Refugee crisis update: EU still lacks solidarity as Hungary and Slovakia refuse to accept EU Court’s decision

Press conference by Dimitris Avramopoulos, Member of the EC, on progress under the European Agenda on Migration
Date: 06/09/2017 Location: Brussels – EC/Berlaymont
© European Union , 2017. Source: EC – Audiovisual Service Photo: Georges Boulougouris

It was last Wednesday when the Court of Justice of the European Union rejected a challenge by Hungary and Slovakia regarding their denial on relocating refugees from Greece and Italy. Both countries though do not intend to change their position on the issue.

Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship Dimitris Avramopoulos mentioned that there has been a lot of progress on dealing with the migration crisis the last two years. Mr Avramopoulos also stated that the “success of the relocation scheme will be measured against whether or not Member States relocate everyone eligible in Greece and in Italy”.

However, it seems that solidarity is still missing in the European Union as countries such as Hungary, Slovakia, Czech Republic and Poland have refused to contribute in sharing the burden of the crisis and receive refugees from Greece and Italy. Relocation targets set by the European Commission two year ago are going to fall short in September 26.

EU Court confirms the relocation decision

Slovakia and Hungary which had voted against the adoption of the decision to relocate migrants from Greece and Italy, had asked the Court of Justice to cancel the decision. Both countries had argued that the decision included procedural errors and that it was not the appropriate measure to tackle refugee crisis.

The EU Court of Justice turned down the actions of Slovakia and Hungary as the measures of the EU Council to support Greece and Italy with the relocation scheme could be implemented without any legislative procedure.  What is more, the EU court pointed out that the relocation scheme is not unsuitable to address this crisis. More specifically, it was said that: “Moreover, 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.”

EU progress on managing migration crisis

There have been fifteen reports reports so far regarding the progress of the migrants’ management. According to the EC, 27.695 persons have been relocated showing that results are been delivered but much more must be done by all EU member states. More in detail, European Commission First Vice-President Frans Timmermans mentioned on the issue: “All EU actors have worked hard together to manage migration flows, to protect our external borders and to support the frontline Member States. We’re on the right track and the results can be seen on the ground. However, the challenges and risk factors of migration remain. So we must continue to improve our work to save lives, to put in place safe and legal pathways for those who deserve protection and to return those who have no right to stay.”

EU lacks solidarity

The fact that Slovakia, Hungary together with the Czech Republic and Poland are still against the relocation scheme, even after the decision of the EU court, clearly shows no EU solidarity. The reaction of the Hungarian Minister of Foreign affairs reveals the latter. Peter Szijjarto particularly called the ruling as “appalling and irresponsible”. He also said that: “Politics has raped European law and European values. This decision practically and openly legitimates the power of the EU above the member states. The real fight starts now.”

As the EU court’s decision is final, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic face heavy fines if they do not contribute to the relocation scheme and be referred to European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Merkel positive of resettlement procedure

The German Chancellor stated that she is optimistic regarding the relocation of the asylum seekers in the EU after the decision of the EU Court to annul the actions of Hungary and Slovakia. Angela Merkel said last week speaking to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Sonntagszeitung (F.A.S.) newspaper that: “The vast majority of EU states had not filed a complaint about redistribution and do not take the view that they never want to take in a refugee so I think there’s an opportunity to achieve a distribution of refugees that shows solidarity in the not too distant future.” Obviously, Angela Merkel doesn’t want to spoil her image just two weeks before the federal elections take place in Germany.

All in all, the EU is lacking solidarity despite the efforts of some countries to contribute to the relocation scheme. There are many countries such as Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Belgium which have not yet reached their share of relocations. The EU has still a long way to go as countries like Slovakia, Poland, Hungary show nationalistic behaviours insisting of not helping in dealing with the migration crisis.

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