Polish PM rejects EU ‘blackmail’ on migrant quotas

A screenshot from news website wPolityce.pl featuring the cover of Sieci, a right-wing news magazine. [wPolityce.pl]

Poland’s rightwing premier said Sunday (3 September) that her country would not be “blackmailed” by its “largest” EU partners into accepting thousands of asylum seekers under a quota system for spreading them throughout the bloc.

“We cannot be blackmailed by the threat that part of our EU funds will be cut off as punishment, because we don’t agree to the forced relocation of migrants from North Africa and the Middle East,” Prime Minister Beata Szydło said in an excerpt of an interview with Sieci, a rightwing news magazine, published Sunday on the wPolityce news website.

EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said in July that Brussels was taking legal steps against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland “for failing to meet their legal obligations on relocation” under the quota program.

The three countries could be brought before the European Court of Justice and eventually fined, something Warsaw argues would be tantamount to a cut in EU funding.

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The European Union announced on Saturday (29 July) it had launched legal action against Poland’s rightwing government over a new law that it fears will erode judicial independence.

“EU funds and cohesion policy are pillars of the European Union just like the free movement of goods and services. We have a right to them… Therefore, we insist that EU treaties must be adhered to and we reject the diktat of the largest states” on migrant quotas, Szydło said.

Her remarks come as the ECJ is expected on Wednesday to dismiss a challenge by Hungary and Slovakia to the mandatory quota program, created at the height of Europe’s 2015 refugee crisis.

Hungary and Slovakia's case against refugee quotas gets day in court

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has begun deliberating on Hungary and Slovakia’s case against the EU’s refugee relocation quotas, which both countries initially opposed and which allegedly contain a number of procedural errors . EURACTIV Germany reports.

The wave of people fleeing the war in Syria and conflict and poverty in the Middle East and many African countries triggered Europe’s biggest migration crisis since World War II.

But of this July, only 24,000 of the 160,000 refugees involved in the EU relocation scheme were moved from frontline states like Italy and Greece to other member countries.

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The EU launched legal action yesterday (13 June) against Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic for refusing to take in their share of refugees under a controversial solidarity plan.

Aside from garnering criticism for its rejection of migrant quotas, Szydło’s conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government has come under heavy fire both at home and abroad since taking office in 2015 for a slew of reforms that critics say erode democratic standards and the rule of law.

French President Emmanuel Macron said last month that Poland was going “against European interests”, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel called Poland a “serious issue”.

The EU launched legal action in July against the government over reforms that it fears will limit judicial independence.

In the interview, Szydło also rejected claims that her government’s actions were gradually pushing Poland out of the EU, calling the allegations “the greatest of lies, a horrible manipulation” and insisting that “we want to be in the EU, we value it”.

Surveys show that nearly 90% of Poles support EU membership, viewing it as a major source of funding and development.

Merkel backs Brussels in row with Poland over courts

German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Tuesday (29 August) threw her weight behind the European Commission in its row with Warsaw over freedom of Poland’s court system.