Nick Gutteridge — The Express.co.uk Sept 6, 2017
EURO judges have rejected a joint claim brought by Hungary and Slovakia attempting to get the EU’s centralised migrant quota scheme scrapped.
The European Court of Justice dismissed the case, which was also openly supported by Poland and the Czech Republic, saying the quartet had no grounds to refuse to take in migrants.
All four countries have so far failed to accept any asylum seekers under the programme, saying that doing so would present a security threat and is a violation of their border sovereignty.
They were outvoted by other member states when the initiative was agreed in 2015 and had attempted to argue before euro judges that flaws in the decision making process made it void.
Leaders of three of the countries – Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary – have been hit with infringement proceedings after being involved in furious tussles with the European Commission over the enforcement of the quota scheme.
They have already vowed to fight the proceedings to the death and have indicated in public statements they will never accept a forced demand to take in migrants, and today’s judgement is likely to provoke yet another diplomatic crisis on the continent.
This morning the Commission rejected press reports it was now considering doubling part of its relocation efforts in response to the ruling. And former Ukip leader Nigel Farage warned the bloc: “This won’t end well as national security is at stake.”
In its reasoning the ECJ swatted aside their complaints and concluded that the relocation scheme “contributes to enabling Greece and Italy to deal with the impact of the 2015 migration crisis and is proportionate”.
Euro judges said: “By today’s judgment, the Court dismisses in their entirety the actions brought by Slovakia and Hungary.
“The Court considers that the relocation mechanism provided for by the contested decision is not a measure that is manifestly inappropriate for contributing to achieving its objective, namely helping Greece and Italy to cope with the impact of the 2015 migration crisis.”
Hungary and Slovakia had tried to claim a number of procedural missteps were taken by the EU Council during the ratification of the scheme, and also said its lack of effectiveness so far meant it was not a proportionate response to the crisis.
The EU has said 160,000 migrants need to be relocated from Greece and Italy by the end of this month but at the latest count, just 27,645 have been – 8,402 from Italy and 19,243 from Greece.
However, ECJ judges were scathing of this argument saying that the principle reason the scheme has failed is because of the refusal of member states like Hungary and Slovakia to support it.
Their judgement notes: “In that regard, the legality of the decision cannot be called into question on the basis of retrospective assessments of its efficacy.
“The Court observes in particular that the small number of relocations so far carried out under the contested decision can be explained by a series of factors that the Council could not have foreseen at the time when the decision was adopted, including, in particular, the lack of cooperation on the part of certain Member States.
“The Court finds that the Council did not make a manifest error of assessment when it took the view that the objective pursued by the contested decision could not be achieved by less restrictive measures.”
Reacting to the ruling German MEP Ska Keller, the co-leader of the Green Party in the EU Parliament, said the four member states refusing to take in refugees must now “face consequences” for their actions.
She said: “This ruling is a milestone for European refugee policy. The European Court of Justice has shown that solidarity is at the heart of our common refugee policy in Europe. There can be no more excuses. Any Member State that has refused to help relocate asylum seekers must finally deliver or face consequences.
“Solidarity in the EU cannot be a one-way street. The likes of Viktor Orban cannot continue to demand money for border protection while continuing to block the reception of refugees from Greece and Italy.
“If Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic continue to refuse to accept refugees, the European Commission must consider ending EU subsidies for the return of rejected asylum seekers. The EU should not be funding a policy that only has the aim of getting rid of people.”
But UKIP MEP Mr Farage said the decision was another example of the ECJ “undermining national sovereingty” and predicted there will be further political fallout from the decision.
He said: “What a surprise – EU court undermines national sovereignty once again. It should be a decision of nation states who it allows inside its borders. This won’t end well as national security is at stake.”
Some Western European states, most notably France and Italy, have previously called for Eastern countries to be stripped of their centralised EU funding for failing to show “solidarity” over the migration issue.
Those demands have led to furious cries of blackmail from Eastern leaders who are likely to react once more with fury at today’s court decision, plunging the EU into further infighting at a time when it is trying to maintain a united front over Brexit.