EC president, V4 leaders discuss migration, Belarus, epidemic

Leszek Szymański/PAP

The migration crisis, the situation in Belarus and measures against the Covid-19 epidemic dominated Thursday talks in Brussels between EC head Ursula von der Leyen and the prime ministers of Visegrad Group (V4) countries Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary.

Polish PM Mateusz Morawiecki told a press conference after the talks that the V4 countries (Poland, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia) had agreed on the need for effective border control as a means to curb the migration flow to the EU. Morawiecki also said that aid to refugees should be provided in places from where they might want to migrate to Europe.

He added that the V4 side had also informed von der Leyen about its position on the EC's recent migration and asylum proposals.

"There are certain principles we adhere to, and they concern the need for the most rigorous and effective border control policies and the provision of aid at sites from which migrants might move to Europe," Morawiecki said. He also highlighted Poland's recent donation of 156 module homes for migrants affected by a major refugee camp blaze on the Greek island Lesbos.

Orban said the EC's last migration proposals failed to ensure the halting of the migration wave to Europe. According to the Hungarian PM, the EC was still intent on administrating migration to the EU instead of stopping it.

"However we call it, relocation and quotas are still relocation and quotas. New names are not enough. The main attitude remains unchanged, the aim is to administer migration and not to stop the migrants," Orban argued.

Babis backed Orban and proposed the creation of migrant hotspots outside the EU. In this context, he suggested talks with the North Africaan countries. Babis also observed that the EU should work towards a long-term strategy regarding Syria and Libya.

Relating the meeting's talks on Belarus, Morawiecki said von der Leyen welcomed the V4 countries' plan for the country, which the group discussed at a recent sitting in Lublin, Poland.

Morawiecki said that it was crucial for the entire EU to engage in aiding Belarus, adding that the V4 plan will be presented at next week's EU summit in Brussels.

Belarus has been torn by protests since an August 9 presidential election in which to-date President Alexander Lukashenko won a sixth term in office with 80.1 percent of the vote against main contender Svetlana Tsikhanouskaya's 10.1 percent. Mass demonstrations against what is held to have been a rigged vote have been continuing ever since, sparking brutal reactions from the police and security forces.

Morawiecki said the talks with von der Leyen also focused on the EU's post-epidemic reconstruction fund and the Community's next financial perspective.

"We want there to be a good balance between economic strength, or the pace at which we come out of the (epidemic - PAP) crisis, and concern for all that relates to the health service, public health, the health of individual people," Morawiecki said.

Slovak PM Igor Matovic was absent from the talks and was represented by Morawiecki in light of Poland's current presidency of the V4 group.

On Wednesday, the European Commission outlined its proposals regarding changes in EU migration and asylum laws. The reforms are to aid the southern EU members, who are bearing the brunt of the migration flow. Among others, the EC wants to introduce a "mandatory solidarity" principle and tighten deportation regulations.

The solidarity principle would oblige the EU members to admit asylum seekers from countries overburdened by the crisis, and mount deportations of asylum-ineligible migrants.

Von der Leyen wrote on Twitter after the meeting that the talks were "good," and announced further cooperation on the discussed issues between the EC and the V4 countries.