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EU Will Take Legal Action against Central Europe States

Brussels will assume a hard line against Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic over their refusal to accept refugees according to previously agreed quotas. 

13 June 2017

Dismayed over the failure of some member states to accept asylum-seekers, the European Commission has decided to up the ante and send “letters of formal notice to Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic, according to Reuters, citing multiple sources. Those letters are the first step toward opening cases against the countries for not living up to their legal obligations.

 

The EU quotas require all member states to accept proportional shares of some 160,000 mostly Syrian refugees housed in Greek and Italian camps, which have been overwhelmed by the influx. In a show of solidarity with those on the front lines, the quota plan was accepted by a majority of EU states in September 2015 over the loud objections of Hungary and other Central European countries. Yet to date less than 18,500 people have been resettled so far under the plan, which expires this fall.

 

Poland and Hungary have refused to accept a single refugee, while the Czech Republic backed out earlier this month, citing security concerns, after taking in just 12 from their quota of almost 2,700.

 

On Monday, Czech Interior Minister Milan Chovanec told the Czech Press Agency (CTK) that any decision to punish the country over the quotas would lead to a loss of trust in the EU. Chovanec, seen as a hardliner against accepting refugees, said the current system doesn’t work, but his country would like to assist in other ways.

 

"If the EC decides to punish the countries that are pushing for a constructive solution to the migrant crisis and that rank among the most active in sending police officers and experts to crisis areas, but that reject the non-functioning and nonsensical quotas, this will send a wrong signal to the Czech public," he wrote in a letter to CTK. “This would be a road to hell that would fatally undermine people's trust in the EU in the whole Czech Republic.”

 

Chovanac’s Polish counterpart, Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak, also derided the current system yesterday. "We believe that the relocation methods attract more waves of immigration to Europe, they are ineffective," he said, as quoted by Reuters, citing the Polish news agency PAP.  

 

What the interior ministers have avoided saying is the appeal of the anti-quota diatribe among many of their voters, who, egged on by sensationalist media and politicians’ populist rhetoric, strongly support closing the borders to refugees. And with parliamentary elections approaching in the fall in the Czech Republic and next year in Hungary, the tough stance is hardly likely to change.

 

 

  • As Reuters notes, almost every EU states has actually failed to meet their quota numbers, but the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary are the ones to not even have pledges pending – thus the start of possible sanctions.  

 

  • While Slovakia has only accepted 16 refugees out of its pledge of 902, the EC will not move against the country because its pledge to accept more is still pending, writes Express.

 

  • In a government-backed referendum last October, a huge majority of Hungarians rejected the EU’s mandatory migrant resettlement scheme. But low turnout rendered the referendum invalid.

 

  • Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has led opposition in Central and Eastern Europe to the position of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has said EU countries have an obligation to take in refugees.

 

  • Hungary and Slovakia have filed a legal case against the EU and continued to dispute the legality of the quotas at a hearing at the Court of Justice in May, Reuters reported. "One of the main arguments is the incorrect legal basis," said Krisztian Kecsmar, a Hungarian justice ministry official quoted by Reuters. "It is a matter of institutional equilibrium, what role the institutions play in decision-making." A judgment is expected in the fall. 

Compiled by Jeremy Druker

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