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22nd Nov 2018

Court told to 'dismiss' case against EU migrant quotas

  • One of the first migrants boarding a plane to be relocated from Italy, in October 2015. (Photo: European Commission)

A decision by member states in 2015 to create mandatory quotas for sharing asylum seekers, who arrived in Greece and Italy, was legal, according to a senior jurist at the EU's Court of Justice.

“In his opinion delivered today, advocate general Yves Bot proposes that the Court should dismiss the actions brought by Slovakia and Hungary,” the court said in a press release published on Wednesday (26 July).

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The court often rules the same way as the advocate general's opinion.

The case was brought by Hungary and Slovakia, who were outvoted in the Council of the EU in September 2015.

A qualified majority of member states agreed that 120,000 migrants should be relocated from Italy and Greece, and laid down mandatory quotas for each member state, except Denmark, Ireland and the UK, which held opt-outs from EU policies in this field.

The decision came on top of a previous goal to relocate 40,000 people.

The move was made through a legal procedure that did not require adoption by the European Parliament.

Slovakia and Hungary had asked for an annulment of the decision because they argued the Council did not have the required legal basis to take the decision.

But advocate general Bot gave seven counter-arguments to Slovakia's and Hungary's claims.

Bot said that the Lisbon treaty gives the Council the power to adopt temporary measures on asylum matters when there is “a clearly identified emergency situation”.

He also noted that the decision established only a temporary derogation from EU rules, and therefore “did not entail any abuse of the ordinary legislative procedure”.

The disagreement has caused bad blood between member states.

Meanwhile, the relocation scheme itself has been marred by poor implementation.

The two-year scheme ends in two months, but it is nowhere near achieving the 160,000 target.

Only around 20,000 people have been been relocated so far, in part because some member states refused to take anybody, but also because not enough migrants were found to be eligible.

The European Commission will announce the latest relocation figures later on Wednesday.

Advocate general Bot also took a swipe at member states, like Slovakia and Hungary, who refused to take part in the scheme.

He said the “limited efficacy” of the scheme did not affect its legality.

“Moreover, the advocate general points out that that limited efficacy can be explained by a series of factors including the partial or total failure of certain member states (including Slovakia and Hungary) to implement the contested decision,” the press release said.

That partial or total failure “is contrary to the obligation concerning solidarity and the fair sharing of burdens, to which the member states are subject in the area of asylum policy”.

'Plan of Soros'

A state secretary at the Hungarian justice ministry, Pal Volner, told reporters in Budapest on Wednesday that all EU institutions, including the European Court of Justice, are working on implementing the "plan of Soros”. It is a reference to US-Hungarian billionaire George Soros, whom the Hungarian government accuses of wanting to transport a million migrants into Europe.

“Unfortunately, our worst assumptions were justified by the opinion of advocate general Yves Bot. He had joined the European Commission, the European Council, to be part of the Soros Plan. The main elements of his opinion are political, in effect hiding the lack of legal arguments,” Volner was quoted as saying by MTI news agency.

This article was updated on 26 July, 16:30, to include the quotes from Pal Volner

Lack of eligible candidates dogs EU relocation scheme

Member states could fail to meet their refugee quotas even if they wanted to, as strict eligibility rules mean there are few candidates left in Greece and Italy. Sweden is already wondering if it will meet its pledge.

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