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EU Court of Justice Dismisses Hungarian-Slovak Challenge to Refugee Quota Plan

Tom Szigeti 2017.09.06.

This morning, the European Court of Justice dismissed a case launched by the governments of Hungary and Slovakia challenging the legality of the EU’s refugee resettlement quota plan.

In a statement, the Court of Justice announced that

The court dismisses the actions brought by Slovakia and Hungary against the provisional mechanism for the mandatory relocation of asylum seekers…The mechanism actually contributes to enabling Greece and Italy to deal with the impact of the 2015 migration crisis and is proportionate.

The court case, which was launched by the two Central European countries in December 2015, came after a meeting of EU ministers voted in September of that year to institute a mandatory quota system to redistribute 120,000 refugees among EU member states.

That decision passed with a ‘qualified majority’: Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic voted against the plan, and Denmark abstained.

As wire service Reuters points out, roughly 1.6 million refugees and migrants have entered the EU since 2014, mostly by crossing the Mediterranean after “fleeing conflicts or poverty in the Middle East and Africa.”

The quota system was planned in response to this huge wave of migration. The decision compels Hungary to accept 1,294 refugees.

The plan, meant to relieve pressure on “frontline” countries like Italy and Greece, has been met with fierce resistance in EU members of the former Warsaw Pact. Last year, Hungary’s ruling Fidesz-KDNP coalition launched a controversial billboard campaign and referendum on the quota plan. Following months of intense campaigning, the referendum failed to achieve a high enough turnout to be considered legally valid.

In court, Hungary advanced ten arguments, substantive and procedural, in favor of abolishing the quota system. It argued that at least the part obliging the country to receive 1,294 asylum-seekers from Italy and Greece should be annulled.

In July, the court’s advocate general Yves Bot proposed that the case be dismissed, arguing that the Hungarian and Slovak governments’ legal arguments were unfounded, and that the resettlement plan is “actually a proportionate means of enabling Greece and Italy to deal with the impact of the 2015 migration crisis.”

Bot’s language was echoed in today’s decision by the court to dismiss the case. The ruling was issued by the court’s 15-member Grand Chamber, and was decided by a simple majority of votes.

As  Reuters points out, while the quota plan “provided for the relocation of up to 160,000 people, only about 25,000 have been moved thus far.

And, as the BBC notes, the Hungarian government “has not accepted a single asylum seeker since the compulsory quotas were introduced two years ago.”

Today’s ruling also means that, if they refuse to comply with the rules of the quota plan, Hungary and Slovakia could face fines and other sanctions from the EU.

The case that was heard before the EU Court of Justice is completely separate from the infringement procedure the European Commission launched in June against Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic over the three countries’ refusal to implement the mandatory refugee resettlement quota scheme.

Via MTI, Reuters, the BBC, and Deutsche Welle

Image via europas.irtea.gr

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