Prague, Czech Republic – The prime ministers the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland and Hungary met yesterday in Prague to discuss the coronavirus outbreak as well as the growing migrant crisis at the Greek-Turkish border.
Coronavirus reaches Central Europe
After the first cases were confirmed in the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary earlier this week, the Visegrad Four leadership vowed to “use all measures” and to coordinate their governments’ actions to fight the viral outbreak.
While Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán explained that the four heads of government reviewed the risks and protective measures, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš stated that the V4 countries will exchange information and coordinate possible “extraordinary measures”.
Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki emphasized the need for better cooperation within the EU, proposing a meeting between health ministers to discuss medicine and equipment deliveries, as well as independence from certain suppliers.
He also added that he spoke with President of the European Council Charles Michel about ways to stimulate the economy in order to minimize the coronavirus’ impact on economic growth.
A New York Times report recently highlighted significant possible damage to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland’s manufacturing exports to Germany and analysts now point to the potential for a broader economic downturn in Europe.
Slovakia is yet to register a case of the novel coronavirus.
“A new wave of migrants”
In addition to the coronavirus outbreak, the ongoing migrant crisis at the Greek-Turkish border was also high on the agenda, with Viktor Orbán saying that his government was ready to help Greece stop “as far south as possible” the “new wave of migrants” trying to cross the border from Turkey into the European Union.
Last week, the Turkish government, alarmed by the prospect of another wave of refugees fleeing war in northwest Syria, said it would no longer restrain hundreds of thousands of refugees in its territory from reaching Europe, claiming it had “reached its capacity.”
Despite emerging evidence of inhumane and violent treatment of migrants by Greek security forces, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has praised Greece as the “shield” of Europe.
At the V4 summit, Andrej Babiš said that the situation was serious and that all four Visegrad countries, known for their tough stance on migration, are ready to help. Orbán added that “it won’t be enough just to defend the Greek-Turkish border”, encouraging Europe to follow Hungary’s policies.
“Even if Greece’s attempt to hold back migrants is successful, we shouldn’t forget about the 130,000 people who are already north of the Greek border and who want to get into Europe”, pointed out the nationalist leader.
Mateusz Morawiecki claimed that Greece has begun to speak the same language about migration as the Visegrad Four has. Along with the outgoing Slovak Prime Minister Peter Pellegrini, the head of the Polish governement added that he was ready to send material and help to protecting Europe’s border.