What evolution of asylum policies in European countries since 2015?
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Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic broke European law by refusing to receive asylum seekers
The three Central European countries only received twelve people as part of the European relocation programme between 2015 and 2017, a course of action which has been judged to be contrary to European Union (EU) law by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).
In order to relieve Italy and Greece, which were among the main countries confronted with the arrival of asylum seekers, the EU had adopted a temporary relocation mechanism in September 2015. This scheme made provision for the distribution of 120,000 asylum seekers between countries, using a compulsory quota logic, but only 12,706 people from Italy and 21,199 from Greece were actually relocated. Some countries, which had been against the mechanism, decided not to take part in it – Poland had given a commitment to take about a hundred people but in the end failed to receive any at all, as did Hungary, which felt that the “maintaining of public order” and the “safeguarding of domestic security” took priority at a time when Western Europe was suffering terrorist attacks. As for the Czech Republic, it had agreed to the arrival of fifty people in May 2016, but in the end took only twelve, claiming that the system was “inefficient”.
In 2017, at the end of the relocation programme, the European Commission took the matter to the CJEU filing proceedings for a failure to fulfil obligations, a procedure under European law which can be carried out if a Member State fails to meet one of its obligations under EU law. In its decision, the CJEU thus deems that “the three States [..] failed to fulfil their obligations under European Union law” and that they “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”.
However, representatives of the countries in question believed that this decision would have no repercussions. According to the Hungarian Justice Minister, Judit Varga, “the quota policy has long since lapsed, [Hungary has] no obligation to take asylum seekers”. As for the Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis, he underlined the fact that they could not be convicted because the programme had been closed for almost three years, although the Court rejected this argument. However, Warsaw, Prague and Budapest may still face financial penalties if the European Commission, the institution responsible for enforcing EU law, should continue with the proceedings before the CJEU.
This text includes and updates the article published in French in “Veille Europe” of 1-15 April 2020.