Zeman links Islamic immigration to rise in jihadism
Milos Zeman, the Czech president, has called for hundreds of thousands of economic migrants who arrived in Europe since early last year to be deported, and claimed Muslim migrants’ culture is fundamentally incompatible with European society.
The maverick Czech leader suggested migrants could be relocated to “empty places” in north Africa or on “uninhabited Greek islands” — with Greece’s foreign debt progressively reduced in return for shouldering the cost.
He warned of a “strong connection” between the migrant influx and the “wave of jihadis” in Europe, arguing that moderate Muslims could be radicalised by extremists among them, as Germans were by the Nazis in the 1930s.
Mr Zeman’s comments echoed a similar recent call by Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister, and mark a hardening of rhetoric from the EU’s two most outspokenly anti-migrant leaders that has strained relations with west European counterparts. Hungarians were poised to vote in a referendum on Sunday over being compelled to take a “quota” of migrants by the EU.
The Czech president was speaking at the Rhodes Forum, an annual conference organised by Vladimir Yakunin, the former Russian Railways chief and a close associate of Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president.
Mr Zeman told the Financial Times and two other media outlets in an interview the only solution to Europe’s migrant crisis was to deport those not fleeing war.
“We are in Greece, and Greece has plenty of uninhabited islands, and big foreign debt. So if you have ‘hotspots’ in Greek islands, this would be a sort of payment of foreign debt,” Mr Zeman said.
“I am for deportation of all economic migrants,” he added. “Of course I respect the cruelty of civil war in Syria, Iraq, and so on. But we do not speak about those people, we speak about economic migrants.”
The Czech leader conceded that since “less than one-third” of the 1m-plus arrivals into the EU were refugees, this would mean deporting hundreds of thousands of economic migrants. “If they go in, they may go out,” he shrugged.
Of course I respect the cruelty of civil war in Syria, Iraq, and so on. But we do not speak about those people, we speak about economic migrants
“And I am sure there is a strong connection between the wave of migrants and the wave of jihadis. There are even some reports of [the] German ministry of interior about the number of jihadis in Germany. And those people who deny this connection are wrong.”
The remarks may embarrass the Czech government of premier Bohuslav Sobotka which — while also opposing migrant quotas — has recently sought to distance itself from the more hardline rhetoric of Mr Orban and of Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of Poland’s governing Law and Justice party.
But they reflect the unpopularity of proposed EU migrant quotas in ex-communist central Europe, which has little experience of mass non-European immigration, and appear to resonate with Mr Zeman’s grassroots supporters.
Since being elected president in the first direct elections to the post in 2013, the former social democratic prime minister has become known for unapologetically provocative rhetoric. Opponents have branded him a Putin apologist after he dismissed the Ukrainian crisis as a bout of “flu” and opposed EU and US sanctions on Moscow.
This weekend he again called the sanctions a “lose-lose strategy” that damage Europe as much as Russia.
“If you isolate any country, you create the myth of the surrounded fortress, and paradoxically, you increase the popularity of the leaders of the surrounded fortress,” he said.
“I am not against migrants in my country from Ukraine, Vietnam, Russia, Belarussia, Serbia, and so on,” Mr Zeman added. “I am only against Islamic migration, because I think there is full incompatibility of culture — as one example only, the attitude of Islamic migrants to women. Completely different from European culture.”
In earlier public comments in Rhodes, Mr Zeman called himself a “prophet” as he warned of possible radicalisation of migrants.
“You remember the fate of Cassandra? She warned against the horse in Troy,” he said. “She was right.”
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