Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic have defended their sovereign “right” to reject EU-imposed refugee quotas after the European Commission referred the “breach of their legal obligations” to the European Court of Justice.
The EU introduced migrant quotas in September 2015. It was conceived as a temporary emergency scheme to relocate some 160,000 refugees across the bloc’s 28 member-states, in order to help Greece and Italy who were suffocating from a refugee influx. At the time, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia voted against the relocation mechanism, with Budapest and Prague refusing outright to accept the EU-mandated number of refugees. Poland also declined to take in its share of immigrant quotas.
“Hungary has not taken any action at all since the relocation scheme started, Poland has not relocated anyone and not pledged since December 2015. The Czech Republic has not relocated anyone since August 2016 and not made any new pledges for over a year,” the European Commission (EC) said in a statement.
Despite repeated EU Commission warnings and pressure, the dissenting trio continue to pursue a course of non-compliance, arguing that migrants pose a direct threat to their public security. On Thursday, Brussels rejected these concerns and decided to sue the troublesome threesome over the “breach of their legal obligations.”
“The replies received were again found not satisfactory and three countries have given no indication that they will contribute to the implementation of the relocation decision. This is why, the Commission has decided to move to the next stage of the infringement procedure and refer the three Member States to the Court of Justice of the EU,” the commission’s statement said.
Speaking to the press, the EC’s deputy chair, Frans Timmermans, noted that Poland, Hungary and Czech Republic can still resolve the situation out of court if Brussels sees a change of attitude on the part of these countries. All three Eastern European countries, however, said they would rather fight Brussels in court.
“Poland is ready to defend its position in the Court,” Reuters quoted Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski as saying. “No one will lift the duty of providing public safety from the Polish government.”
Meanwhile, Polish Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak accused Islamic migrant communities in Europe of serving as fertile grounds for terrorists. “Experience shows that the [migrant] relocation system has not worked. It is a system that poses a threat. It degrades states, entire cities, city districts because the communities that are flowing into Europe not only do not integrate with Europeans, but form a hinterland for Islamic terrorists,” Blaszczak noted.
The office of Czech President, Milos Zeman, reiterated its long standing position that quotas represent interference in the country’s internal affairs. The new Prime Minister, Andrej Babis, said he wants to hold negotiations with the EC to withdraw from the mechanism, claiming that “quotas are nonsense and only encourage the popularity of extremist parties in Europe.”
Reacting to the ECʼs latest decision at a news conference in Brussels, Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto called the mandatory resettlement quotas a threat to the nation.
“The Government rejects illegal immigration and mandatory settlement quotas, and will continue to fight for the interests and security of the Hungarian people,” Szijjarto stressed, claiming that Budapest’s interests are different from Brussels’.
“Our thoughts with regard to the nation, respecting traditions, border protection and security are totally different,” he said. The EU “is facing the most serious threat of terrorism ever,” and Hungary is already contributing to the wider security of the bloc, he added.
The refugee relocation scheme has been mostly unsuccessful. Only around 32,000 refugees had been relocated as part of the program, which initially set a target of 160,000 migrants. The continued disagreement over the refugee quota scheme will be addressed during EU leaders summit in Brussels on December 14-15.
“Let me very clear; this issue will be with us for at least another generation if not two. So anybody who thinks that a short-term crisis is over, the issue of migration can sort of fade into the background, they are mistaken,” Timmermans said Thursday. “We now need to move from ad hoc crisis response to structural solutions that can provide a safety net to any EU country that is acutely exposed to very high migration pressures.”