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Refugee Quota Opponents Stump Up Funds to Bolster EU Borders

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, left, speaks with Czech Republic's Prime Minister Andrej Babis during a meeting of the Visegrad Group on the sidelines of an EU summit in Brussels, Dec. 14, 2017.

The Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia announced Thursday that they plan to spend around 35 million euros ($41 million) to beef up European Union borders as they come under pressure for refusing to accept refugee quotas.

Hungary in particular was hit hard in 2015 when tens of thousands of Syrian refugees and other migrants traveled north on foot out of Greece and through its territory looking for shelter in richer northern Europe. Prime Minister Viktor Orban even ordered the construction of a border fence to keep migrants out.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said their contribution will help save European funds and that "if we will see good projects in the future, first of all projects that are effective, we are ready to spend even more money because we really want to show solidarity."

Orban said the money will defend the EU's borders with the outside world and will also contribute to EU work in Libya, which many migrants leave for Europe.

The countries — known as the Visegrad Four — have been slammed for failing to show solidarity with Greece and Italy, and some see the border funding move as a cynical ploy to avoid the refugee quotas. The issue is high on the agenda of a two-day EU summit in Brussels starting Thursday.

After more than 1 million refugees entered Europe in 2015 alone, the EU introduced a refugee sharing plan to help out overwhelmed Greece and Italy, where most migrants have been landing.

The four voted against quotas, but were legally bound to accept refugees as the decision was made by a majority vote. Hungary and Poland have taken no refugees. The Czech Republic has accepted 12.

"Quotas do not work, they are ineffective," Fico said. "The decision on quotas really divided the European Union."

Disagreement over the way to manage Europe's migrant challenge has created distrust between EU neighbors, and fueled anti-migrant parties across Europe.

Italian Premier Paolo Gentiloni said the pledge of help from Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia ``confirms the validity of the policies we are developing.''

European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, whose services drew up the quota plan and have defended it in court, welcomed the funding move.

"This is proof that the Visegrad Four countries are fully aligned when it comes to solidarity with Italy and with others, so for once I am a happy man," he said.