EU Taking Legal Action Against 3 Nations Resisting Mandatory Refugee Resettlement

By Patrick Goodenough | July 27, 2017 | 4:23 AM EDT

A U.N. staffer helps refugees and migrants to register at a police station on the Greek island of Kos. (Photo: UNHCR/S.Baltagiannis)

( – The European Union on Wednesday moved ahead with legal action against Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic for refusing to comply with a controversial E.U. scheme to redistribute refugees and migrants for resettlement across the bloc.

Hungary’s conservative government has labeled it the “George Soros plan” after the Hungarian-American financier who last year pledged to invest $500 million in support of European migrant resettlement.

The E.U.’s executive Commission announced it was moving to the next stage of its “infringement procedure” – the three eastern European countries have a month to respond to a formal request to comply and if their replies are deemed unsatisfactory the case may be referred to the E.U.’s Court of Justice in Luxembourg.

Also on Wednesday, that court heard the opinion of a top E.U. legal official who argued that it should dismiss a challenge by Hungary and Slovakia against the E.U. quota scheme, which aims to redistribute and settle up to 120,000 refugees and migrants among member-states over a two-year period that ends in late September.

Hungary and Slovakia question the legal basis for the decision taken two years ago by the European Council, which comprises heads of government and top E.U. figures. But E.U. advocate-general Yves Bot argued that the decision was legal since the migrant influx was a clearly-identified emergency situation.

The court tends to rule in line with the advocate-general’s opinion.

Hungary’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, said in reaction that Bot’s legal opinion “completely fits with the process that is called the Soros plan.”

“With all the pomp of a head of state, Soros was received in Brussels and afterwards, interestingly, all European institutions put even greater pressure on Hungary and central European countries to receive illegal migrants,” Hungarian state news agency MTI quoted him as telling a press conference.

Another government official, secretary of state for justice Pal Volner, also invoked the financier in his reaction to Bot’s legal opinion, saying the advocate-general has joined E.U. institutions in implementing “the Soros plan.”

“The main elements of his opinion are political, in effect hiding the lack of legal arguments,” MTI quoted Volner as telling reporters in Budapest.

Last week Hungary’s prime minister accused senior E.U. bureaucrats of being “in alliance” with Soros to flood Europe with asylum seekers.

The E.U. “relocation and resettlement” scheme aims to ease the burden on Italy and Greece, which took in large numbers of migrants in recent years.

E.U. member states are meant to pledge and then make available places for relocation in line with quotas based on population, GDP, unemployment rates and other factors, but Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic have not cooperated.

“Whereas 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 E.U. Commission said. “The Czech Republic has not relocated anyone since August 2016 and not made any new pledges for over a year.”

The E.U. on Wednesday put a brave face on progress in the scheme, saying the September target was still achievable although only 24,676 have been processed as of this week.

“With relocations reaching record levels in June (with over 2,000 relocated from Greece and almost 1,000 from Italy) and almost all member-states pledging and transferring regularly, relocating all those eligible remains feasible before September,” the E.U. Commission announced.

Those “eligible” include migrants who arrived on European soil after March 24, 2015, and who come from a group of countries where more than 75 percent of asylum-seekers applications are usually successful.

The list of countries, regularly revised, currently comprises Bahrain, Eritrea, Syria and Yemen, as well as Antigua, Barbuda, Grenada, Guatemala, and British overseas territories.

The E.U.’s migration commissioner, Dimitris Avramopoulos, on Wednesday called for a “final push” to achieve the goal.

“Our objective is and remains to ensure that the people eligible are relocated by end September 2017,” he said in Brussels. “It is feasible.”

Avramopoulos also warned member-states that any eligible migrant who arrives before the end of September will have to be relocated.

And he expressed “regret” that Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic “continue to show no solidarity and to ignore our repeated calls to participate in this common effort.”

Avramopoulos said the resettlement scheme was “crucial” in managing the situation in the Mediterranean: “This is how we replace dangerous, illegal crossings, with safe, legal pathways.”

Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow