Brussels has threatened to take the Czech Republic to court after its government announced its withdrawal from the Commission scheme to force European Union (EU) countries to welcome migrants from the third world.
Citing security issues, Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said on Monday the Visegrád nation will not be resettling any more of the quota of 2,691 migrants demanded by the scheme, having so far taken just a dozen people who arrived uninvited to Italy and Greece on boats.
“Due to the aggravated security situation and the dysfunctionality of the whole system, the government approved… a proposal to halt this system for the Czech Republic,” Chovanec told a news conference following a cabinet meeting.
“That means the Czech Republic will not be asking for migrants to be relocated from Greece and Italy.”
In April, Brussels threatened to take legal action against countries refusing to go along with the legally binding EU scheme, which has been fiercely contested in Central and Eastern Europe, with Hungary and Slovakia challenging the plans in court.
Following the minister’s announcement, the European Commission warned it could open infringement proceedings against countries who reject its redistribution plan as early as next week.
In an interview with Czech tabloid Blesk published Tuesday, EU president Jean-Claude Juncker demanded all nations in Europe shoulder “solidarity and responsibility” when it comes to migration.
Responding to Brussels’ threats to nations wanting sovereignty over their borders, Chovanec said in April the Czech Republic would rather face sanctions than be forced to take migrants. He cited security concerns over the fact asylum seekers set to be forced upon Czech taxpayers were proving incapable even of staying put in Italy and Greece whilst security checks were processed.
Opposition parties in the Czech Republic back the Social Democrat government’s decision not to participate in the scheme. Communist KSCM deputy chairman Jiri Dolejs said the government “should act” on its opposition to redistribution, and has warned that immigration carries with it “considerable social and security risks”.
But according to Martin Rozumek, executive director of the Prague-based Organisation for Aid to Refugees, the idea that migrants could pose a danger to the Czech Republic is “nonsense”.
The NGO chief told EUobserver the majority of the 12 relocated asylum seekers taken in by the Czech Republic had integrated well into society. “They lead normal lives,” he said, noting that one had recently given birth.