ukrainians in the EU per capita, thus the EU funds would have helped not only from a financial perspective, but also from a domestic political one.
By blocking the text on migration, Poland and Hungary are also blocking the money we should receive,”
Fiala said in Brussels. Hinting at the words of his arch-rival, former Prime Minister Andrej Babis, who called for the rejection of migrant quotas, he said that “Those who tell us at home that we should proceed in cooperation with Hungary and Poland do not know what they are talking about”.
“We will continue this format. But meetings will take place at prime ministerial level after the elections in Slovakia and Poland,” said Fiala about the future of the V4 cooperation in Brussels on Friday. Both contests will take place this autumn. “Cooperation between the Visegrad countries continues in many areas, but we cannot hide our differences. This was also evident today,” he added.
The row will put further strain on the previously effective cooperation between the V4 countries, Poland, Czechia, Hungary and Slovakia. As to how it would balance out to get partial funding for the 300,000 Ukrainian refugees, many of whom have already found work in Czechia, with financial expenses associated with receiving tens of thousands of often unemployable migrants, is unclear. To a degree, however, Fiala’s reaction can be explained by the fact that he is increasingly finding himself in the shadows of Czechia’s ultra-liberal President, Petr Pavel, who is now seen as the Czech Republic’s face on the international stage. Even at home, while the president’s popularity is showing an upward trajectory, Fiala’s popularity is at an all time low.
The Czech President during a visit to Bratislava. Photo: Facebook Petr Fiala
Last month, parliamentary group leader of the largest opposition party ANO, Alena Schillerová said that
the migration reform proposal adopted by the EU interior ministers in Luxemburg threatens the security and sovereignty of the Czech Republic and should be rejected.
Furthermore, in a tweet published after Czechia had voted for Brussels’ migrant quotas, former Prime Minister Andrej Babis wrote that “Vít Rakušan (minister of interior) is lying unbelievably about illegal migration. Without any mandate, he has destroyed everything we fought against and clearly rejected in 2019 and 2020. Instead of defending the interests of our citizens, he has sold out our sovereignty. No one can tell us who will live in our country. Europe has now opened its doors wide to smugglers”.
Featured Photo: MTI/Miniszterelnöki Sajtóiroda/Fischer Zoltán