September 17, 2018 / 2:53 PM / 3 months ago

EU should focus on member state border forces, not Frontex, say Czech, Slovak PMs

FILE PHOTO: Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis attends a news conference in Berlin, Germany, September 5, 2018. REUTERS/Michele Tantussi

PRAGUE (Reuters) - The European Union should steer funds to individual member countries to help them guard their own borders against illegal migration, rather than emphasise funding for Frontex, the common EU border force, the Czech and Slovak premiers said on Monday.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis and Slovakia’s Peter Pellegrini were commenting on proposals by the European Commission including an enhancement of Frontex to strengthen the bloc’s external borders.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel backed the plans last week.

But the former Communist states of eastern Europe have bristled at EU immigration policy which they regard as too lax towards immigrants and overbearing towards member states.

“Malta, Italy, Greece, Spain need to be told that they will get more money. They each have their own coast guard, they don’t need any Frontex,” Babis said in a televised press conference after a joint session with the Slovak government.

Pellegrini agreed: “It is not right to have an Italian coast guard and, parallel to that, to build some small army under the Frontex label,” he said.

This year, sea arrivals stand at some 70,000 people, a fraction of the mass influx in 2015 that overwhelmed EU states and stretched services, precipitating a rise in the bloc’s populist, nationalist and anti-immigration parties.

EU leaders will discuss migration again at a summit in Salzburg on Sept. 19-20.

Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Peter Graff

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