Migrants Remain Sticking Point In Czech-German Relations: Merkel

Andrej Babiš, Migrants

Berlin, Sept 5 (CTK) – Migrant redistribution remains the sticking point in Czech-German relations, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a press conference after meeting Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis today, but described bilateral relations as excellent.


Sharing her opinion, Babis, on a day-long official visit to Berlin, said Europe should clearly define the Schengen area and say where the European continent should be defended. The discussion should concern primarily the western Balkans, he said.


“We have been cooperating very well together, but this does not rule out that our views on certain issues differ,” Merkel said, referring to the long-lasting dispute between Berlin and Prague over the redistribution of migrants.


According to Merkel, it is not possible to leave the whole responsibility up to Italy, where a large part of the refugees heading for Europe arrive.


Babis views this matter differently. “I believe that those countries will cope with it,” he said before his departure to Germany this morning, referring to the EU countries around the Mediterranean Sea.


“We disagree on the issue of the distribution of the people from these boats [with migrants],” Babis said at a press conference later, adding that the EU has to look for an alternative solution.


In most issues concerning migration, the Czech Republic and Germany nevertheless share a consensus. Merkel named, for instance, the protection of the outer border, fight against people smugglers and investments in the refugees’ countries of origin.


Another issue on which both politicians agreed is the necessity to make similar agreements with other countries as the agreement with Turkey.


“Both of us hold the opinion that the mechanism of the Turkey-EU agreement can be the right mechanism for other countries as well,” Merkel said.


Besides migration, both prime ministers talked about Brexit, the EU’s future budget and bilateral relations.


Babis said relations with Germany are of strategic importance and German companies should be supported in making more investments in science and research in the Czech Republic.


The dispute over migrant redistribution between the Czech Republic and other Visegrad Four (V4) countries, on the one hand, and Germany and some other countries of Western Europe, on the other, broke out in 2015, when the EU approved temporary migrant relocation quotas.


The same year, the Czech Republic voluntarily promised to accept 1,500 migrants but it has accepted only 12 so far and is refusing others.