Central European leaders are not yet convinced by the European Commission’s new migration plan.
“The tone of the proposal is better,” Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán told reporters Thursday after talks with Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in Brussels. But, he said, “there is no breakthrough.”
Under the plan unveiled on Wednesday, the EU would introduce a “solidarity and responsibility” mechanism allowing member countries that do not want to accept asylum applicants to instead take over responsibility for the return of people who are denied asylum in other EU states.
The new package also includes proposals to foster faster procedures at the bloc’s external borders and aims to overcome long-standing policy differences across the Continent.
However, Orbán indicated Budapest was not convinced that the idea of mandatory schemes to redistribute asylum seekers across the bloc was off the table.
“Relocation and quota, whatever is the name, is relocation and quota. So to change the name is not enough,” he said, speaking alongside Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš and Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki.
Central European countries have long been opposed to mandatory plans to redistribute asylum seekers.
“The basic approach is still unchanged, because they would like to manage the migration and not to stop the migrants,” Orbán said of the Commission’s proposal.
He said a breakthrough could have come in the form of “hotspots” outside the EU to handle asylum seekers, “so nobody can step on the ground of [the] European Union without having a permission to do so because their request for asylum is accepted.”
Czech Prime Minister Babiš echoed the demand for hotspots outside Europe.
“We should negotiate with North African countries, we should really have a long-term strategy on Syria, on Libya and the strategy should be that these people really should stay and live in their own countries, and we have to do the maximum for this,” he said.
The Visegrad Four countries — Poland, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Hungary — have a “very unified position” on migration, Poland’s Morawiecki said, calling for a “rigorous and effective policy of border controls and help in areas where potential migrants could migrate to Europe.”
Jan Cienski contributed reporting.
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