Photo: KK

EU States Agree On Migration Package, Czech Republic Abstains

Representatives of EU member states agreed on the final form of a migration package today, diplomatic sources confirmed to CTK, with the Czech Republic abstaining in the vote, as had previously been announced.

The reforms in the latest version of the EU migration and asylum pact are less ambitious than the Czech Republic had expected, Interior Ministry spokesman Ondrej Kratoska told CTK, explaining the Czech abstention. They also increase the administrative burden and reduce the ability to effectively prevent irregular migration at the EU’s external border, he added.

Transport Minister Martin Kupka (ODS) said on Wednesday that the Czech cabinet considers the new version of the pact to be worse than the one the Czech Republic helped prepare during its EU presidency. “It was really crucial for the Czech Republic to secure a pact that would enable an effective return policy and secure protection of the external borders,” he said.

The Interior Ministry said today that the final version increases the administrative and bureaucratic burden on member states compared to the version approved by the EU Council, thus reducing the possibility of effectively preventing illegal migration at the EU’s external border. “Specifically, the negotiations led to a weakening of the border procedure, where the EP proposals, for example, would have restricted the possibility of extending the detention of illegal migrants at the external border beyond 12 weeks,” Kratoska said.

The original text included the possibility of simpler extension beyond 12 weeks, which was intended to address situations where, for example, source countries refuse to cooperate in identifying and taking in refugees. “In addition, on the basis of the EP proposal, member states will now be obliged to set up and finance a special national monitoring system under the border procedure, in a situation where the EU Asylum Agency’s monitoring system has already been set up,” said Kupka.

“This may lead to the continuation of secondary movements from border states further into the EU. As a result of the trialogues, the deadline for security checks of migrants detained on the territory has been shortened to just three days,” Kratoska added.

After years of negotiations, the EU countries agreed on the new rules last December. The approval of the EU states is final, though the standard still needs to be formally approved by the European Parliament, which is likely to happen at its plenary in April.

The new migration and asylum rules envisage, among other things, stricter controls on refugees and faster return of those whose asylum applications are rejected to their countries of origin. They also introduce a compulsory solidarity mechanism between all states in terms of accepting refugees, which will help overburdened countries either by accepting a share of the refugees, or with financial or material aid.

Previously, Hungary and Poland in particular opposed the migration package.

One widely discussed and key element of the package is the asylum and migration management regulation (AMMR), which establishes rules of solidarity between EU member states.

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