Sunday

21st Jan 2018

Slovakia filing case against EU migrant relocation

  • Bratislava: justice ministry says it won't take refugees until Court gives a verdict (Photo: Miroslav Petrasko)

Slovakia has set the ball rolling on a court case which could overturn the EU plan to relocate 120,000 refugees.

Its government, on Wednesday (30 September), formally tasked lawyers in the justice ministry to file a legal challenge at the EU Court in Luxembourg under article 263 of the EU treaty.

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Slovakia was, last week, outvoted on the migrant plan, which obliges it to take in at least 802 refugees from Greece and Italy.

A justice ministry source said its legal argument is still being drafted.

But article 263 allows states to query decisions “on grounds of lack of competence, infringement of an essential procedural requirement, infringement of the Treaties or of any rule of law relating to their application, or misuse of powers”.

It says cases must be filed “within two months” of the EU decision, with Slovakia aiming for a deadline of 18 December.

Alexandra Donevova, a justice ministry spokesowman, told EUobserver that Bratislava is “convinced the legislation [on refugee relocations] violates its rights”.

She also cited Slovak PM Robert Fico as saying Slovakia won’t take any refugees until the case is decided - a process which could last years.

Hungary and Romania, who were also outvoted, are considering whether to launch similar cases, EUobserver has learnt.

The Czech Republic, the fourth EU refusenik, isn’t planning to follow suit, a Czech diplomat said.

With the EU to start relocations by the end of the year, the Slovak case poses the question: What would happen to relocated people if the EU decision is later overturned?

“It depends on individual member states", a contact at the EU Court said.

"Those who are happy to accept refugees wouldn’t have to expel them. But those who took them begrudgingly could have a reason to say: ‘We no longer accept you’.”

The contact noted the Court could annull the decision on procedural grounds, but not its effect, pending procedural tweaks.

He also said Slovakia will have a hard time getting Court permission to suspend compliance pending the ruling.

“The bar is set very high for that. It’s difficult to get over”, he said.

For their part, the EU insititutions in Brussels believe the relocation plan is watertight.

The EU decision is based on article 78 of the treaty, which authorises action if a member state is “confronted by an emergency situation characterised by a sudden inflow of nationals of third countries”.

“The legal services of the EU Council didn’t raise any issues”, one EU source said.

The source noted the previous European Commission, under Jose Manuel Barroso, considered compulsory quotas on Malta relocations and opted not to go ahead, however.

Meanwhile, some EU diplomats are downplaying the Slovak challenge as politicking in the run-up to national elections in March.

“It should be seen in that context. If they were serious, they’d have their case ready by now”, one diplomat told this website.

But Slovak sources say Fico is serious and that all political parties in Slovakia oppose the scheme.

They oppose it mainly on grounds it won’t work because relocated migrants will refuse to stay in designated host states.

Slovakia votes with migrants and corruption in mind

Outgoing social-democratic PM Fico expected to win new mandate Saturday, but might be forced into coalition with right-wingers after a campaign marked by anti-migrant rhetoric and corruption deja vu.

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