May 06, 2016
Visegrad countries say No to the Commission
Frankfurter Allgemeine reports this morning that at least three countries - Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic - are rejecting the plan by the European Commission for refugee quotas and penalties for countries that refuse to take them. At a conference of the Visegrad countries in Prague, the Hungarian foreign minister accused the Commission of blackmail, while the Polish foreign minister called it anti-European. Their Czech colleague warned the Commission not to make proposals that deepen the splits within Europe. The article also said that a proposal has reached the Czech parliament to allow a referendum about a Czech exit from the EU, Czexit, as it is apparently called. A broad majority of MPs from the government coalition are in favour of allowing the referendum to go ahead. We reported yesterday that the Commission proposed a €250,000 "solidarity charge" for each refugee that a member states refuses to take on as part of the quota. The paper quotes Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos as saying that this mechanism constitutes a step towards a fairer system.
The FT reports this morning that the resignation of Ahmet Davutoglu as Turkey's prime minister would endanger the Angela Merkel's refugee deal. Apart from the fact that the pro-European Davutoglu personally negotiated the deal with Merkel, the issue now is whether President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will allow legislation to move ahead that is necessary for Turkey to meet the benchmarks for visa-free travel, which is the main quid-pro-quo for Turkey in this deal apart from the money. This includes revisions to its antiterrorism legislation with more regard for civil liberties, something opposed by Erdogan. EU officials are now reportedly concerned that Ankara could backtrack on its reform commitments. The article quotes a former Turkish diplomat as saying that Erdogan had been categorical in his opposition to the reforms, which were now increasingly unlikely to be passed in time ahead of the June deadline because the governing party is now in disarray. And if Turkey does not change the law, visa-free travel cannot be implemented, and this would then almost surely scupper the entire refugee-swap deal. Indeed the paper says that the deal itself might have contributed, or even triggered, the demise of Davutoglu. The Germans insist that Merkel has a working relationship with both Turkish leaders.
We also noted that Merkel and Matteo Renzi, at their meeting in Rome yesterday, essentially only agreed on criticising Austria over its decision to erect border controls on the Brenner motorway, the main link between Italy and northern Europe. The statement is entirely meaningless, since Austria is going to go ahead in any case. Crucially, however, Merkel disagrees with Renzi on refugee bonds. She does not want any joint debt security of any kind.