Poland defies EU over asylum seekers

Mariusz Błaszczak. Brussels, 18 May. [European Council]

Poland refused yesterday (18 May) to yield to pressure from the European Union to take in any asylum seekers under a relocation scheme despite an EU threat of legal action.

Under a plan agreed in 2015, the European Commission wants EU member states to each admit a quota from a total of 160,000 asylum seekers stuck in Italy and Greece. Most have fled conflicts and poverty in the Middle East and Africa.

Poland and Hungary alone have refused to admit any, citing security concerns following a spate of attacks by militant Islamists in several European countries.

Hungary says this is not a refugee crisis, but mass exodus

The measures to address the migration crisis introduced by individual member states or groups of states have been more effective than the Commission’s action, a Hungarian high official said yesterday (13 June).

“Poland’s position is consistent and clear – we oppose relocation,” Polish Justice Minister Mariusz Błaszczak told a news conference in Brussels after a meeting of EU justice and interior ministers.

“This mechanism does not only fail to solve the migration problem, it aggravates it. It encourages more waves of migrants from Africa and Asia to come, which also provides a big source of income for smugglers and people traffickers.”

Visegrád Four slam 'blackmail' by Brussels on migrants

Leaders from the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Poland (the Visegrád Four) rejected yesterday (28 March) what they called Brussels’ use of “blackmail and diktat” over planned resettlements of migrants across the EU.

Criticism

Błaszczak cited militant attacks in France, Belgium and Germany since late 2015 in which refugees played a role, or which involved EU citizens who became radicalised, travelled to Syria and then returned to Europe posing as migrants.

Europeans fear that refugee influx raises terror threat

A majority of Europeans fear the recent refugee influx will heighten the risk of terrorist attacks and cost their countries jobs and social benefits, and create further problems with the integration of Muslims, said a survey released yesterday (11 July) by the Pew Research Center.

Frontline states Italy and Greece, along with wealthier west European nations such as Germany and Sweden – which have taken in large numbers of asylum seekers – have sharply criticised the refusal of Warsaw and Budapest to show solidarity, especially as the eastern member states benefit from generous EU development funds.

Katainen: For cohesion as well as migration, solidarity is not a one-way street

Commission Vice-President Jyrki Katainen reminded the Visegrád countries today (28 March) that the solidarity they expect from the EU’s cohesion policy also applies to the refugee crisis.

Critics of the right-wing, nationalist government in Poland, a deeply Catholic and largely homogeneous country, say it is exploiting a wave of popular anti-migrant feeling in Europe to shirk its responsibilities.

On Tuesday (16 May) the European Commission said it would decide next month on possible legal action against Poland and Hungary over the migration issue.

Commission sets June deadline for Poland, Hungary to take migrant share

The European Union yesterday (16 May) set a June deadline for Poland and Hungary to start admitting their share of migrants from overstretched Italy and Greece or risk sanctions.

“There will be a letter of formal notice,” a senior official said yesterday, describing the first step of a long procedure that may end up in court and entail financial penalties.

The dispute is aggravating an East-West divide in the EU and has stalled reforms of the bloc’s wider asylum system, which broke down as the Union took in some 1.6 million refugees who arrived in 2014-16.

Germany’s Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière hoped for progress by June.

“We should concentrate on the issues where an understanding is easier to achieve: efficient procedures, quicker returns and avoiding secondary migration, maybe an agreement on a crisis mechanism,” he told reporters.

“Maybe the very difficult issue of redistribution becomes easier when we have an agreement on these other issues.”

Macron: German response to refugee crisis 'saved Europe's dignity'

The Europhile candidate for the French presidency has congratulated Germany for saving Europe’s collective dignity by opening its arms to refugees.

Background

Further Reading