Slovakia takes EU to court over migrant quotas

European Court of Justice. Luxembourg, 2006. [Cédric Puisney/Flickr]

Slovakia will launch legal action by next month against an EU quota plan to distribute 160,000 refugees and migrants across the bloc, a justice ministry spokeswoman told AFP today (24 November).

“The justice ministry, together with representatives of relevant ministries, is working on preparing the lawsuit,” spokeswoman Alexandra Donevova told AFP, adding that it would be “submitted before 18 December”.

Bratislava intends to lodge the suit with the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which adjudicates in disputes over how EU law is interpreted and applied.

The announcement confirms previous statements by Slovakia’s popular leftist Prime Minister Robert Fico who said on 30 September that his country would take legal action at the ECJ against the EU plan to distribute 120,000 asylum seekers from Italy and Greece to other EU members. The number of migrants to be re-distributed has since grown to 160,000, but very few have actually been relocated.

>> Read: Slovakia pushes ahead with legal action over EU refugee quotas

A nation of 5.4 million people, Slovakia is among several eastern European countries staunchly against a system of migrant quotas designed to ease the burden on countries like Greece, Italy and Germany that have received the lion’s share of arrivals.

Few migrants have entered Slovakia on their voyage to western Europe, and even fewer asylum seekers have chosen to stay. Under the EU’s quota system, Bratislava is expected to take in just under 2,300 migrants.

Seeking re-election in March, Fico said he would rather risk infringing EU rules than implement what he described as the EU’s “diktat” migrant quotas.

The Slovak premier told local press that the planned lawsuit “can be very significant, as it can resolve many questions concerning relations between sovereign countries and the EU – including voting rights.”

He added that Slovakia’s lawsuit would address “very significant” issues surrounding relations between EU members and Brussels, including countries’ weighting in EU decision-making.

In September, Fico raised the spectre of terrorists slipping into Slovakia masquerading as refugees, a possibility experts had deemed unlikely at the time.

During a televised debate last week, he insisted that the “security of Slovak citizens took precedence over the rights of migrants”.

“We are monitoring every Muslim in Slovakia,” Fico told local journalists after the shooting and bomb attacks in Paris that were claimed by the Islamic State jihadist group, while admitting that “in the majority of cases they’re (Muslims) here legally.”

The International Organization for Migration on Tuesday estimated that nearly 860,000 migrants had landed in Europe so far this year, with over 3,500 dying while crossing the Mediterranean in search of safety.

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