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    Migrant Crisis Deepens Europe's East-West Divide

    Migrant Crisis Deepens Europe's East-West Dividei
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    February 16, 2016 8:11 PM
    The Visegrad Group, a largely forgotten mini-bloc in Europe, is growing increasingly frustrated by what its members see as the European Union's chaotic and ineffective response to the growing migrant crisis. Luis Ramirez looks at what that means for refugees and the EU as a whole.
    Luis Ramirez

    The leaders of the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia gathered around a cake this week in Prague, celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Visegrad Group, an organization that has been largely forgotten since its creation in 1991 following the collapse of communism.

    The mini-bloc is finding a new purpose as frustration grows among governments in the region over what they see as the European Union's chaotic and ineffective response to the growing migrant crisis.   

    "The migration policy that we have seen so far has failed, and this only created terrorism, violence and fear," said Hungary's prime minister, Viktor Orban, whose policies of not welcoming the migrants have received criticism in Western Europe.

    "Our position tends to be that the migration flow must be under control and must be stopped," he told reporters at the end of a Visegrad gathering Monday in Prague.

    At odds with Greece, Merkel

    For some in the V-4 grouping, the enemies in the newest divide between East and West are Greece and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

    Orban proposes a solution that is directly opposed to the policy promoted by Merkel, who wants all EU members to absorb an equal number of migrants. Officials project 4 million migrants and refugees will seek asylum in Europe this year.

    FILE - Migrants wait on a bridge for their registration and transport by German police to a refugee shelter, Sept. 24, 2015 in Salzburg, Austria at the border to Germany.
    FILE - Migrants wait on a bridge for their registration and transport by German police to a refugee shelter, Sept. 24, 2015 in Salzburg, Austria at the border to Germany.

    Instead, the Hungarian leader wants a fence built on Bulgaria and Macedonia's border with Greece, effectively cutting off Greece from the 26-nation Schengen Area, of which it is a part.

    Athens has failed to prevent hundreds of thousands of migrants, largely from Syria and Iraq, from crossing its territory and therefore, Orban and others argue, has not met its obligations to protect Europe's borders.

    ‘Testing our union’

    The proposal has rattled EU officials, who are campaigning to keep the European Union from breaking apart.

    "The migratory crisis we are currently witnessing is testing our union to its limits," European Council President Donald Tusk said Tuesday in Prague. 

    The EU chief was completing a five-nation tour to build consensus before a summit Thursday on Britain's bid to renegotiate the terms of its EU membership, another deeply contentious issue that could bring the departure of the bloc's second-richest economy.

    In Athens, also on Tuesday, Tusk found himself offering reassurances to Greek leaders shaken by the prospect of being cut off from Europe.

    "Greece did not cause this crisis, nor did Europe,” Tusk said at a joint news conference with Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras. “To all those talking of excluding Greece from Schengen, thinking this is a solution to the migration crisis, I say no, it is not. Let me be clear: Excluding Greece from Schengen solves none of our problems."

    FILE - Macedonian policemen guard the borders of their country as an army truck arrives to build a border fence to prevent illegal crossings by migrants, in the Greek-Macedonian border near the Greek village of Idomeni, Nov. 28, 2015.
    FILE - Macedonian policemen guard the borders of their country as an army truck arrives to build a border fence to prevent illegal crossings by migrants, in the Greek-Macedonian border near the Greek village of Idomeni, Nov. 28, 2015.

    Until now, Visegrad countries had been in line with the rest of Europe in terms of economic development and open borders.

    The migrant crisis, however, has changed things.

    In the eyes of some, calls by Merkel and others for all EU nations to accept migrants recall an ugly chapter in history, when Nazi Germany dictated an extremist ideology to its eastern neighbors.

    There are concerns the calls are fueling nationalist sentiments and giving rise to right-wing political movements in central Europe and beyond.

    "This is not only Orban who is speaking about building fences in Europe,” Dariusz Kalan, a political analyst at the Polish Institute of International Affairs, a Warsaw research organization, told VOA. “These voices are significant and visible, not only in Hungary but also in the Balkans and also in Austria, not to mention radicals in Germany or France."

    Search for internal compromise

    Aside from its unanimous rejection of any attempt to impose migrant quotas, the V-4 grouping is far from united in its approach to the migrant crisis.

    Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka is seen as the most liberal and ready to compromise. Slovakia's Robert Fico, a hard-liner, is under pressure to appear even tougher as his country heads toward elections. Poland has traditionally had strong ties with Western Europe, but elected a right-wing government late last year.

    FILE - Refugees and migrants walk along a beach after crossing a part of the Aegean on a dinghy, from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos, Dec. 12, 2015.
    FILE - Refugees and migrants walk along a beach after crossing a part of the Aegean on a dinghy, from Turkey to the Greek island of Lesbos, Dec. 12, 2015.

    "What is happening at the moment is an attempt to find a compromise within the V-4 countries which would somehow enable them to speak with a single voice on the European level, but at the same time would not undermine their position completely as a part of Europe," Tomas Jungwirth, an analyst at the Association for International Affairs, a Prague research institution, told VOA.

    V-4 leaders are walking a delicate line, and their summit declaration in Prague this week was conciliatory. They pledged not to block any EU solution to the crisis and work against "emerging new dividing lines" in Europe.

     "Let me stress very clearly that the declaration adopted today includes a clear call of support from the V-4 for a European solution to the crisis," said Beata Szydlo, Poland's new prime minister, at the close of the V-4 summit Monday. 

    The Visegrad countries' challenge now is to preserve their membership in Europe with all its economic benefits, while answering to a constituency frustrated with the rest of Europe's response to the migrant crisis.

    Meanwhile, Merkel is going ahead with her push for Europe to absorb more refugees.

    In view of the Visegrad countries' opposition to her proposal, the German leader is working on a plan to receive more refugees who transit through Turkey.

    Merkel last week said "a group of countries" may be willing to accept a larger number of refugees if Turkey does more to boost its efforts to stop migrants from illegally transiting its territory.

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    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: kushal kumar from: Panchkula- India
    March 06, 2016 2:42 AM
    This Vedic astrology writer has been focusing , since early 2015 , on the issue of migrant- refugees moving over to Europe for shelter, predicting that the issue was likely to grow larger and complex by the day until mid- 2016 if not until mid- 2017. It was also predicted that the issue may call for particular precaution while passing through sea on way to destination chosen by such migrants. It was also said that meanwhile the issue may script a tragic epic of human destiny of compulsion and helplessness. Further , this writer had predicted a very tough time in EU during first half of 2016 in monumental article – “ Stressful times ahead for world economy in 2015 and 2016” – published on 2 June 2014 , over 21 months past from now , in online magazine ( blog) astrologyweekly.com. Just reproducing the precise text from the article : -“ Thus , a major cause of concern may surface in first half of 2016” which is becoming relevant.


    by: Tubby
    February 17, 2016 7:18 AM
    Australia is ten years of more ahead of Western Europe, for not the first time. We do not want refugees and the lefties that say they do are being scoffed at in bemusement.

    by: Joe from: Canada
    February 16, 2016 5:53 PM
    Author left out another important divide on this issue. It is not among countries, but between the elites (political, business, intellectual and media), versus the overwhelming majority of EU citizens who oppose the concept of unrestricted migrant flows into Europe, or migrant quotas. The only thing that is keeping the EU electorate from ousting their current leadership is decades of very effective brainwashing, which has enough people convinced that anything right of center is back to Adolf Hitler.

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    February 16, 2016 5:01 PM
    "The mini-bloc is finding a new purpose as frustration grows among governments in the region over what they see as the European Union's chaotic and ineffective response to the growing migrant crisis."

    Why should it surprise anyone? The EU's response to EVERY crisis has been chaotic and ineffective. The Euro crisis may no longer be on the front page but it hasn't gone away. Ukraine hasn't gone away. There's a looming banking crisis? The EU economies are mostly in crisis and that includes Britain when the London property bubble bursts and all those crooked banksters are exposed. Even within the EU there are unresolved crises such as the breakup of Spain, Brexit, and let's not forget separatists in Scotland who haven't given up, especially if the UK quits the EU. The whole place is one disastrous mess. The ECB isn't even a real central bank. 28 minnows trying to swim in formation to look like one big fish but can't agree on the direction.
    In Response

    by: Marcus Aurelius II from: NJ USA
    February 25, 2016 9:50 AM
    JJ, The Czech Republic and Slovakia wanted to be two separate countries and got their wish, peacefully for once. But now they not only want to be one again in the EU superstate, they want to be as one as the Visegrad Group. Make up your minds, are you parts of one large country or separate countries?
    In Response

    by: JJ
    February 17, 2016 2:23 PM
    And this mini-bloc has 64 million citizens together. It is natural that they don´t like when EU doesn´t listen to any of their proposals. West forget what is democracy. They acted like totalitarian regime. You are with us (and take migrants and do nothing about crisis), or you are against us. As Germany show very publicly.

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