The fourth meeting of an informal V4 MEPs caucus jointly organized by the Central European Policy Institute (CEPI) and demosEUROPA – Centre for European Strategy, took place on Wednesday 16 September in Brussels. Participants of the dinner included Michał Boni (Poland), György Schöpflin (Hungary), Ivan Štefanec (Slovakia), and Tomáš Zdechovský (Czech Republic). Katarína Mathernová (Deputy Director General, DG for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, EU Commission) and Rainer Münz (Special Advisor on Migration, European Political Strategy Centre, EU Commission) attended as guest speakers.

Amidst the on-going EU migration crisis, the discussion of the V4 MEP caucus primarily focused on the Czech, Slovak and Hungarian opposition to the mandatory quota system distributing asylum-seekers across Europe, its implications for the Central Europe’s future standing in the EU and vis-à-vis Germany, and the possible ways out of the crisis.

Europe is technically capable of dealing with the inflows of asylum seekers. The roots of the Central European reluctance seem to lie elsewhere. Central Europe has experienced as much as 400 years of emigration, but only few years of immigration. In addition, the V4 political elites have failed to explain to their citizens that one day they would be not only solidarity takers, but also solidarity givers. The challenge of immigration has come too fast, leaving the Central European societies profoundly fearful.

The repercussions of the refusal of the quotas will be echoed in Brussels for a long time. Not only did it damage Central Europe’s relations with Germany and other key partners, but it also re-installed the East-West division within the EU and the image of the Visegrad Group as an unreliable partner.

Several participants highlighted the absurdity of the disagreement over the re-distribution of 120 000 asylum seekers at the time when countries such as Turkey and Lebanon are hosting over a million of refugees and Europe itself is expecting the arrival of over a million of migrants only this year. It is the mistake to present the response to the current crisis as a matter of choice. Huge influxes of asylum seekers are now a new normal and they are not going to subside.

Lastly, MEPs agreed that we were living in unprecedented times. Recently, almost as frequent as every half a year, Europe has had to face to a new crisis. However, in tackling these crises, Europe tends to focus on each of them separately without taking into account inter-connections. This is the way to make more mistakes. Therefore, the V4 MEPs called for a more strategic debate at the EU level as well as within the V4 region.

The agenda of the dinner is available here.