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Hungary and Slovakia challenge migrants quotas at the European Court of Justice

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Luxembourg, Luxembourg – Hungary and Slovakia challenge quotas on redistribution scheme at the ECJ in Luxembourg. Solidarity, sovereignty and possible dislocation of the EU are the main topics related to this case, according to many observers and experts.

On Wednesday, May 10, representatives from Hungary and Slovakia told the European Court of Justice (ECJ) that sharing out asylum-seekers among member states under a quota system was unlawful.

This frontal opposition is threatening to tear the Union apart, according to several experts, who fear that the European Union would not be able to set a proper policy on migration and therefore reach a state of permanent crisis and impotency toward migration.

The case

Back in September 2015, the EU top officials designed a plan of relocation for 120,000 alleged asylum-seekers among the more than 1.5 million illegals who entered the European Union in 2015.

Czechia, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia, back then, have been outvoted by the other member states. But Hungary and Slovakia decided to challenged the decision.

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.

Hungary and Slovakia argued that the European Parliament should have been involved: the quotas have been set up by the European Commission.

Poland, which had a different government in September 2015, has signed the quota scheme. But the new conservative PiS government is opposed to relocation and Polish officials support Hungary and Slovakia at the ECJ.

A Polish envoy said accepting migrants and refugees could pose a threat to national security.

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.

Hungary has so far not taken any of its allocated share and Slovakia has only managed to accommodate 16 people.

A Union split in two camps

The Council of the EU – backed by Germany, France, Sweden, Luxembourg, Belgium, Italy, Greece and the European Commission – argued however that the fundamental principle of EU solidarity was at stake.

The court’s advocate general, Yves Bot, will issue his legal opinion on 26 July – a non-binding statement on the court’s ultimate ruling. The final decision can be expected before the end of the year.

“The answer you will give to this question will have significance that goes way beyond this case,” German representative Ralf Kanitz told the court.

A decision against Hungary and Slovakia would be a signal for the western bloc that the eastern part of the Union could be put under more pressure to take-in migrants – through more legal wrangling and fines.

But if the court decides that the quotas do indeed violate EU law, as Hungary and Slovakia argue, it would leave the European Union migration policy in even greater disarray, in a context of multiple crisis and tensions between the member states.

None of the member states are keen on relocating asylum seekers, demonstrated by the fact that only around 18,119 people have moved from Greece and Italy in more than a year-and-a-half under the plan. The relocation scheme expires in September.

Increasing tensions and opposition to Brussels

The country’s leaders, Viktor Orbán and Robert Fico, have sought to cast the quota system as an example of heavy-handed rule by remote bureaucrats in Brussels.

They both have led great campaigns against the domination of Brussels. In Hungary, a new national consultation is currently taking place in order to measure the will of the people to “stop Brussels”.

Although, Hungarian Justice Minister, László Trócsányi, said the country will accept the verdict of the ECJ. “This is legally binding,” he said. “Hungary respects EU law and complies with its obligations.”

But he came also with a proposal. In an interview with German daily Die Welt on Wednesday, he proposed the bloc create a European mechanism for deportation.

Mr. Trócsányi said Brussels should assign Frontex the task, and equip the EU border agency “with new skills and appropriate financial resources so it can organize flights and return migrants who don’t qualify for asylum back to their countries of origin”.