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Visegrad Group urges EU reforms after Brexit

July 21, 2016

Leaders from Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have said the EU needs to grant more autonomy to member states after the Brexit vote. Hungary has also warned about the link between migration and terrorism.

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo (2-R), Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (R), Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico (L) and Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka (2-L) pose for a picture at the Visegrad Group meeting
Image: picture-alliance/dpa

Central European leaders from Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Poland warned Thursday that Great Britain's vote last month to leave the European Union was a sign the bloc must be reformed.

The leaders of the Visegrad Group, who had gathered for a meeting in the Polish capital Warsaw, pushed for reforms which would grant national parliaments a larger say in EU decisions.

"The European Commission hasn't fully understood what happened in the British referendum," Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo told reporters.

"We believe it's up to national parliaments to have the final word on the decisions of the European Commission," Szydlo added. "The EU needs to return to its roots. We need to care more about the concerns of citizens and less about those of the institutions."

The Visegrad Group argued that the measure would make membership to the EU more attractive to other nations and would prevent others from leaving. Many of the western European states do not believe such a change is necessary.

They also agreed that the UK should remain a close partner of the bloc on terms that are fair to all parties. Poland went a step further and suggested that Britain should be allowed to reconsider its decision to leave the EU.

Brexit blamed on migrant crisis

Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban blamed the Brexit vote on the EU's response to the influx of refugees and migrants last year.

"We arrived at the dramatic point of losing Britain because the European Commission... took the worst possible decisions on migration policy," said the right-wing prime minister, adding that the policies should be clarified.

In light of the recent spate of extremist attacks in Europe, Orban also said there was a clear connection between illegal immigration into the EU and terror attacks.

"It is clear as two and two makes four, it is plain as day. There is an obvious connection," Orban told reporters. "If somebody denies this connection then, in fact, this person harms the safety of European citizens."

The Visegrad Group nations are not participating in the EU's program of distributing and accepting refugees. Some of the countries, like Hungary, were overwhelmed at their borders in 2015 with the number of migrants fleeing war and poverty.

Thursday's meeting comes ahead of an informal September EU summit in Bratislava, Slovakia. The meeting will take place without Britain and is intended to charter a course for the bloc after the Brexit.

rs/dr (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)