EU Member States criticised for refusing to receive refugees
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EU Member States criticised for refusing to receive refugees

Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have failed to fulfil their obligations on refugee reception under EU law according to a ruling today by Eleanor Sharpston, British Advocate General at the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

In response to the migration crisis that affected Europe in the summer of 2015, the Council of the European Union adopted two decisions in order to help Italy and Greece deal with the massive inflow of migrants.

Those two decisions put in place detailed arrangements for the relocation of, respectively, 40 000 and 120 000 applicants for international protection.

However, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have consistently refused to honour their commitments under this framework.

In December 2017, the European Commission therefore brought infringement proceedings against them before the EU Court of Justice.

In her opinion, Advocate General Sharpston proposes that the Court should rule that, by refusing to comply with the provisional and time-limited mechanism for the mandatory relocation of applicants for international protection, the three Member States have failed to fulfil their obligations under EU law.

Member States cannot invoke their responsibilities with regard to the maintenance of law and order and the safeguarding of internal security in order to disapply a valid EU measure with which they disagree, according to the ruling.

“Moreover, the Member States’ legitimate interest in preserving social and cultural cohesion may be safeguarded effectively by other and less restrictive means than a unilateral and complete refusal to fulfil their obligations under EU law,” says Sharpston.

In what was clearly an emergency situation, it was the responsibility of both the frontline Member States and the potential Member States of relocation to make that mechanism work adequately, so that relocation could take place in sufficient numbers to relieve the intolerable pressure on the frontline Member States.

Disregarding those obligations because, in a particular instance, they are unwelcome or unpopular is a dangerous first step towards the breakdown of the orderly and structured society governed by the rule of law. The bad example is particularly pernicious if it is set by a Member State.

Moreover, under the principle of sincere cooperation, each Member State is entitled to expect other Member States to comply with their obligations with due diligence. Finally, Sharpstone notes that the principle of solidarity necessarily sometimes implies accepting burden-sharing.

The Advocate General’s conclusions are not binding on the Court of Justice, but the Court follows them in the majority of cases. The Judges of the Court are now beginning their deliberations in this case and judgment will be given at a later date.

At today’s press briefing in Brussels, a Commission spokesperson took note of the ruling but declined to comment on it.

The Brussels Times

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