Published: Wed, June 14, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

EU opens legal case against Warsaw, Budapest, Prague over migration

EU opens legal case against Warsaw, Budapest, Prague over migration

"There is still time ahead, let's hope that European spirit will prevail, said Dimitris Avramopoulos, Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship from Strasbourg".

"Regrettably, despite ... repeated calls, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland, in breach of their legal obligations stemming ... and their commitments to Greece, Italy and other member states, have not yet taken the necessary action", the European Commission said in a statement.

The relocation plan was conceived in response to the large influx of migrants and refugees in 2015, in an attempt to relieve pressure on frontline states, mainly Greece and Italy, where the vast majority of migrants were arriving.

The European Commission has made a decision to launch infringement procedures against countries that refused to accept migrants, the commission said on Tuesday.

The Czech Republic took in just 12 refugees last year and none so far this year and said it wanted out of the scheme because of security concerns.

Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said earlier on Tuesday: "Most of [these people] are not refugees, only immigrants who have illegally come into Europe".

After more than a million migrants and refugees reached the European Union in 2015, mostly via Greece, Brussels sealed an accord with non EU-member Turkey that sharply cut the overall number of arrivals, though the deal was criticized by rights groups.

Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Romania opposed agreeing to the relocation scheme for asylum-seekers in 2015 but were outvoted. "And given the worsened security situation in Europe and also that the quota system is not functioning, it won't participate in it".

Under "infringement" proceedings the European Commission, the 28-nation EU's executive arm, sends a letter to national governments demanding legal explanations over certain issues, before possibly referring them to the European Court of Justice. A spokesman for Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said that her government does not agree with the EU's decision to launch infringement procedures, but that it respected the Commission's prerogative. Hungarian lawmakers on September 4 passed a package of laws in a bid to curb the rising influx of refugees and migrants who crossed into the country for a better life in Europe.

Avramopoulos said the relocation scheme remains binding "unless the court decides differently" but the Commission "is confident that our position in this case will hold".

The quotas were based on the size and wealth of each country, but Austria and Denmark have so far not taken in any refugees either. An EU official said that despite its legal challenge, Slovakia had heeded the call to take in refugees and so escaped sanction.

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