Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto on September 6 accused the EU’s top court of waving through a political "rape of European law and values" by rejecting a challenge from Hungary and Slovakia to Brussels’ compulsory migrant relocation deal.
Szijjarto added that in his eyes the verdict did not compel Hungary to take in the thousand-plus migrants it was asked to under the quota arrangement - drawn up to ease pressure on countries on the frontline as regards the movement into Europe of migrants, such as Italy and Greece - but the European Commission is expected to fight that interpretation.
The minister pledged to use all legal means to battle the "appalling and irresponsible" European Court of Justice judgement, which he claimed stemmed from "a political decision not… a legal or expert decision". He declared to reporters: "Politics has raped European law and European values. This decision practically and openly legitimates the power of the EU above the member states… The real fight starts now."
Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico, meanwhile, issued a measured response to the judgement from the court in Luxembourg, saying his country's position on the quotas "does not change".
The verdict was welcomed by the Commission, the executive for the 28-nation European bloc."ECJ confirms relocation scheme valid. Time to work in unity and implement solidarity in full," tweeted EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.
The countries objecting to the refugee policy say it puts them at risk of Islamist terrorism and amounts to a threat to their homogenous societies. Poland, where a right-wing populist government has come into office since the 2015 deal, supported the court case against the Commission brought by Hungary and Slovakia.
The ECJ sided with the Commission in stating that the agreement "actually contributes to enabling Greece and Italy to deal with the impact of the 2015 migration crisis and is proportionate".
Worst migrant crisis since WWII
Since 2014, the EU has suffered its worst migrant crisis since WWII. Around 1.7mn migrants have tried to enter the EU to settle in member states. Anyone deemed to be suffering war or persecution - such as numerous people among the great multitudes of migrants fleeing conflicts in the Middle East - have an entitlement under European and international law to asylum. In 2015, European leaders agreed that 160,000 migrants with a plain need for protection should be shared between EU member states over two years.
Hungary, Slovakia, Czechia and Romania, however, voted against the quota plan, which was accepted by a majority vote.
Hungary was asked to take 1,294 asylum seekers, and Slovakia 802. Since then, Hungary, along with Poland, has refused to take even one asylum seeker, while Slovakia has accepted around a dozen. Czechia has decline to take any in the past year.
In anticipation of the verdict, Budapest has appealed to the Commission to, out of “solidarity” finance half the €880m cost of a fence being built on Hungary’s southern border. But the request was swiftly rejected by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker who claimed a lack of solidarity on Budapest’s part.
Hungary now fears that EU members will impose a permanent requirement on EU nations to accept quotas. The court verdict only refers to the temporary migrant emergency from September 2015 to September 2017.
Stepping up pressure on the renegade countries, the Commission announced in July that it will accelerate the next step in infringement procedures against Hungary, Czechia and Poland for their failure to engage with the quotas scheme.
Bratislava recently said it was disappointed to hear a damning legal opinion from an advisor to the ECJ over its challenge to the measure. PM Fico, unlike his Hungarian counterpart, has, however, largely abandoned his bitter anti-immigration stance since the March 2016 general election in Slovakia.
Hungary’s government has made opposing the EU quota scheme a centerpiece of its policy priorities ahead of the 2018 general election. Last October, Hungary held a referendum on the EUs planned refugee quotas, but it was ruled invalid due to the 45% participation rate.
Despite the invalid referendum, Hungarian PM Viktor Orban handed in an amendment proposal to legitimise the result of the referendum, which would have set in stone in the Constitution the rejection of migrants, but he failed to gather a two-thirds majority of MPs for it.