The European Union has won a decisive legal battle against a handful of eastern European member nations that rejected a quota scheme compelling the countries to admit tens of thousands of refugees, a ruling that has sparked outrage from those countries’ leaders.
Hungary and Slovakia filed a motion against a system created by EU leaders two years ago that would relieve Greece and Italy of the crushing economic impact brought on by the droves of need asylum seekers by distributing them among other countries across Europe.
On Wednesday, the European Court of Justice – the top court in the EU – ended the challenge, effectively ordering Hungary and Slovakia to begin admitting their share of migrants or face stern consequences.
“The court dismisses the actions brought by Slovakia and Hungary against the provisional mechanism for the mandatory relocation of asylum seekers,” the court said in its ruling. “That mechanism actually contributes to enabling Greece and Italy to deal with the impact of the 2015 migration crisis and is proportionate.”
While the migrant crisis reached its peak in 2015, Europe is still struggling to deal with hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers who have fled the Middle East and North Africa in the wake of crushing poverty and civil war. In all, the quota scheme seeks to disperse 160,000 asylum seekers throughout eastern Europe.
The European Commission celebrated the ruling and vowed to work swiftly to even out the migrant load across all member nations, but politicians in Hungary and Slovakia did not hesitate to voice their outrage.
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto slammed the verdict as “irresponsible,” echoing the opinion of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who blasted mass migration as the “Trojan Horse of terrorism.”
The Czech Republic, Romania, and Poland also voted against the quota scheme, with the latter nation having initially supported it before a right-wing government came into power and offered support to Hungary during the court proceedings. Brussels has long insisted that all member states are legally bound to respect the quota scheme even if they voted against it.