The president of the Czech Republic, Miloš Zeman, views Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ) presidential candidate Norbert Hofer as a potential ally on migrant policy ahead of next month’s election.
Spokesman for the Czech president, Jiří Ovčáček, confirmed that Mr. Zeman was interested in speaking to Mr. Hofer on Monday about a range of issues, most notably the migrant crisis and potential solutions to it, reports Der Standard.
Mr. Ovčáček stated that the president sees the FPÖ politician as a natural ally because, he said, both men had “realistic views on the migration crisis”, leading to speculation that Austria is moving towards the policies of the Central European nations in regards to mass migration.
Mr. Hofer is visiting the Czech Republic on behalf of the Austrian government as he currently holds the office of president of the Austrian parliament along with two other members of parliament.
Czech media criticised the invitation of Mr. Hofer saying that it was a “diplomatic mishap”. Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg said: “I’ve known for a long time that Zeman and Hofer agree on many things, but it wouldn’t have occurred to me to demonstrate this in public immediately before an election.”
Mr. Hofer also came out today against the recommended migrant policies of Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz.
Mr. Kurz has proposed that Europe employs a migrant policy similar to Australia, where migrants would be held on islands in the Mediterranean to have their asylum claims processed, rather than allow them to travel to mainland Europe.
Mr. Hofer said that the idea of putting migrants on islands was a step too far. The policy, which is also supported by the anti-mass migration Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, has been slammed by various left-wing groups as “inhumane”.
The presidential candidate said that the solution to the migrant crisis, where tens of thousands arrived on the shores of Italy in the last two weeks, would be to send the migrants directly back to Libya where they came from.
“One must not broadcast misunderstood humanitarian signals to attract even more people to make the dangerous journey across the sea,” he said.
Mr. Hofer currently leads his opponent, former Green Party leader Alexander Van Der Bellen, in the latest polls.
The FPÖ politician has previously mentioned he would be interested in seeing a union of Central European countries – a “union within a union” – in order to counter the interests of the larger powers of France and Germany.