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 two Central European countries yesterday (10 May) outlined their case at the ECJ and their opposition to the EU’s refugee quotas, negotiated in September 2015.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has in the past spoken about “national suicide” and “compulsory quotas”, while his Slovak counterpart, Robert Fico, has lashed out at the EU’s “diktat” on migration.
Hungary and Slovakia’s quotas are not sky-high numbers. Both countries have been asked to accommodate just 2,096 people.
For Budapest’s conservative government and Bratislava’s coalition force though, that number is still too high. But to them it appears to be a matter of principle.
“It is not enough to just protest, it must be acted upon,” Orbán said when justifying his decision to pursue legal action. His government’s zero-tolerance approach to asylum policy has increasingly isolated Hungary in the EU.
Its borders have been hermetically sealed, asylum seekers are being detained in container villages and officials tar refugees with the same brush as criminals and terrorists. Its aggressive rhetoric has already led Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn to call for Hungary’s exclusion from the EU itself.
The legal action was first launched in December 2015 and focuses on 16 points, based on alleged mistakes made by the EU during its decision-making.
For example, Budapest argues that the Council of Ministers substantially altered the European Parliament’s draft, without sending it back to be looked at.
Hungary also points out that when the decision was made, “versions of the draft decision in the Union’s official languages” were not available.
Slovakia has also based its case on alleged procedural errors and maintains that the content of the decision has the “character of a legislative act” and should therefore have been adopted through a normal legislative process.
Its case therefore calls for the distribution system to be scrapped and for the European Council to pay the costs.
EU interior ministers in September 2015 agreed on a plan to relocate 120,000 asylum seekers across Europe. Hungary has so far not taken any of its alloted share and Slovakia has only managed to accomodate 16 people. That September 2015 decision was backed by a majority but was opposed by the Czech Republic, Romania, Slovakia and Hungary.
Hungary also fought the quotas at national level and launched a large-scale media campaign, focused at regional level, which equated the plan with an increase in terrorism.
The ECJ’s judges will now deliberate on the case over the course of the coming months. Hungarian Justice Minister László Trócsányi insisted that his country will accept their decision, even if they rule against Hungary.