WASHINGTON – As migrants flood Europe from Africa and the Middle East, several countries seeking to protect their sovereignty are rebelling against the European Union’s resettlement mandates, and their influence is growing as they announce support for a potential new ally against migration, Italy.
The Visegrad Group, also know as the V4, is a collection of Central European countries committed to preserving their shared “cultural and intellectual values” within the E.U.
The countries are Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland.
The Visegrad Group has recently come under attack by Brussels due to members’ anti-migrant policies. In 2015, all E.U. member countries agreed to relocate more than 100,000 migrants throughout the continent in a binding agreement.
As of today, acting in direct opposition to the E.U. plan of forced migration, Poland and Hungary have not relocated a single refugee.
The Czech Republic took just 12 refugees this year, and Slovakia relocated 16. It means the Visegrad Group has relocated a mere 28 refugees, even though the quota imposed on them by the E.U. demanded they relocate 11,069 refugees.
The European Commission has launched a process that could result in huge fines against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic.
Polish Prime Minister Beata Syzdlo has said that Poland “will not participate in the Brussels’ elites’ folly,” and Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak believes the threat from migrants is “much worse” than the threat of E.U. sanctions.
Even in the face of sanctions, the Visegrad Group is fighting back against Brussels. In a recent letter to the prime minister of Italy, the group announced its support for efforts by the Italian government to halt the flow of migration to Europe.
“We are following with great attention and sympathy the outstanding efforts of Italy to deal with the current migratory pressure,” the letter begins.
Noting that “the vast majority of the mixed migration flows are composed of economic migrants,” the group concludes its “external borders have to be protected.”
The answer to the migration crisis is therefore that the E.U. and its member states “should mobilize financial and other resources to create safe and human conditions in hotspots or reception facilities outside the EU territory.”
To protect legitimately at-risk migrants while simultaneously defending their borders, the “V4 countries are ready to meaningfully contribute … to all European and national efforts aimed at alleviating the burden on frontline member states such as Italy,” as long as these efforts do not “create further and stronger pull factors for migration.”
The Visegrad group outlines five ways it plans to help Italy halt the flow of migrants:
- Contribution to the EU activities at the southern borders of Libya upon request,
- Contribution to setting up, protecting and creating human living conditions in hotspots outside the territory of the E.U.,
- Contributing to the training of the Libyan coast guards,
- Contributing to strengthening of capacities of EASO (European Asylum Support Office),
- Contributing to the Code of Conduct on NGOs.
The Italian government is under intense pressure by citizens for the way the current migrant crisis is being handled, and with elections next year, populist and right-wing parties could gain if the current government continues to disappoint citizens.
“You can’t any longer speak about immigration but about an invasion organized, funded and planned by Brussels with the complicity of Rome,” Matteo Salvini, the leader of Italy’s populist Northern League party claimed in May.
The current government, therefore, has begun to crack down on illegal migration, planning to revise rules for NGOs ferrying migrants from the African Coast to Europe.
The code would ban trespassing into Libyan coastal waters by rescue ships, restrict the use of flares to help boats of migrants find rescue ships, require NGOs to declare sources of funding and other measures.
Italy also seeks to revise “Operation Triton,” a border security effort that rescues migrants from sinking boats so that fewer migrants are allowed to land in Italy.
Migrants have become so unpopular in Italy that the mayor of Castel Umberto in Sicily recently “led a revolt to prevent a few dozen [migrants] from taking up residence in an abandoned hotel,” according to the London Daily Mail.
The mayor and a group of dozens barricaded the front of the hotel with their cars.
More than 86,000 migrants have entered Italy this year, including many “rescued” by NGOs that then bring them into the country.
Sixty percent of Italians believe that refugees will increase the likelihood of terrorism in their country, and 77 percent of Italians disapprove of the way the European Union is dealing with the refugee crisis, according to a Pew Research Center study.