The European Court of Justice has dismissed “in their entirety” the actions brought by Hungary and Slovakia against the EU’s migrant quota system, leaving the two countries liable to pay fines if they continue to refuse to accept asylum seekers. The case relates to a decision taken by the European Council in 2015 to resettle 120,000 asylum seekers throughout the bloc. Hungary and Slovakia asked the Court of Justice for the decision to be annulled on the grounds that the EU has no legal right to force a member state to take in refugees against its will and that national parliaments weren’t consulted in the process. In its ruling the Court said that the Council’s decision was proportionate and carried out in accordance with EU Treaties.
The quota system was adopted at the height of the refugee crisis when more than 1 million migrants, largely from Africa and the Middle East, journeyed to Europe, with Italy and Greece bearing the brunt of the arrivals. Since that time the number of asylum seekers has fallen dramatically thanks to a deal the EU signed with Turkey to send back failed asylum seekers and those who try to enter Europe by irregular means. While that agreement reduced the flow of people crossing through Turkey into Greece, a new route through Libya into Italy opened up that has seen about 100,000 arrivals this year. However, that route too has recorded a sharp decrease in numbers compared to last year following an agreement made between Rome and Tripoli.
Responding to the ECJ ruling, Hungary’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, called it “outrageous and irresponsible” and said it “endangers the future and security of Europe as a whole.” His German counterpart, Sigmar Gabriel welcomed the “explicitly clear” decision saying: “We can … expect that all European partners will uphold the ruling and the carry out the decision without further delay.” Both the Hungarian and Slovak governments have vowed to continue their fight against the quota scheme.