Block migrant quotas and lose EU funding, eastern Europe warned –

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Eastern European countries face being stripped of billions of pounds of EU funding as reprisal for refusing to take part in Jean-Claude Juncker’s controversial system of refugee quotas.

The “solidarity” that rich countries show former communist countries is not a “one way street”, Mr Juncker warned.

Mr Juncker has proposed a permanent system to automatically distribute refugees around the EU in case of a future crisis. States that refuse will be hit with fines of €250,000 per refugee.

The Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland are fiercely opposed to the plan, which they say tramples on the right of a state to set its own asylum policy.

The opposition is also driven by a widespread dislike of Muslim immigration in some countries.

At a meeting of EU commissioners on May 4, it was warned that countries that did not “show solidarity” by taking in refugees may lose access to cohesion funds – a pot worth €63 billion to build motorways, public transport and power plants in the former eastern bloc, as well as Greece, Cyprus and Malta.

Poland is Europe’s biggest net beneficiary of the EU budget, taking out €13 billion in 2014. Germany – the main power behind the refugee quota policy – put in a net €15 billion, more than any other country.

Commissioners are recorded as saying that “there was a danger that the EU’s solidarity towards Member States that were net beneficiaries of cohesion funds would be called into question if there were no reciprocal solidarity in the management of refugees.”

“If the allocation of cohesion funds were to be called into question, this would have a considerable impact both on the EU’s internal affairs and on its fundamental values, particularly with regard to solidarity between Member States.”

In minutes published yesterday, Mr Juncker is recorded as saying there is a “real risk that the principle of solidarity could be called into question in all EU policy areas if it were not also applied in the reception of asylum seekers.”

“He reiterated that solidarity could not be an exercise in variable geometry; nor was it a one-way street.”

Diplomats accuse Mr Juncker of “insanity” by revisiting the toxic row last summer when eastern states were overruled over a quota system to spread 160,000 people around the bloc. So far, just 1,500 people have moved.

In a move that could permanently fracture the bloc, Hungary is to hold a referendum on Mr Juncker’s plans.

Dimitris Avramopoulos, the migration commissioner, “criticised the attitude of certain Member States as falling short of the European ideal”. 

The proposals triggered a fierce backlash after being announced earlier this month.

Pavel Belobradek, the Czech deputy prime minister, likened the scheme to the notorious 1938 Munich agreement between Hitler and Chamberlain that carved up his country.

“The dispute over quotas reminds us Czechs of a historical moment when decisions were made about us without involving us,” he said. “As a consequence we are rather sensitive about it.”

Witold Waszczykowski, the Polish foreign minister, said: “I am still wondering if it is a serious proposal because it sounds like an idea announced during April Fools’ Day.”

Block migrant quotas and lose EU funding, eastern Europe warned –