Friday

27th May 2022

Opinion

Migrant relocation ruling raises questions

  • Hungary and Poland have failed to host a single migrant from Greece and Italy under the relocation scheme. (Photo: Stephen Ryan / IFRC)

The decision by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on Wednesday (6 September) to overrule Hungary's and Slovakia's objections to the compulsory EU migrant relocation scheme has coincided with the publication of the European Commission's fifteenth report on relocation and resettlement.

The report confirms that Hungary and Poland have failed to host a single migrant from Greece and Italy under the relocation scheme - followed closely by the Czech Republic, which has only fulfilled 0.4 percent of its legally binding quota, and Slovakia, only 3.5 percent.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

It has also provided an equally discouraging picture of the implementation of the EU's relocation scheme overall.

The report suggests that - except for Finland, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta and Sweden - all the remaining member states are still under-performing on their legally binding commitments by at least 50 percent.

Given that the EU relocation scheme, in its current form, is due to end on 26 September, what are some of the key lessons that can be drawn from its implementation to date?

And can they guide the design of any future EU migrant solidarity mechanism?

Questions raised

First of all, it is surprising to note that despite the above figures on the implementation of the EU relocation scheme so far, only a handful of member states have continued to be stigmatised for their failure to meet their obligations.

Is there an objective scale establishing the level below which lack of solidarity in this policy area should be singled out and formally condemned?

The impression is given that - more than the insufficient solidarity expressed throughout most of the EU to date - what is really unsettling the EU executive is the openly defiant and confrontational attitude adopted by a couple of member states, which have expressly announced that they would not implement the legally binding EU migrant quota system.

Second, can the Council Decision establishing the relocation scheme, or any future EU migrant solidarity mechanism, continue to be implemented against the will of the national populations of some of the member states?

According to the opinion of advocate general Yves Bot in the recent ECJ case: "Solidarity is among the cardinal values of the Union and is even among the foundations of the Union".

Not only that, but it is also "the quintessence of what is both the raison d'etre and the objective of the European project".

Against this background, it is difficult to envisage how Hungary and Poland, in particular, could both claim to be members of the European project, thereby adhering to all of its fundamental values, and yet continue to selectively ignore some of its key implementing principles and rules.

Third, can alternative forms of solidarity, such as financial and staff contributions to the strengthening of the surveillance of the external borders of the EU, be considered equivalent to hosting a few hundred migrants? Especially since the EU scheme is based on objective, quantifiable and verifiable distribution criteria?

But if so, how can any such equivalence be defined and measured, and through what legal mechanism can it be implemented?

Again, according to the opinion of the advocate general in the recent ECJ ruling, the surveillance of the EU's external borders, which aims to prevent future irregular migration, can in no way replace a relocation mechanism that is intended to respond to migrant flows, which have already occurred and are already affecting several member states.

Therefore, any contribution to the EU's immigration control systems and operations should be considered complementary to, rather than able to substitute for the member states' legally binding obligations under the EU relocation scheme.

Fourth, if the ECJ were to rule in the coming months that Hungary and Poland are indeed in breach of EU law, would the resulting fines correspond to the costs of contributing to the EU migrant quota system? And therefore, would they influence these countries' resolve in ignoring any future EU migrant solidarity scheme?

EU duty

The EU executive and ECJ have a legal, moral and historic duty to engage in the procedure.

But beyond these duties, should a fairer and more persuasive response not also include depriving these member states of their future benefits under EU structural funds and other assistance packages proportionally to the value of their non-contribution to the legally binding EU migrant solidarity mechanisms?

Many fundamentals relating to the future of EU immigration and asylum policy are due to be discussed in several high-level meetings in the coming weeks and months, including under the impetus of the recently elected French president, Emmanuel Macron.

The questions raised above are no doubt some that will need to be answered in any such discussions.

Solon Ardittis is managing director of Eurasylum and a research fellow at the Institute for the Study of Labor (IZA) and at the Global Labor Organization (GLO). He is also co-editor of "Migration Policy Practice", a bimonthly journal published jointly with the International Organization for Migration (IOM).

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Poland vows legal battle on migrant quotas

One minister accused Commission of putting a terrorist "noose around Europe's neck", as Poland vowed to see the EU in court on migrant relocations.

Letter

Right of Reply: Hungarian government

The government in Budapest responds to EUobserver opinion piece "Are Orban's Covid powers now the 'new normal' in Hungary?"

Column

The Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth is back

Ukraine is finally understood — and hopefully Belarus will be soon too — as a self-standing society and state with close links to its EU neighbours, rather being relegated to Russia's backyard.

Brexit hostility to Good Friday Agreement is damaging UK in US

Democratic Unionist MPs could affirm unequivocally they support the Good Friday Agreement, with no return of a border with physical controls on movement of people, goods or agricultural produce within the island of Ireland — but they won't.

News in Brief

  1. Dutch journalists sue EU over banned Russia TV channels
  2. EU holding €23bn of Russian bank reserves
  3. Russia speeds up passport process in occupied Ukraine
  4. Palestinian civil society denounce Metsola's Israel visit
  5. Johnson refuses to resign after Downing Street parties report
  6. EU border police has over 2,000 agents deployed
  7. Dutch tax authorities to admit to institutional racism
  8. Rutte calls for EU pension and labour reforms

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. EU summit will be 'unwavering' on arms for Ukraine
  2. Orbán's new state of emergency under fire
  3. EU parliament prevaricates on barring Russian lobbyists
  4. Ukraine lawyer enlists EU watchdog against Russian oil
  5. Right of Reply: Hungarian government
  6. When Reagan met Gorbachev — a history lesson for Putin
  7. Orbán oil veto to deface EU summit on Ukraine
  8. France aims for EU minimum-tax deal in June

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us