A legal case taken by Slovakia and Hungary against the EU over its mandatory refugee relocation programme had its first hearing in court on Wednesday. The case stems from the EU’s decision, taken at the height of the refugee crisis in September 2015, to distribute 120,000 asylum seekers among the current 28 member states of the bloc. Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Czech Republic voted against the measure which was passed by a qualified majority. At a hearing in front of judges at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg, Hungary and Slovakia argued that that decision should have been made in conjunction with the European Parliament, rather than by qualified majority. They also claimed that a second vote should have been taken following changes that were made to the original draft text. The only other country to support Hungary and Slovakia in their case was Poland, which changed its position on the relocation policy after initially voting in favour of it.
Representatives of the EU are arguing that Hungary and Slovakia’s refusal to accept any refugees under the quota system threatens European solidarity. In 2015 Germany took in around 1 million migrants from the Middle East and Africa prompting the EU to look for look for a burden-sharing arrangement. In September of that year, a majority of the European Council, composed of the heads of government of all member states, voted in favour of the measure with Finland abstaining. Under the resolution Hungary was to take in 1,294 people, while Slovakia was to accommodate 802. However, neither country has taken in any applicants under the quota system to date and Hungary in particular has come in for strong criticism for its handling of its treatment of migrants.
Earlier this year Budapest announced that asylum seekers will be housed in shipping containers while they wait for their case to be heard and the country’s southern border with Serbia was reinforced with electroshock fencing. Hungary’s president, Viktor Orban, who called the influx of migrants a “trojan horse” for terrorism has said that he will abide by the court’s ruling if their case is rejected. The court’s decision is expected before the end of the year.