EU Court Dismisses Complaints by Hungary and Slovakia Over Refugee Quotas
The European Union’s top court has dismissed complaints by Slovakia and Hungary about EU migration policy, dealing a blow to the Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, and his allies in central Europe over the bitterly contested policy of refugee quotas, reported The Guardian.
In an important victory for the EU, judges threw out a challenge against its mandatory relocation scheme, which aimed to relocate 120,000 asylum seekers around the bloc.
The victory is set to deepen tensions between the EU and Hungary’s combative PM, who has made opposition to EU asylum policy a core theme of his “Stop Brussels” campaign. It will also raise tensions with Poland, which lent its support to the failed legal campaign.
The European court of justice (ECJ) dismissed “in their entirety the actions brought by Slovakia and Hungary”, a court statement said, vindicating the EU decision-making process that created a scheme to relocate 120,000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy to other member states.
Despite the legal win, fewer than a quarter of places have been filled. With the relocation scheme due to expire later this month, the EU is set for bruising arguments over what to put in its place.
EU leaders agreed the plan at the height of the migration crisis, as thousands arrived daily on Europe’s shores, many of whom were refugees from Syria, Iraq and Eritrea. The quota system was adopted despite opposing votes from Slovakia and Hungary, who denounced the plan in court as illegal and ineffective.
On Tuesday, ECJ judges stated that EU law allowed EU institutions to adopt measures to respond to “an emergency situation characterised by a sudden inflow of displaced persons”. The court also concluded that the legality of the decision was not affected by retrospective conclusions about the policy’s effectiveness.
In a robust defence of the EU treaties, the court said: “The small number of relocations so far carried out under the contested decision can be explained by a series of factors … including, in particular, the lack of cooperation on the part of certain member states.”
Hungary and Poland had not made any pledges at the time of the last statistical update in July. The Czech Republic and Austria have also been urged to follow through on pledges, after meagre efforts.
The original plan, pushed through by EU leaders in September 2015, set a target of relocating 120,000 asylum seekers from Greece and Italy to other EU member states. The number was later amended when 54,000 “unused places” were allocated to resettle Syrian refugees in Turkey in Europe. Based on the original 120,000 figure, 23% of places had been filled in July.
The court decision came as the EU executive curtly dismissed Orbán’s request for EU funds to build Hungary’s controversial border fence. In a letter from the European commission president, Jean-Claude Juncker, Orbán is chastised for attempting to pick and choose EU policies. “Solidarity is not an à-la-carte dish,” states the letter, first obtained by Politico.
Juncker lists the financial support Hungary has received to manage migrant flows, including €4m Budapest lost out on by refusing to take part in the refugee relocation scheme. “Solidarity is a two-way street. There are times in which member states may expect to receive support, and times in which they, in turn, should stand ready to contribute,” he writes.
The ruling was greeted with immediate relief in Brussels. Manfred Weber, the head of the European parliament’s largest centre-right group, tweeted: “We expect all EU countries to respect and implement the ruling.”
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