Sunday

19th Nov 2017

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.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

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).

Mind the gap: inequality in our cities

Minimum wages, 'living' wages and a universal basic income are all part of the ongoing mix to find ways to reduce social inequality across the EU.

EU's eastern partnership needs revival

A week before a summit with EU eastern neighbours, Sweden and Poland's foreign ministers propose "a way ahead" for the relationship that is more focused on people's needs.

News in Brief

  1. Bonn climate talks extend into Friday evening
  2. UK needs to move on Brexit by early December, Tusk says
  3. Puigdemont extradition decision postponed to December
  4. Ireland wants written UK guarantees to avoid hard border
  5. US did not obstruct climate talks, says German minister
  6. EU signs social declaration
  7. Puigdemont to be heard by Belgian judges
  8. Steep fall in migrants reaching EU

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  2. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic countries prioritise fossil fuel subsidy reform
  4. Mission of China to the EUNew era for China brings new opportunities to all
  5. ACCASmall and Medium Sized Practices Must 'Offer the Whole Package'
  6. UNICEFAhead of the African Union - EU Summit, Survey Highlights Impact of Conflict on Education
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Council Calls for Closer Co-Operation on Foreign Policy
  8. Swedish EnterprisesTrilogue Negotiations - Striking the Balance Between Transparency and Efficiency
  9. Access EuropeProspects for US-EU Relations Under the Trump Administration - 28 November 2017
  10. World Vision20 November: Exchange of Views at the EP on Children Affected by the Syria Crisis
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersSustainable Growth the Nordic Way: Climate Solutions for a Sustainable Future
  12. EU2017EEHow Data Fuels Estonia's Economy

Latest News

  1. EU keeps former Soviet states at arm's length
  2. EU leaders make pledge on social issues after populist backlash
  3. EU agencies and eastern neighbours This WEEK
  4. Germany slams Dutch call for more ambitious EU climate goal
  5. Mind the gap: inequality in our cities
  6. Climate activists 'disappointed' with EU at climate talks
  7. Davis outlines UK vision on Brexit in Berlin
  8. German coalition talks in near collapse

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Step Up Water Management Cooperation
  2. CECEMachinery Industry Calls for Joint EU Approach to Develop Digital Construction Sector
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersMale Business Leaders Gather in Copenhagen to Advance Gender Equality
  4. EnelNo ETS Deal Means It Can Still Be Strengthened
  5. EU2017EEEstonia Anticipates More Digital Cooperation With Sweden
  6. Mission of China to the EUChina Launches Campaign to Protect IPR of Foreign Companies
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Condemns Attacks on Ruta Vanagaite and the Shredding of Her Books in Lithuania
  8. Bio-Based IndustriesDiscover the Future of the Bio-Based Economy. Register Now for the BBI Stakeholder Forum!
  9. European Free AllianceWelcome Catalonia!
  10. UNICEFGrowing Number of Unaccompanied Refugee Children in Greece in Need of Shelter
  11. Counter BalanceNature Destruction Cannot Be Compensated For, Say NGOs
  12. CES - Silicones EuropeSilicones - Enabling the Next Big Leap in Prosthetics and Health