Central European Gov’ts Unhappy With EU Migrant Relocation Policy and Quotas

James Carstensen | May 11, 2017 | 11:48pm EDT
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A U.N. staffer helps refugees and migrants to register at a local police station on Kos Island in Greece. (Photo: UNHCR/S. Baltagiannis)

Berlin (CNSNews.com) – Hungary and Slovakia have filed a joint legal case against the European Union’s refugee distribution scheme, charging that a quota framework is ineffective and lacks the tools to protect host countries from terrorist attacks.

The two central European governments are also calling for a new, E.U.-wide mechanism to facilitate migrant deportations.

Representatives of the two nations on Wednesday addressed the European Court of Justice (ECJ), the E.U.’s judicial arm, challenging an E.U. decision to distribute migrants throughout the bloc on a quota basis.

The E.U.’s executive Commission decided in September 2015 to distribute migrants among member states, in a bid to lighten the load experienced by specific countries. Most migrants enter the E.U. through Greece and Italy, and many ended up in Hungary.

According to the quota stipulation, E.U. members would be required to take in 120,000 immigrants from the three countries – 54,000 from Hungary, 50,400 from Greece and 15,600 from Italy – by September this year.

However, Hungary rejected the proposal, meaning its 54,000 would instead be reallocated from elsewhere.

Quotas were based on E.U. member states’ population, GDP, unemployment rate and past asylum applications. Germany was given the largest quota (31,443), followed by France (24,031) and Spain (14,931). On the other end of the scale, Malta was expected to take in 133 migrants, and Cyprus 274.

ECJ judges mulled over the question of whether or not the principle of solidarity between E.U. member states, as laid down in E.U. treaties, should or could apply. A judgment is expected in July.

Slovakia’s representative, Beatrix Ricziova, argued in court that the decision was too far-reaching, and had illegally amended regulations in E.U. asylum law.

Slovakia is expected to take in 1,502 migrants under the E.U. Commission directive., but has to date received just 16 migrants from Greece.

Hungary has argued meanwhile that the E.U. does not have the right to decide on changing a country’s makeup, population and culture.

“These people want to go to very specific countries, not countries like Romania, Bulgaria, or Hungary,” Hungarian Justice Minister Laszlo Trocsanyi was quoted by German daily Die Welt as saying. He noted that some migrants who had been sent to Latvia “were back in Germany in just two days.”

Instead, the Hungarians argue the E.U. plan is only of superficial help, claimimg an earlier relocation scheme simply served as an invitation for more asylum seekers to come.

Hungary also plans to veto an upcoming E.U. concept paper that highlights migration as having favorable effects on Europe’s future.

“The E.U. is preparing to adopt a development strategy that cites immigration as positive, and accordingly Hungary will be vetoing the adoption of the document,” Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto said Thursday.

Other countries have also refused to comply with the scheme. Poland, which is expected to take in 9,287 asylum-seekers – has not accepted a single person. The Czech Republic has so far accepted a total of 12 people out of the allocated 2,978.

Poland “will never agree to the European Commission imposing any quotas” obliging it to accept refugees, Polish government spokesman Rafa Bochenek told a press conference on Wednesday. He added that the same stance has “been accepted by more and more E.U. member states.”

Hungary is meanwhile pushing for a new, Europe-wide solution to ease deportation, by boosting the E.U.'s border protection agency, Frontex.

“We need to provide Frontex with new abilities and financial support, in order to organize flights and take migrants back to their home countries if they don't qualify for protection,” Hungarian Justice Minister Laszlo Trocsanyi told Die Welt.

It would be more effective, he said, if Frontex negotiates the return of migrants to their countries of origin, rather than “for example, Hungary negotiating with Afghanistan.”

“It’s an issue of sovereignty,” Trocsanyi added.

The European Commission has been mulling infringement fines for countries such as Hungary and Poland, citing articles of E.U. treaties that deal with protecting core E.U. values.

So far, however, it appears hesitant to take actual measures against non-complying members.

Frans Timmermans, the European Commission’s first vice president, said last month that core E.U. values were at stake but also admitted, “we have to be on a very firm legal ground before we start infringement procedures.”

Despite the problems, the E.U. in its latest progress report last month praised the setting of a new monthly record, reporting that an additional 2,465 people had been relocated in the previous month, for a total of 16,340 – still way off the mark given the September target date.

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