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Disagreements between EU member states over quotas for the accommodation of refugees from Asia and Africa reached the boiling point. In September 2015, the EU adopted a plan to move refugees by quota until September this year, 160 thousand refugees from Italy and Greece to other European countries. As an alternative, they could pay 250 thousand euros for each stipulated by the refugee quota. The money would go to the maintenance of refugees in the camps of Italy and Greece. Less than six months left until the end of this plan. However, just over 8 thousand out of 160 thousand refugees have been distributed by quotas. Member countries are reluctant to follow the course of the European migration policy and do not hurry to accommodate refugees for various reasons.
The periphery closed the doors
The main blow to the EU's "open door" policy was inflicted by the countries of Central and Eastern Europe. According to their leadership, imposing quotas on the accommodation of refugees is a violation of the sovereignty of the EU member states.
Poland refused to host 6,500 people from Muslim countries on its territory. The leader of the ruling party, Law and Justice (PiS), Jaroslaw Kaczynski, in an interview with TVP Info, stressed that it was Germany, and not Poland, that was supposed to deal with the consequences of the "open door" policy towards refugees. He believes that there is no mechanism to ensure the safety of citizens of countries hosting refugees. Together with the refugees, Islamic extremists penetrate the EU. This is evidenced by the terrorist attacks that periodically occur in Paris, Brussels, Berlin, as well as in the cities of Turkey, which placed on its territory 2.5 million Syrians on mutual agreements with the EU. Kaczynski is convinced that refugees can be carriers of dangerous infections and diseases. Deputy Foreign Minister of Poland Konrad Szymański believes that the policy pursued by Brussels on the movement of refugees to different European countries has no sense. In order to resolve the migration crisis, it is necessary to stop the flow of refugees by strengthening the external borders of the EU.
The Hungarians are in agreement with the Poles. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban is pursuing a tough migration policy. The Hungarian Parliament, dominated by his party of moderate Eurosceptics "Fidesz-Hungarian Civil Union", voted against quotas for refugees. The government refuses to accommodate 1,299 refugees. Hungarian military expelled from Hungary 621 refugees for several months of last year. Only 425 foreigners, out of 29,400 applications for political asylum in Hungary, received refugee status in 2016. Along the state border with Serbia and Croatia special fences are built, staffed with video surveillance. Hungarian citizens are not interested to become a courtyard for refugees. In 2015, the territory of Hungary was crossed by 400 thousand descendants from the countries of Asia and Africa on their way to the countries of Western Europe. Hungary makes it clear to other European countries that the supranational bodies of the EU have no right to force the national governments of the member states to place refugees on their territory.
The authorities of the Czech Republic are against the accommodation of refugees. Only 12 people out of 1,600 refugees, were accommodated by the Czech Republic. According to Czech President Miloš Zeman, the refugees bear a terrorist threat. Finance Minister Andrej Babiš and Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said that the Czech Republic will no longer accept a single refugee. Czech society fears not only the terrorist activities of Islamic extremists, but also the reluctance of Muslims to integrate into European society, which threatens the Czech national identity. According to the CVVM survey, 61% of Czechs are against the placement of refugees in their country.
The quota system is criticized in other member countries. At the end of September last year, foreign ministers of Slovakia, Latvia, and Lithuania made a collective statement that the quotas will not become an obstacle to refugees who seek to enter the countries of Western Europe. In their opinion, it is necessary to selectively provide political asylum, not allow all the dependents from Muslim countries, who want to get into the EU and settle down in the guise of refugees.
The Center would not make concessions
At the same time, the founding countries of the EU, France and Germany, as well as the European Commission, continue to insist on the implementation of the plan to accommodate refugees, in spite of the unwillingness of other member countries. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron support this approach and believe that this is the key to resolving the migration crisis in Europe. The Times published the opinion of an anonymous source from the founding country of the European Union (Germany, France, Italy or the Benelux countries) that if Poland and Hungary do not accommodate refugees in their territory, then they are expected to have political and financial consequences. An appropriate decision can be taken by the European Court of Justice. It is possible that one of the EU sanctions might be the withdrawal of countries from the vote in the European Council.
Neither France nor Germany can make concessions to the Central European countries. Otherwise, their governments will have to accommodate a larger number of immigrants from Muslim countries. France and Germany have already faced a tense social situation. More than 1 million refugees live in Germany now. In 2016, German government has hosted 280 thousand migrants. In France, since 2015, 71 thousand refugees have been sheltered, and its quota provides for the deployment of 24 thousand more foreigners. Last year, 15 terrorist attacks took place on the territory of France. It is unlikely that other member countries, including the Netherlands, will be willing to host additional refugees, which has the fourth level of the terrorist threat (by a 5-point scale0. The situation in the sphere of security in Sweden and Belgium is not better, where terrorist attacks occur periodically.
On the eve of the parliamentary elections in France (in June) and in Germany (in September of this year), the current governments need to make progress in improving the migration environment in order to prevent the victory of Eurosceptics who are building their pre-election programs around the criticism of the "open door" policy. For example, in Germany, against the background of the migration crisis, the Eurosceptic far-right party "Alternative for Germany" Frauke Petri is popular, which would become the main competitor of the Christian Democratic Union, Angela Merkel and the German Social Democrat Party, Martin Schultz, who also supports the EU resettlement plan. At the upcoming parliamentary elections in France, the rival of the party "Forward!" of the new President François Macron and the Socialist Party of France François Hollande will be the Eurosceptic party "National Front" of Marin Le Pen.
The founding countries of the EU will continue to press the Central European "periphery" and demand from Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia to place refugees on their territory. Otherwise, the European Union will have to fork out and allocate considerable sums to third countries to accommodate refugees outside the community. In February, the EU announced the allocation of 3.9 billion euros to resolve the migration crisis. New spending will fall on the shoulders of European taxpayers, which will cause an occasion for criticism of existing governments.
The threat of EU fragmentation
It is doubtful that EU pressure on the countries of Central and Eastern Europe would be effective. Poland, Hungary, and other member states would not place refugees against their will. EU’s pressure is limited. In order to impose sanctions against a particular state, the consent of all member states is required. Restrictive measures against Poland will not be supported by Hungary, and so on. The EU will have to simultaneously impose sanctions against all countries that do not want to host refugees. This is impossible, because the founding countries of the EU are in the minority.
Escalating relations with the Central European member countries is unprofitable for the founding countries of the EU, and there are purely economic reasons for that. In 2016, Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary entered the top 20 of Germany's largest trade and economic partners. Among the foreign economic partners of France, Poland ranks tenth. Eurosceptic moods are strong in these countries. Poland, Hungary, and Czech Republic are in no hurry to join the euro zone. Central European countries do not support the excessive strengthening of supranational bodies of the EU.
Uncompromising EU policy in the sphere of the migration crisis will exacerbate the split in the Union. Members who do not agree with a pan-European course might begin to look for a more acceptable alternative. This could be taken by Russia, using existing differences to intervene in the political processes of the Central European countries, it might strengthen the support of local Eurosceptics to undermine pan-European unity. If nothing changes, sooner or later the issue of the withdrawal of individual European states from the EU would arise.