Hungary, Poland Criticized at EU Court for Stance on Refugee Quotas

(Bloomberg) --

The European Union’s refugee policy got a boost from an adviser to the bloc’s top court who criticized Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic for failing to comply with the EU’s decision to shelter refugees in line with national quotas.

In a non-binding opinion on Thursday, Advocate General Eleanor Sharpston of the EU Court of Justice said the three nations “failed to fulfill their obligations under EU law” by not complying with the “provisional and time-limited mechanism for the mandatory relocation” of people seeking international protection.

“Under the principle of sincere cooperation,” each EU nation “is entitled to expect other member states to comply with their obligations with due diligence,” Sharpston said. “That is, however, manifestly not what happened here.”

The European Commission in 2017 took the three nations to court for failing to comply with decisions two years earlier for EU nations to relocate or resettle migrants mostly from Italy and Greece, which have borne the brunt of arrivals in the biggest influx of asylum seekers to Europe since World War II. The three countries were among the loudest critics against the EU decision.

The Luxembourg-based EU court, which usually rules a few months after an opinion, follows such advice in a majority of cases.

National Quotas

The EU’s national quotas system won the backing of the bloc’s top court, which in a separate ruling in 2017 rejected Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s bid to have the quota decision annulled.

Hungary’s ruling Fidesz party said in a statement that "Hungarians have on numerous occasions expressed that they object to the settlement of migrants” and that the party will ask the government “to resist any pressure in the matter of migrant quotes.”

Poland accused the EU of unfairly singling out the three countries.

“Relocation decisions have not been fully implemented by several EU members, which confirms that the mechanism was faulty,” Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller said. “But the EU Commission challenged only Poland, Czech Republic and Hungary. This raises doubt as to equal treatment of member states.”

Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis said, via the public newswire CTK, that his government is analyzing the opinion and will coordinate with Poland and Hungary.

‘Never Agree’

“The Czech Republic will never agree with compulsory quotas, at least not for as long as I am the premier,” Babis told CTK.

The fierce resistance to accepting Muslim refugees has been a cornerstone of political agendas of leaders from Warsaw to Budapest and signifies a rift between western and post-communist members over EU’s multicultural values.

Sharpston said the three nations’ disregard for their EU obligations sets a “bad example” and “is a dangerous first step towards the breakdown of the orderly and structured society governed by the rule of law.”

“Solidarity is the lifeblood of the European project,” Sharpston said. “It also requires one to shoulder collective responsibilities and (yes) burdens to further the common good.”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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