Czech Republic, Hungary, And Poland Face Legal Action Over Refusal To Take Refugees

The Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland have reneged on their agreement with the European Union to accept refugees. Two years ago, a legally binding refugee agreement was prepared whereby refugees would be relocated, or at least a pledge would be made to relocate.

Stars & Stripes reported that the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland have been given 24 hours to commence their intake of refugees under an immigrant sharing plan or face legal action.

According to the European Union, it has repeatedly urged these countries to fulfill their agreement but they have breached their obligations; therefore, the EU has decided to launch infringement procedures. The three countries concerned immediately rebuffed the threat and now appear ready to go to court.

It was in September 2015 when a plan to share 160,000 refugees from overwhelmed Greece and Italy, among other European countries, was endorsed.

A qualified majority vote accepted that the plan would cover a two-year period; however, just three months before the September 2017 deadline, less than 21,000 refugees have been relocated. Furthermore, it is doubtful that even one-quarter of the refugees originally covered under the plan will be moved by that date.

The agreement was a big part of the EU’s 2015 migration policy when more than 1 million people arrived in Europe seeking jobs or sanctuary. Voting against the scheme were the Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary, and Slovakia: Slovakia and Hungary have already launched legal action against the scheme; however, according to EU Migration Commissioner Demetrius Avramopoulos, they had until Wednesday to change their minds.

“There is still time ahead. Let’s hope that not only reason but also the European spirit will prevail.”

Bohuslav Sobotka, Prime Minister of Czechoslovakia, said his country has no plans to change its view of the migration sharing plan, saying that “the Czech Republic doesn’t agree with the relocation system based on migrant quotas. And given the worsened security situation in Europe and that the quota system is not functioning, it won’t participate in it.”

Sobotka added that his government was prepared to “defend our view at the EU level and at the relevant court institutions.” So far, the Czech Republic has taken only 12 of the 2600 refugees assigned to it, while Hungary and Poland had taken in none.

According to Polish Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski, “Poland is ready to defend its standpoint before the Court of Justice,” warning that the action being taken by the commission could well deepen divisions within the EU.

“Blackmail and Un-European behavior” are the words used by Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto to describe the Commission’s current stance. Szijjarto repeated his government’s position that the European Commission cannot decide on behalf of member states as to who they will let into their country.

Commissioner Demetrius Avramopoulos praised both Slovakia and Austria for pledging to do more but noted that, as at June 9, Slovakia had taken in 16 refugees and Austria had still not taken any.

The Netherlands, Portugal, Finland, and non-EU Norway, together with Germany and France, have taken in the largest number of refugees. France has taken around 3,500 refugees, while Germany received more than 5,600. The Commission is being encouraged by rights group Amnesty International, hoping the Commission will spur other countries to do more.

Iverna McGowan is Amnesty’s European office director.

“The move makes it clear that countries will not be allowed to get away with dragging their feet to avoid accepting refugees. Solidarity is the key to a fair and humane response to refugees in Europe.”

US News reported that the EU Migration Commission has sent formal letters of notice to the three states, giving them one month to respond. If the matter is not resolved they could be taken to Europe’s top court – the European Court of Justice.

Greece and Italy are struggling to cope with more than one million migrants who entered Europe in 2015, and the Commission hopes to relocate 160,000 of these people.

In its statement, the Commission declared, “Despite repeated calls for action, these three countries remain in breach of their legal obligations and have shown disregard for their commitments to Greece, Italy and other member states.”

On Wednesday, European Commission President John Claude Juncker stated that, “It’s a question here of observing European law, it’s not a question of sanctions.” Speaking to EU lawmakers in Strasbourg in France, Juncker said, “European solidarity cannot be a one-way street.”

The Guardian reported that the European Commission’s stance on refugees has intensified a bitter feud within the bloc on how countries should deal with migration.

While a majority of EU leaders agreed in 2015 to relocate migrants from Italy and Greece, the governments in Poland and Hungary have refused to take part; and while the Czech Republic initially accepted 12 refugees, it has since said no more will be welcomed.

Dimitris Avramopoulos spoke to a news conference on Tuesday, expressing “regret” that Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic have not “taken the necessary action” regarding the refugee agreement.

“For this reason, the Commission has decided to launch infringement procedures against these three member states. I sincerely hope that these member states can still reconsider their position and contribute fairly.”

Czech Prime Minister, Bohuslav Sobotka, claimed the Commission was “blindly insisting on pushing ahead with dysfunctional quotas which decreased citizens’ trust in EU abilities and pushed back working and conceptual solutions to the migration crisis.”

“Given the deteriorating security situation in Europe and the non-functioning of the quota system, the Czech government will not participate in it. We are ready to defend our position in the EU and the relevant judicial institutions.”

However, Massimo D’Alema, the former Italian Prime Minister, believes that these countries are not respecting the law.

“The EU cannot tolerate countries that do not respect the law that is based on our fundamental values and those values are to respect human rights. The only way to solve the crisis is to share the burden. It is not acceptable for Germany to take 1 million refugees and for some EU states to simply say no. In that case, sanctions are needed.”

Hungary’s Prime Minister, Viktor Orbán, said in Parliament on Monday that they will not be giving in to blackmail from Brussels and that they reject the mandatory relocation quota.

Poland’s Interior Minister, Mariusz Błaszczak, said that the relocation methods are ineffective and that they attract more waves of immigration to Europe.

The Czech Republic has cited security reasons for taking in only 12 people from their assigned quota of 2,691. It appears that they believe the biggest crisis facing the EU is terrorism.

[Featured Image by Giannis Papanikos/Shutterstock]