Central European Leaders Urge EU to Protect Borders Amid Fears of Afghan Migrant Surge

Central European leaders on Friday urged the European Union to protect its borders as they voiced their concerns about a possible migration surge from Afghanistan while U.S. and NATO forces are pulling out of the country, the Associated Press reported.

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis suggested that the "migration wave" from Afghanistan constitutes a "big threat," adding, "For that reason, we must be capable of protecting our external borders."

Hungary had a fence built along its southern border with Serbia following a massive influx of migrants in 2016, when a million people reached Western Europe.

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban on Friday urged Central European countries to stick together on the matter so their voices can be heard in the 27-member bloc. "Cooperation between Central Europe countries is not a theory but a practical reality," he said.

For more reporting from the Associated Press, see below:

Central European Leaders Want Border Protection
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis suggested Friday that a "migration wave" from Afghanistan constitutes a "big threat." Above, Babis delivers a speech during a parliamentary session on June 3. Michal Cizek/Getty Images

Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said a NATO troop withdrawal from Afghanistan could trigger a migration influx into Europe on top of a steady stream of migrant arrivals from Africa.

The prime ministers of the Czech Republic, Poland, Hungary and Slovakia—all EU and NATO members—gathered in Slovenia on Friday, just days after the Alpine Nations took over the EU's rotating presidency. The countries make up the so-called Visegrad Group, an informal body that aims at closer regional cooperation.

Most Central and Eastern European countries have in the past opposed allowing into Europe people fleeing war and poverty from the Middle East, Africa or Asia.

Orban and Slovenian right-wing Prime Minister Janez Jansa are close allies. Jansa has also recently faced EU scrutiny over concerns that his government has been curbing media and democratic freedoms in the traditionally liberal country.

Central European countries have been critical of EU migration policies and have accused the bloc of fostering inequality among its members that diminishes their influence.

The populist governments of Hungary and Poland have openly clashed with Brussels over a number of issues, including the rule of law and LGBT rights.

At a joint press conference after the meeting, the officials praised their cooperation and pledged to support Slovenia's six-month tenure at the EU's helm.

Morawiecki complained that Central European countries feel that they're "only pawns on some European chessboard."

"This is why our voice in the discussion about Europe's future...must be very loud," he said. "We are against centralism.... We are for a strong role of sovereign states that cooperate very closely together in the economy."

Ahead of the gathering, Slovenia's LGBT groups demanded that Jansa publicly condemn both Poland and Hungary over policies that they say stifles LGBT rights, the STA news agency reported.

Hungary recently passed a law that prohibits the display of content depicting homosexuality or sex reassignment to minors. Activists say the law stigmatizes the LGBT community in the country. EU leaders have strongly condemned the measure.

Afghan migrants prompt border protection
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, left, walks next to Slovenian Prime Minister Janez Jansa in Ljubljana, Slovenia, on Friday. Four prime ministers of the Visegrad Group met with Jansa in Slovenia, which assumed the EU presidency earlier this month. Associated Press