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Court of Justice of the European Union; European Union: Challenges to Mandatory Plan to Relocate Refugees

(Dec. 14, 2015) Several of the European Union (EU) Members States, including the Czech Republic, Hungary, Romania, and Slovakia have been very critical of the EU’s recently adopted plan to distribute 120,000 refugees among all the EU Member States.  On September 9, 2015, the European Commission had adopted a proposal for the resettlement plan in order to assist Italy and Greece in dealing with a tremendous influx of refugees from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and other conflict-torn areas.  Poland, which was also initially critical of the plan, eventually endorsed it.  Romania voted against it, but has not taken any further action.  (Council Decision (EU) 2015/1523 of 14 September 2015 Establishing Provisional Measures in the Area of International Protection for the Benefit of Italy and of Greece, 2015 O.J. (L 239) 146, EUR-LEX.)

Slovakia and Hungary, citing various concerns and indicating a clear preference for Christian, over Muslim, refugees from Syria, decided to resort to court proceedings against the EU plan.  On December 2, 2015, Slovakia initiated legal action before the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).  (Slovakia v Council, Case C-643/15, CURIA (last visited Dec. 9, 2015).)  The Prime Minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico, said he wanted the CJEU to declare the EU’s mandatory quota invalid, characterizing the plan as “nonsensical and technically impossible.”  (Slovakia Files Lawsuit Against EU’s Refugee Relocation, POLITICO (Dec. 2, 2105).)

On December 4, Hungary filed a similar lawsuit.  (Hungary v Council,  Case C-647/15, CURIA (last visited Dec. 9, 2015).)  Victor Orbán, the Prime Minister of Hungary, is of the opinion that migrants are a public threat, given the recent terrorist attacks in France.  (William Helbling, Hungary Challenges EU Refugee Distribution, PAPER CHASE (Dec. 4, 2015).)

At present Curia, the CJEU’s website, does not have further information on these recent cases.

Background on the Relocation Plan

The EU’s mandatory relocation plan is of temporary duration, lasting until September 2017, and will apply to refugees arriving in the territory of Italy or Greece from September 16, 2015, until September 17, 2017, and to those applicants who had arrived in those Member States after August 15, 2015.  (Council Decision (EU) 2015/1523, supra.)

The decision provides that 66,000 persons will be relocated from Italy and Greece (15,600 from Italy and 50,400 from Greece).  The remaining 54,000 persons will be relocated from Italy and Greece in the same proportions one year after the entry into force of the decision.  The relocation would be carried out pursuant to a mandatory distribution scheme based on the following formula: 40% on the size of the receiving jurisdiction’s population, 40% on its GDP, 10% on its past acceptance of asylum applications, and 10% on its unemployment rate.  Two EU Members, Denmark and the United Kingdom, are not participating in this decision; Ireland has expressed its intention to participate.  (Council Decision (EU) 2015/1523, supra; see also Theresa Papademetriou, European Union: Adoption of Decision to Relocate Asylum Seekers, GLOBAL LEGAL MONITOR (Sept. 25, 2015).)