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6 Sep, 2017 19:31

‘Politics raped European values’: Hungary & Slovakia slam EU court for refusing quota demands

‘Politics raped European values’: Hungary & Slovakia slam EU court for refusing quota demands

The European Court of Justice has ruled that the current system of quotas for resettling refugees is proportionate, amid protests by east European states that cite culture clashes and terrorist attacks.

On Wednesday, the ECJ said that it had "dismissed in its entirety the actions brought by Slovakia and Hungary," which aimed to have the quota system annulled.

The ruling follows an EU decision made in 2015 to rehouse some 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy over a period of two years, only around 27,700 of whom have been settled so far. Hungary and Poland have refused to take part, while Slovakia has only taken in a small number from Greece. The low level of relocations, the ECJ noted, was partly due to "the lack of cooperation on the part of certain member states."

“It is time to be united and show full solidarity. The door remains, it is still open, and we should convince all member states to fulfill their commitments,” EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos said.

“But we should be clear that member states have to show solidarity now because it is now that some member states need help.

If the member states do not change their approach in the coming weeks, we should then consider [taking] the last step in the infringement procedure: to refer Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic to the European Court of Justice.”

Commenting on the ruling, Germany Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said it was a positive step that fully adhered to European values and law. The decision is also likely to be welcomed by other countries such as Greece and Sweden, where the sheer volume of new arrivals threatens to overwhelm the system.

However, Gabriel’s Hungarian counterpart, Peter Szijjarto, took the opposite view, declaring the ECJ’s ruling unacceptable.

"The Hungarian government considers today's decision by the European court to be appalling and irresponsible," Szijjarto said at a news conference. "This decision jeopardizes the security and future of all of Europe."

"Politics has raped European law and values," he added.

Human rights groups have criticized Hungary and Poland for their reluctance to take in any refugees. The government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has taken the stance that Hungary has the right to refuse entry to the primarily Muslim asylum seekers and refugees, claiming they threaten the country’s cultural identity. In September 2015, a razor-wire fence was constructed along the border with Serbia and Croatia, blocking migrants trying to reach the EU via the Balkans.

"The lesson of the verdict is that helping people fleeing war and terror is truly a common responsibility for Europe," the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, which provides free legal assistance to asylum seekers, said in a statement quoted by AP. "Hungary needs to respect the decision of the EU court."

Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo also rejected the ECJ’s ruling, saying that Poland will hold firm to its position on asylum seekers and refugees.

“I was convinced that such a decision would be made [by the court], but this absolutely does not change the stance of the Polish government with respect to migration policy,” Szydlo told reporters at a business conference.

Poland initially accepted a quota of several thousand refugees, but quickly changed its mind after the 2016 terrorist attacks in Brussels, citing security concerns.

But Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said he accepted the court’s decision.

"We fully respect the verdict of the European Court of Justice," Fico told reporters, but added that his government still views the system of quotas imposed by Brussels negatively.

"We will continue to work on having solidarity expressed in different ways other than forcing migrants [on Slovakia] from other countries that don't want to be here anyway."

Over the past few years Europe has been faced with millions of refugees and asylum seekers escaping war zones and hardship from across Africa and the Middle East. While the flow of Syrian refugees has slowed somewhat since a deal was signed with Turkey, the question remains of what to do with the ones that have already arrived.