ECJ condemns refusal to take in refugees

With their refusal to take in asylum seekers from Italy and Greece during the 2015 refugee crisis Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic broke European law, the European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday. Back then the EU's interior ministers had decided to impose mandatory quotas for redistributing the refugees among all member states in order to ease the burden on the countries of arrival. What can the ruling achieve now - almost five years after the crisis?

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Večer (SI) /

A well-timed warning shot

Večer hopes the verdict will have far-reaching consequences:

“With a delay of several years, but perhaps at the best possible moment, the ECJ has given three of the four Visegrád countries, Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic, a firm slap in the face. The ruling came in response to their uncooperative stance during the 2015 migration wave. But it's also a warning for the future - also with regard to a unified European battle against the coronavirus and the accompanying suspension of the human rights and freedoms that populist autocrats hold so dear. ... The leaders in the three above-mentioned states couldn't really care less about the Court's decision. ... But at some point the other EU member states will have had enough, at least in the case of Hungary, where the parliament has virtually suspended itself.” (PL) /

An absurd decision

The pro-government website says the decision is a distortion of the truth:

“Firstly, Berlin illegally and unilaterally opened the EU's borders to the so-called refugees and several million migrants without discussing it with anyone or obtaining anyone's consent. Secondly, the equally illegal decision on the redistribution of refugees, which was made at Berlin's insistance, has long since ceased to be in force because no one wanted to comply with it. The European Council formally annulled it on 29 June 2018, and on 18 October 2018 the Union finally abandoned the idea for good. Thirdly, nothing has contributed as much to the EU's crisis as Germany's welcome policy, which took a tragic toll throughout Europe and of which even the Germans have had enough.”

Večernji list (HR) /

Solidarity only in times of plenty?

The ECJ ruling shows that true solidarity within the EU is in short supply, says Večernji list:

“Whenever the EU is hit by a crisis, and there have been a few of these in recent times, all the values the Union usually boasts about - solidarity, cooperation and so on - are the first victim. This is not surprising as long as it's just the initial, natural impulse to withdraw and look after oneself and one's nation state. But when this way of thinking becomes a political course, many start questioning whether the EU is not just a construct for the years of plenty. The fact that three European states - the Czech Republic, Poland and Hungary - broke the laws of the EU is a prime example of a solidarity that is not mutual.”

Lidové noviny (CZ) /

Useless and too late

People made up their minds on this issue long ago, Lidové noviny writes:

“EU critics will be upset by the ruling - one that has no immediate effect and, what's more, came at a time when the Union is being accused of not doing enough to help member states combat the coronavirus. Supporters of the redistribution of refugees will argue that it is the right thing to do - even though the quotas have now been shelved because they don't work. The key principle that rules must be observed is being pushed into the background. This is not a good outcome for a court case.”