INTERVIEW with Libor Roucek, former MEP and Vice-President of the European Parliament
EUBULLETIN has recently talked with Dr Libor Roucek, a former long-time Member and also a Deputy Chairman of the European Parliament, about the urgent need to create a common European policy to tackle the ongoing migration crisis facing the Union by bridging the diverging approaches between the Visegrad Group (V4) countries and the old EU Member States.
EUBULLETIN: During the recent summit of Visegrad Group (V4) Prime Ministers, an idea was suggested that the V4 countries are now finally taken more seriously. What is, in your view, the main message that the Visegrad Group countries – Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Czech Republic – intended to send to the rest of the European Union and particularly to the so-called old EU Member States?
Roucek: The main message, in my view, was that, yes, in the EU, there are 28 countries, different countries, each with its own opinion – so, the V4 countries have their own opinion but the EU as a whole can succeed only if it creates a common European approach, a common European policy. The distinct views of individual EU Member States should be taken into account but we ultimately need to agree on a common European policy.
EUBULLETIN: The migration crisis, which has been going on for at least the past one year, is now, some observers say, spinning out of control. Do you think that in this case, the four Visegrad countries agree upon how to deal with the root causes and implications of the crisis for the whole European Union?
Roucek: I think there is a high level of agreement within the Visegrad Group but as I mentioned, the V4 countries are not living in a vacuum because they are a part of the EU. Therefore, if we want to succeed, we have to form common European policies. So, yes, V4 approach should be taken into account but if we look closely at it, we will find that the Visegrad approach covers the security perspective and nobody talks about human rights, humanitarian rights and so on – this is unlike in countries, such as Germany or Sweden, so we have to marry those two approaches. This is also because V4 countries have different historical experience than those Western European countries that used to have colonies, Great Britain, France, Netherlands and so on.
EUBULLETIN: So, in short, you are saying that V4 approach to the migration crisis is driven more by security considerations while the attitudes of Western European countries is shaped less by security but more by humanitarian considerations.
Roucek: This was the case in countries, such as Germany or Sweden – it was their approach at least at the beginning – the so-called ‘Willkommenskultur’. Germany opened completely its borders in order to help the refugees but now it is withdrawing because, on the one hand, we should help, but on the other hand, we should also look at the possible impact on our internal situation and, of course, at the security. Because the bombing in Paris or what happened in Cologne on New Year’s Eve are worrying developments that also need to be taken into account. So, now the countries including Germany or Sweden are looking for ways how to marry those two approaches.
EUBULLETIN: The main proposal recently put forward by the V4 Ministers of Foreign Affairs was that they would prefer to implement a similar approach that Hungary adopted last year – to erect a fence. Should we interpret it as that the V4 countries will now push the idea that a fence should be built along Greece’s northern border with Macedonia?
Roucek: You get an impression that the Hungarian strategy of building a fence is a preferred solution to the migration crisis among the V4 countries. However, in my view, we don’t want to create internal borders or fences among ourselves because for two generations, the Europeans have been demolishing their internal borders and they have achieved the free movement not only of goods but also of people. When you are in Strasbourg, for example, you see tens of thousands of people working or going shopping to the other side of the border every day. So, nobody can imagine today having a fence or a border.
But, and I am saying this from the beginning, if we don’t want borders within the EU, we really have to reinforce external border controls because if we look at other large countries, the United States, Canada, Australia, they all carry out effective external borders controls. So, we have to do the same – there is no other way. Otherwise, Schengen will collapse and we will have internal border controls reestablished again, which would be a wrong solution – a dead-end.