The European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Wednesday dismissed a challenge by Slovakia and Hungary against the EU’s relocation policy for asylum seekers, upholding the EU’s right to oblige member countries to take in refugees.
In response to the migration crisis that hit Europe in the summer of 2015, the Council of the European Union demanded that member countries should help Italy and Greece deal with the migrant arrivals. Slovakia and Hungary challenged the decision, and were later supported by Poland.
“The mechanism actually contributes to enabling Greece and Italy to deal with the impact of the 2015 migration crisis and is proportionate,” the ECJ said in a statement announcing its ruling.
The agreement provided for the relocation of up to 160,000 people across member countries, but only about 25,000 have been transferred so far.
The court decision means that the mandatory aspect of the relocation program is legal. Hungary, Slovakia and Poland had all advocated for a completely voluntary system.
The original relocation scheme will expire this month, but the European Commission has made clear that it will be extended. However, Commission officials have also made clear they now want to give the countries that objected to the scheme some time to implement it.
Parallel to the court case, in June the European Commission launched an infringement procedure against Hungary and Poland, for not having taken in any refugees under the scheme so far.
Slovakia has accepted just 16 refugees out of the 902 it was supposed to take.
— Roland Schönbauer (@R_Schoenbauer) September 6, 2017
Today's ECJ ruling on relocation of asylum seekers is clear: every EU state must honor their commitments and respect the rule of law
— EP President Tajani (@EP_President) September 6, 2017
— Manfred Weber (@ManfredWeber) September 6, 2017
The ECJ ruling was greeted by Ska Keller, co-Chair of Parliament’s Greens/EFA group and European Parliament’s rapporteur on relocation decisions.
“Now that the ECJ has dismissed the actions of Hungary and Slovakia against the redistribution of refugees, there is no excuse,” Keller said adding “Finally, those member states which have so far boycotted redistribution must also deliver. Solidarity in the EU is not a one-way street. Government leaders such as Viktor Orbán cannot demand more money for border protection, while blocking the reception of refugees from Greece and Italy.”
Claude Moraes, the Chair of Parliament’s civil liberties, justice and home affairs committee, said, “Member states cannot dodge their responsibilities; today’s verdict has shown this.
Hungary’s foreign minister on ECJ ruling: "Politics has raped European law and values"
— Bruno Waterfield (@BrunoBrussels) September 6, 2017
Poland will continue to refuse to accept migrants under a European Union relocation scheme despite a ruling by EU’s highest court that Brussels had the right to force member states to take in asylum seekers, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo commented after the ruling.