News World Migration concerns will dominate EU elections next year, Czech leader says

Migration concerns will dominate EU elections next year, Czech leader says

Europe’s migration problems will be the top voter concern in European Union elections next May, drawing out a silent majority of anti-immigration voters, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said.

Babis said the problems in the bloc’s border-free Schengen zone were more urgent than those in the euro zone currency group.

“Everybody is speaking about the euro zone, which is really funny. We should speak about Schengen,” he told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

The issue will also affect the EU’s executive, the European Commission, he said, adding that he found it strange that so many people want to discuss reforms in the euro zone rather than in the Schengen zone that covers most of the bloc.

Babis, who favours the principal of free movement but wants a strong border around Europe, said the Schengen zone needed to be widened to all EU countries on the continent including Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania.

A billionaire businessman, Babis has become the dominant political figure in the Czech Republic and easily won an election last October with promises to clean up and invest in the state, to stand up to Brussels and to fight illegal migration.

The rise of his centrist ANO movement has come at the expense of traditional parties – a trend seen around Europe, where anti-establishment parties have gained voters tired of politics as usual or worried about a rising inflow of migrants.

The EU has sought a common migration policy since 2015, when more than a million refugees, mostly from the Middle East and Africa, entered the bloc, putting a heavy burden on countries likeGreece and Italy at the edge of Schengen.

The Czech Republic and central European countries like Hungary, Poland and Slovakia have long opposed a Brussels-prescribed quota system to re-distribute asylum seekers.

The idea was officially dropped at an EU summit in June, replaced with agreements to share out refugees on a voluntary basis and other measures to deal with asylum requests.

Babis reiterated that his country will not take in any migrants as the Czechs were helping with manpower and money, including 80 million euros since 2015 to support migrant centres outside of the EU.

Babis won a confidence vote in parliament for a minority government comprised of his ANO party and the Social Democrats in July after receiving backing from the Communist party that had lost power in 1989.

He has rejected criticism over giving the Communists a say in government again. In the interview, he said local Czech media exaggerated the issue with their “fake news”.

He said no foreign partners have raised the issue with him and added that the anti-NATO, pro-Russian Communists will not influence his government “because I am not afraid of early elections” in case they pull their support.

Babis leads one of the bloc’s most euroskeptic countries, with as yet no plan to join the euro zone which is still dealing with the aftermath of a debt crisis almost a decade ago.

In the interview, he said ideas for deeper euro zone integration such as a common budget would further divide the bloc, which needs to reform itself and get ready for Britain’s eventual departure.

But he insisted that migration remained the defining issue for the bloc.

“In my view, there will be a substantial shift after the European elections. There is a silent majority which will vote in an anti-migration way,” he said.

He said that countries like Spain, that are becoming migrant destinations, deserve attention. Anti-migrant shifts have already been seen in Italy and Germany.

Overall, Babis said there was still a need for the EU to agree on migration policy.

While migration numbers have fallen steeply since 2015, the issue remains in the headlines, with Malta and Italy turning away boats of migrants in the past month.

“If the philosophy is that when the boat is coming, Italy is then asking several countries to take some migrants, this is not the way to solve it,” Babis said.

Top Stories

11 new Covid cases in Cyprus, number steadily down, tests rising

  11 new cases of Covid-19 were announced today in Cyprus, out of a total of 3,314 diagnostic tests, taking the total number to 1233. New...

Police fire tear gas at Beirut protesters furious after explosion

  Lebanese riot police fired tear gas at demonstrators trying to break through a barrier to get to the parliament building in Beirut during a...

82 year old killed in Paphos while trying to move his car off the pavement-victim named

  An 82 year old man was killed this morning in Paphos, as he was trying to move his car away from a pavement near...

Paphos fire has scorched 5 square kilometres, still raging, destruction ‘biblical’ (update)

  A fire that broke out early this morning near the Paphos community of Archimandrita and spread on a 20 kilometre front near the villages...

Brazil COVID-19 deaths reach 100,000 and barrel onward

  Brazil’s death toll from COVID-19 is expected to hit 100,000 today and continue to climb as most Brazilian cities reopen shops and dining even...


Octopus ‘Kathisto’ (or Octopus braised in Wine)

Ingredients: 1/2 cup Greek extra virgin olive oil 2 medium onions, chopped fine 1 large octopus, about 2kg (cleaned and kept whole) 3/4 cup dry red wine 1/3 cup...

Homemade lemonade

Ingredients: 1 cup lemon juice 1 cup sugar Method: Thoroughly wash the lemons with soap and warm water. Roll each lemon with the palm of your hand, pressing...

‘Striftaria’ mini cheese pies

Ingredients 1 ½ cup milk 2 tbsps. flour 4 tsps. of butter 3 eggs, slightly beaten + 1 extra with 1 tbs. of milk for spreading 1 pack of...

Mini potato canapes baked on salt

Ingredients Serves: 12 1kg small Cypriot potatoes rock salt, as needed 250g salted butter 300ml full fat cremé frâiche 1 pot cod or salmon roe Method Prep:20min › Cook:35min › Ready in:55min Take...