Central Europe looks to Macedonia to clamp down on Balkan migrants

Central European states meet in Prague Monday with controversial plans to assist Macedonia in patrolling its border with Greece, as some EU-members look outside the bloc for ways to clamp down on migration flows.

Macedonia, which is not a member of the European Union, is a key transit country for migrants travelling on from Greece towards richer states in the north.

"There is the possibility to stop illegal economic migrants on the borders of Macedonia and Bulgaria," Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said ahead of a conference of the Visegrad Group.

The group, comprising the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland, has been critical of Greece over its inability to prevent thousands of migrants from arriving via the Aegean Sea from Turkey.

The invitation of Macedonian and Bulgarian representatives to the meeting was "a sign of solidarity" with the two countries, which "must not be left alone in the crisis," Sobotka said.

The German ambassador to Prague, Arndt Freytag, however urged for "constructive solutions" in an interview with the daily Pravo and warned against the building of fences in Europe.

"The atmosphere in Europe is turning increasingly poisonous," he said, pointing to a growing split between western and eastern European countries.

Around 1 million people, including many refugees from war zones in the Middle East and Central Asia, passed through Greece and along the Balkan route in 2015, most of them in the latter half of the year.

Struggling to deal with the crisis, the EU overcame the hostility of the Visegrad Group countries and imposed a plan to redistribute asylum seekers across the 28 member states, but Hungary and Slovakia legally challenged the programme.

Last update: Fri, 24/06/2016 - 08:49

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