EUBULLETIN: As a Member of European Parliament and an expert on foreign policy, what should, in your view, the EU respond to the migrant crisis that is just unfolding in the Mediterranean?
J.Zahradil: I think that the situation is really scary but it is also natural that the politicians are just obliged to react on the fears of their voters and populations in their respective countries around Europe. I think that European countries were quite receptive vis-à-vis immigrants or refugees from various war zones, particularly Middle East and Northern Africa, but now it has crossed a certain limit, which is bearable and acceptable for Europe. Therefore, some strong signal has to be sent to those areas across the Mediterranean that no more immigrants or refugee waves could be absorbed by Europe.
And, of course, European governments and EU institutions are at the same time obliged to work on the site along with the particular governments or administrations of those countries, which are the main source of refugees. Of course, it won’t be easy in the case of Libya for instance because the country lacks any administration at all, or at least a recognizable administration, but it has to be done and it has to be prevented because once the migrants are on board, once they are at the sea, it is very hard to turn them back.
EUBULLETIN: What is your view on idea that was floated recently, which suggests that the EU should set up detention centers along North African coast to prevent future migrants from crossing the Mediterranean.
J.Zahradil: That could be one possibility but there must also be other tools or other instruments. Well, of course, the sea border is not very easy to protect – we all know that – but some instruments have to be developed and I think that some new programs must be financed. If the EU really wants to invest more money into its external policy dimension, it should be focused on its external border protection, that’s for sure. That possibility that you have just mentioned is one instrument but that must not be the only instrument.
EUBULLETIN: The EU summit on 23 April seemed to have been designed to send a signal to the human traffickers that human trafficking is a serious crime that won’t be tolerated. To that end, EU leaders also floated the idea that the Union is prepared to launch a special operation in Libya to deal with this problem. Can you outline the main agenda of this mission in Libya?
J.Zahradil: Well, I think that, first of all, it should be a fact-finding mission – it needs to find out what are the main channels for those mostly illegal refugees and then it has to work together with Libyan authorities. But then again, I can only repeat that it is very hard because lots of these authorities are not universally countrywide recognized. But still it is at least with those authorities who are established that the EU should try to work out how to deal with the problem and how to prevent people from boarding the boats and from taking the sea route to Europe. Those detention centers that you mentioned are one possibility, another possibility would be more sea guards, ships, and the third possibility would be to finance also the protection of the Libyan sea border and that should be negotiated with relevant authorities.
EUBULLETIN: Are you concerned that this latest migrant crisis in the Mediterranean is going to further heighten the sense of urgency and trigger another wave of anti-migrant sentiments among the European population while further emboldening some of the most radical right-wing political parties around the continent?
J.Zahradil: That has happened already. I think that this is happening already and the reactions of politicians are just a response to these growing anti-immigration sentiments. And, of course, it could be misused by some radical, extremist forces, and it is an important task for moderate politicians not to free the ground for those radical movements and radical moods.