“By refusing to comply with the temporary mechanism for the relocation of applicants for international protection, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have failed to fulfil their obligations under European Union law,” the Court of Justice of the European Union said in a ruling.
It added: “Those Member States can rely neither on their responsibilities concerning the maintenance of law and order and the safeguarding of internal security, nor on the alleged malfunctioning of the relocation mechanism to avoid implementing that mechanism.”
The top EU court announced its ruling after an adviser to the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice of the European Union said in October that Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic defied EU law “by refusing to comply with the provisional and time-limited mechanism for the mandatory relocation of applicants for international protection.”
A spokesman for the Polish government responded at the time that Poland had acted to ensure security for its citizens when it refused to accept any refugees as part of an EU programme to relocate migrants fleeing the war-torn Middle East and Africa.
The programme was a response to the migration crisis that hit Europe in the summer of 2015, and aimed to reduce the strain on refugee camps in Italy and Greece.
In September 2015, EU leaders decided that member states should accept a quota of migrants over two years to alleviate the pressure on Greece and Italy. EU leaders agreed to relocate a total of about 160,000 migrants. Poland was allocated some 7,000.
But the conservative Law and Justice (PiS) government in Warsaw said that migrants posed a security threat.
Towards the end of 2017, the European Commission brought lawsuits against Poland as well as the Czech Republic and Hungary, arguing that their refusal to accept refugees was a breach of EU law.
Security of Polish citizens comes first: gov't spokesman
Polish government spokesman Piotr Müller said in October last year that Warsaw’s decision was justified under the treaty governing the way the EU works.
He said: "The most important goal of government policy is to ensure security for our citizens. Our actions were dictated by the interests of Polish citizens and defending [the country] against uncontrolled migration.”
Müller added that thanks to the “tough attitude” of Poland and the Visegrad Group, a regional cooperation platform, “the entire European Union changed its approach to migration policy and moved away from the mandatory relocation of refugees."
EU changing tack on migration: Polish FM
Polish Foreign Minister Jacek Czaputowicz told reporters last month that the European Union was changing its policy on migration and refugees in favour of an approach urged by Poland and Hungary.
"This approach, championed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and based on securing and protecting borders and stopping waves of illegal migration, has prevailed,” Czaputowicz said.
He was speaking after EU foreign ministers meeting in Zagreb, Croatia, vowed to support the Greek government in securing the community's external border against an influx of refugees.
Source: IAR, curia.europa.eu