One month after the EU's executive Commission launched legal cases against Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic for "defaulting on their legal obligations" by refusing to comply with the EU's refugee quotas (i.e., accept migrants), on Wednesday the three Central European nations suffered another blow after Brussels mounted a legal fightback to force them to comply with EU refugee quotas. The top European Union court's adviser dismissed a challenge brought by Slovakia and Hungary against the obligatory relocation of refugees across the bloc, as it prepared to sign-off legal suits against the holdout countries.
The two states, backed by Poland, wanted the court to annul a 2015 EU scheme to have each member state host a number of refugees to help ease pressure on Greece and Italy, struggling with mass arrivals across the Mediterranean. Supported by Germany, Italy and Brussels, the EU’s “relocation” law has become one of the bloc’s most divisive recent policy initiatives, forced through over the objections of states from eastern and central Europe.
Wednesday’s decisions marked a rebuff to Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, who has made the rejection of EU refugee policies his central political message for more than two years. In a referendum in October last year 98.2 per cent of voters backed the government’s opposition to the EU’s refugee sharing programme, although the result was deemed invalid because of low turnout. Orban has since spent tens of millions of public funds on advertising campaigns, accusing the EU of endangering Hungarian security through its asylum policies.
And yet, despite the ruling, none of the affected nations were eager to change their mind: Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico said in a statement his government was sticking to its decision to refuse mandatory quotas and called the Advocate General's opinion "non binding". Hungary similarly dismissed the ruling as politically motivated.
Outright refusal to comply once the legal challenges have run their course will have consequences in other areas, including Germany’s approach to the EU long-term budget, which must be negotiated by 2020. Some have speculated that it could result in the breakup of the Shengen customs zone which forms the backbone of the European Union.