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Refugee relocation referral adds to Hungaryʼs legal woes

The European Commission today decided to refer the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) for non-compliance with their legal obligations as EU members on the relocation of refugees, according to a press release.  

Refugees near Keleti railway station in Budapest in the summer of 2015 (photo: LaMography).

“The Council Decisions require Member States to pledge available places for relocation every three months to ensure a swift and orderly relocation procedure,” said the press release. “Whereas all other Member States have relocated and pledged in the past months, Hungary has not taken any action at all since the relocation scheme started, Poland has not relocated anyone and not pledged since December 2015 [and] the Czech Republic has not relocated anyone since August 2016 and not made any new pledges for over a year.”

On June 15, 2017, the Commission launched infringement procedures against the three countries on the issue of refugee relocation, taking the process to the next level by sending its “reasoned opinions” on July 26, after the replies provided by the three Member States were found to be unsatisfactory.

Referral to the CJEU is the third step in the infringement procedure, coming the same day as the EC also announced it had referred Hungary to the court in separate infringement proceedings related to amendments to the countryʼs Higher Education Law and legislation on foreign-funded NGOs.  (Full details of the ECʼs infringement procedure can be found here.)

Despite confirmation by the CJEU of the validity of the EUʼs refugee relocation scheme in a ruling on September 6, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland remain in breach of their legal obligations, according to the EC press release.

“The replies received were again found not satisfactory and three countries have given no indication that they will contribute to the implementation of the relocation decision. This is why the Commission has decided to move to the next stage of the infringement procedure and refer the three Member States to the Court of Justice of the EU,” the EC explained.

The temporary emergency relocation scheme was established in two Council Decisions in September 2015, in which Member States committed to relocate persons in need of international protection from Italy and Greece.

Hungarian news agency MTI noted that Hungary and Slovakia earlier challenged the scheme at the CJEU, but the court rejected their request to annul the decision by the Council of the European Union on mandatory relocation of asylum seekers.

Reacting to the ECʼs latest decision at a press conference in Brussels, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó said the mandatory resettlement quotas are impossible to implement, unreasonable and a violation of European Union rules, and vowed that the government will defend its position before the CJEU.

Szijjártó  spoke to the press after giving testimony at the European Parliamentʼs Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs.

“Hungary is in a major dispute with the European Parliament’s Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) with relation to illegal immigration, which is a key determining issue from the perspective of the continent’s future,” the minister was quoted as saying by Hungarian government website kormany.hu.