EC opens migration case on 3 countries
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic to face court for refusing to take in asylum seekers under 2015-agreed deal
17 June, 2017
The Commission expectedly launched last Tuesday a legal case against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic for refusing to take in asylum seekers under the EU-agreed quotas, news wires reported. While Poland and Hungary have refused to take in anyone under a plan agreed by a majority of EU leaders in 2015 to relocate migrants from frontline states Italy and Greece to help ease their burden, the Czech Republic initially accepted 12 people but has since said it would not welcome any more.
“I regret to see that, despite our repeated calls to pledge to relocate, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland have not yet taken the necessary action,” Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos told a news conference. “Relocation is a legal obligation, not a choice,” he pointed out adding that the Commission was therefore launching so-called infringement procedures against the three, opening the way for months, even years, of legal wrangling before a top EU court could potentially impose fines. According to EC President Jean-Claude Juncker, “at issue here is European solidarity, which cannot be a one-way street.”
A letter of formal notice is a first official request for information and the first step in an infringement procedure. The authorities of the three countries now have one month to respond to the arguments put forward by the Commission.
Speaking in Hungary's parliament, PM Viktor Orban said: “We will not give in to blackmail from Brussels and we reject the mandatory relocation quota.” “The Czech Republic does not agree with the system of relocation,” PM Bohuslav Sobotka said in response. “With regard to the worsened security situation in Europe and disfunctionality of the quota system, it will not participate in it.”
“From the political point of view, this action unnecessarily heats up political tensions, of which there are already too many in the EU,” Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski indirectly replied to the EC. “If necessary, Poland is ready to defend its legal arguments in court.” According to Poland's Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak, “relocation methods attract more waves of immigration to Europe, they are ineffective.”
In a separate legal battle on the matter, Hungary and Slovakia have already challenged the relocation agreement in a top EU court. The court is due to present a first opinion on the matter in July. They justify their stance on asylum seekers by citing security concerns, noting a series of militant Islamist attacks in western Europe since late 2015. The bulk of asylum seekers come from the mainly Muslim Middle East and North Africa. Many other Member States have also dragged their feet over taking in refugees, with fewer than 21,000 people relocated from Italy and Greece so far under a plan that had been due to cover 160,000 people.