Four central European countries have said they will not attend an EU mini-summit on migration this weekend, and joined Austria in urging the bloc to focus on boosting border security rather than distributing refugees among member states. Leaders from Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Austria met in Budapest on Thursday and reaffirmed their view that tougher anti-immigration measures must be the EU’s priority in its search for a coherent asylum policy.
“Europe must be able to protect its borders and guarantee the security of its citizens,” said Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, whose country – like Poland and the Czech Republic – faces EU legal action for refusing to accept a quota of refugees.
Both Czech premier Andrej Babis and Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz called for the EU border agency Frontex to be significantly bolstered, to ensure no repeat of the 2015 migration crisis that saw more than one million people enter the EU via Turkey and the Balkans.
“We have to have a Europe capable of defending us . . . We have to strengthen Frontex, to protect our external border and ensure internal freedom,” said Mr Kurz.
Writing later on Twitter, Mr Kurz added: “We need to put aside the debate on distribution [of refugees] and focus on protection of the external border, on which there is already great consensus among EU member states.”
That debate has raged since 2015, with Germany leading calls for all EU members to take refugees to ease the burden on entry points like Greece and Italy, while Mr Orban has built border fences and led resistance to any quota scheme.
Leaders across central Europe and in Austria and Italy now broadly share Mr Orban’s views, as migration returns to the top of the agenda for next week’s EU summit.