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Hungarian and Slovak Governments React to EU Court’s Quota Ruling

Tom Szigeti 2017.09.06.

Earlier today, 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.

The ruling itself has led to intense reactions, particularly on the part of the Hungarian government.

Hungarian Government Reaction

Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó (left) with Justice Minister László Trócsányi (right) at a press conference in the Hungarian Parliament on the European Court of Justice’s recent ruling (Photo: MTI – Szilárd Koszticsák) 

Speaking at a news conference, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó claimed that the court’s ruling was “outrageous and irresponsible.”

In an apparent rejection of the decision, he argued that “the real battle is only just beginning.” He added that the Orbán government would exhaust every avenue of legal appeal in order to ensure that “not a single person is resettled in Hungary against the will of the Hungarian people” (the ECJ is the highest court of the European Union).

Claiming that “this decision jeopardizes the security and future of all of Europe,” Szijjártó argued that the court’s ruling was a politically-motivated one

Szijjarto insisted that the court had made a politically motivated decision that would compromise Europe’s future and its security. He said the ruling went against the interests of European nations and the interests of the Hungarian nation. Going even further, Hungary’s Foreign Minister told the press conference that

Politics has raped European law and values.

Hungarian Opposition Parties React

Responding to today’s legal decision, the green opposition party LMP (Politics can be Different) argued that the Hungarian constitution compels the government to comply with the European Court of Justice’s ruling on the quota plan. Speaking about the ruling, LMP politician Marta Demeter called the Orbán government’s actions “hysterical.” She also criticized the government for its  (currently suspended) residency bond program, which allowed wealthy foreigners to essentially purchase a permit of permanent residency from the government in exchange for a deposit of 300,000 euros, which was later returned to the new Hungarian resident. She argued that the residency bonds “allowed 20,000 people into the country and into the EU with virtually no vetting”, and argued that because of this, the government had no moral basis on which to criticize the court’s decision.

The left-wing Democratic Coalition (DK) accused the government of deliberately going into the lawsuit knowing it would lose. Party spokesman Zsolt Gréczy claiemd that this was part of a plan to use the suit as a pretext on which to announced Hungary’s withdrawal from the EU (to date, there has been no discussion of Hungary leaving the bloc). Gréczy also made mention of the Orbán government’s controversial anti-Brussels billboard campaign, as well as its recent campaign targeting Hungarian-American billionaire George Soros. The DK spokesman also claimed that the government would soon mount a new campaign claiming that the “whole of the EU is only a Soros organization.”

The Liberals told a press conference that the ruling was a “thrashing” for the Hungarian government. The party’s foreign policy spokesman Istvan Szent-Iványi said the government’s migration policy was wrong and had led to “senseless campaigns and a senseless referendum”. He added that the infringement procedure launched over Hungary’s refusal to accept 1,294 asylum seekers allocated by the quota is likely to have a similar outcome.

Slovak Reactions

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico (right), with Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák (seated, left) at the European Parliament (Photo: TASR – Michal Svítok)

While they were both parties to the suit, Slovakia’s government has had a far less extreme reaction to the court decision than that of Hungary.

Responding to the ruling, Prime Minister Robert Fico said that his country respects the high court’s decision, while expressing his government’s continued disagreement with the quota plan.

According to Reuters, Fico argued that, despite the ruling,

 Our position on quotas does not change…We will continue to work on having solidarity expressed in different ways other than forcing (on us) migrants from other countries that don’t want to be here anyway.

Fico’s comments came following a similar statement by Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák, who likewise said that “The Slovak government acknowledges and respects” the EU court’s decision.

Lajčák, who earlier this year was elected to serve as the President of the United Nations General Assembly for its 72nd session, reiterated the Slovak government’s opposition to the quota plan, while also saying that

at the same time, it is unimaginable that Bratislava would not accept the decision of the Luxembourg court.

European Reactions

In a statement, Sigmar Gabriel, Germany’s Foreign Minister, welcomed the ECJ’s ruling. Responding to the dismissal of Hungary and Slovakia’s suit, Gabriel said

 I always said to our eastern European partners that it is right to clarify questions legally if there is doubt. But now we can expect all European partners to stick to the ruling and implement the agreements without delay.

Likewise, the EU’s Migration Commissioner, Dmitris Avramapoulos, tweeted that it is now “Time to work in unity and implement solidarity in full.”

Many members of the European Parliament have likewise welcomed the ruling. One of the plan’s lead parliamentary backers, ska Keller, said that today’s ruling means “there is no excuse” to not implement the quota plan, Reuters reports. She also added that

leaders such as (Hungarian Prime Minister) Viktor Orbán cannot demand more money for border protection, while blocking the reception of refugees from Greece and Italy.

Keller’s comments echo those of European Commission President Claude Juncker, who today reacted to the Hungarian government’s demands that the EU pay for the border fence the country built by insisting in a letter to Orbán that “solidarity is a two-way street.”

EC President Jean Claude Juncker (Photo:  consilium.europa.eu) 

In addition, Claude Moraes, chairman of the European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee dealing with migration, argued that “we urgently need to have in place an organized and compassionate response” to the plight of refugees.

Moraes also argued that the bloc’s slow handling of the quota issue “draws attention to significant gaps in the EU’s response to the biggest refugee crisis on the continent since World War II.”

Manfred Weber, group leader of the European People’s Party, of which Hungary’s ruling Fidesz is a member, said in a statement that all EU members must observe and implement the European Court’s quota ruling. He suggested that the ruling may open up opportunities for engineering a common European migration policy that would “heal wounds” within the community. He said that all parties should be ready to make compromises, and, echoing Juncker, added that “solidarity is not a one-way street”.

Gianni Pittella, group leader of the European Socialists and Democrats, said Hungary and Slovakia should meet their obligations and start receiving the “couple hundred” asylum seekers they have been assigned, otherwise they would be fined. “Solidarity works in both directions,” he said, adding it was “shameful” that Orbán had demanded further funds from the EU “to erect a pointless fence” while failing to meet obligations arising from Hungary’s EU membership.


Via MTI, TASR, Reuters, the Guardian, and bumm.sk

Images via MTI, hlavnespravy.sk, and  consilium.europa.eu

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