International Law in Brief
CJEU Rules against Poland, Hungary, and Czech Republic in Refugee Relocation Case
By: Emma Schoenberger | April 3, 2020 - 1:59pm
In 2015, in response to the refugee crisis in Europe, the European Union (EU) Council passed a number of decisions, which required the relocation of a specific number of refugees from Greece and Italy to the other EU member states. The EU Commission brought a case to the Court of Justice of the European Union against Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic for failing to relocate the required number of people; on April 2, 2020, in its judgment Commission v. Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic, the Court ruled in favor of the Commission. According to a press release from the Court, member states argued that the Commission could not take action because they had no way of remedying their infringement after the deadline for relocation passed. The Court said this wasn’t the case; the Commission could seek an action of infringement when the relevant act of EU law being infringed upon had expired and was therefore no longer applicable. The Court also argued that holding these member states responsible was important for “establishing the basis of a responsibility that a Member State can incur, as a result of its default.” Poland and Hungary also cited Article 72 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the EU, arguing that they did not have to act according to the relocation decisions if doing so would undermine their states’ law and order and security. The Court acknowledged that those two factors should be accounted for throughout the relocation process, but that the states would have to rely on specific cases and evidence to justify non-compliance under Article 72, as opposed to “peremptorily invoking . . . [it] for the sole purposes of general prevention.” Lastly, the Court responded to the Czech Republic’s plea regarding “the malfunctioning of the relocation mechanism” as reason for not acting in accordance. The Court said, “if the objective of solidarity . . . and the binding nature of those acts was not to be undermined,” it “was not permissible . . . for a Member State to be able to rely on its unilateral assessment of the alleged lack of effectiveness . . . of the relocation mechanism . . . to avoid any obligation to relocate people.”
The Court also published several other judgments on April 2, including Caisse pour l'avenir des enfants v. FV and GW and Ruska Federacija (on the issues of family allowances to children of spouses of frontier workers and extraditing a national of a EFTA and EEA member state, respectively).