Three countries should have received asylum seekers
Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic refused to comply with EU law in the refugee crisis following the judgment of the European Court of Justice. Photo: Socrates Baltagiannis / TEH (Image: TEH) (Photo: Socrates Baltagiannis / TEH)

Luxembourg – Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have suffered a heavy defeat at the European Court of Justice in the long dispute over the distribution of asylum seekers.

The three Central European countries were not allowed to refuse to accept Italy and Greece from asylum seekers during the refugee crisis following a judgment by the Luxembourg judges on Thursday. This would have violated EU law (Cases C-715/17, C-718/17, and C-719/17).


Italy and Greece had a particularly hard time in rushing asylum seekers in 2015. That is why the EU countries decided in two majority decisions to redistribute up to 160,000 asylum seekers from the two countries. However, Hungary, Poland, and the Czech Republic persistently refused to implement the decisions – although the ECJ later confirmed their legality.


Hungary and Poland did not accept a single asylum seeker as part of the decisions, the Czech Republic twelve. The EU Commission, therefore, sued the three countries. The programs have now ended and, according to the EU Commission, only 35,000 people have actually been resettled. However, the dispute over migration policy in the EU continues unabated.


Poland and Hungary had argued that the resettlement endangered national security and public order. The top EU judges now made it clear that the two countries were not allowed to refuse to accept all asylum seekers on this basis. Instead, each case should have been examined individually.

The CJEU also contradicted the Czech argument that the mechanism did not work. However, if a country unilaterally avoided responsibility, the goal of solidarity and the binding nature of the decisions would be undermined. The decisions were valid until the end for the Czech Republic – regardless of what other help Prague provided for Greece and Italy.


None of the three countries attach any importance to the judgment. The Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis told the CTK agency: “We have lost this legal argument, but it is not important.” The decisive factor is that “we will not accept any migrants and that the quota project has ended in the meantime – mainly thanks to us.”

From the point of view of the Polish and Hungarian governments, the judgment has no consequences. The EU decisions taken in 2015 have expired, so their implementation is no longer possible, said Polish government spokesman Piotr Muller of the PAP news agency. Hungary’s Justice Minister Judit Varga said, according to the MTI news agency: “The saying has no further consequences.” There is no obligation for Hungary to accept asylum seekers.


EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, on the other hand, spoke of an important judgment. Although it refers to the past, it gives orientation for the future. “The court is very clear on the responsibility of the Member States.” She did not comment on the further action of the EU authority.

Otherwise, the ruling received a lot of approval across party borders – except the AfD. Green MEP Erik Marquardt said: “It is a good thing that the European Court of Justice is making it clear that the refusal of European solidarity violates EU rules.” Cornelia Ernst (left) spoke of a “clear and correct signal in the direction of the far-right governments in Poland and Hungary”. And MEP Lena Dupont from the CDU said: “The judgment that refers to the situation in 2015 is logical and makes it clear that European solidarity is fundamentally not a one-way street.”

AfD politician Beatrix von Storch, on the other hand, emphasized that the decision shows that national sovereignty in the EU must be strengthened.


It has been clear for years that the EU’s asylum and migration policy needs to be reformed. And there has been little progress for years. States like Greece and Italy on the southern external borders want to change the so-called Dublin rules. According to this, that state is usually responsible for an asylum application, the ground of which the person seeking protection first entered Europe.

However, countries such as Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic, or Austria strictly reject the mandatory redistribution of asylum seekers. After Easter, the EU Commission plans to present a new “migration pact”. A mandatory quota for all countries should no longer play a role there – also because of the relentless stance of the Central Europeans. Instead, it will probably be a matter of allowing other forms of solidarity, such as payments of money or the delivery of relief goods.


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