LUXEMBOURG: The EU’s top court on Wednesday threw out a challenge from Hungary and Slovakia against a quota scheme by Brussels to force member states to admit thousands of asylum seekers.
The European Union approved the controversial scheme two years ago as it grappled with Europe’s worst migrant crisis since World War II, but Hungary and Slovakia went to court to block the plan, backed by other eastern member states.
In its ruling, the European Court of Justice said: “The court dismisses the actions brought by Slovakia and Hungary against the provisional mechanism for the mandatory relocation of asylum seekers.”
The verdict by the court in Luxembourg was welcomed by the European Commission, the executive of the 28-nation bloc.
“ECJ confirms relocation scheme valid. Time to work in unity and implement solidarity in full,” said EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos.
The top court upheld the right of EU institutions to “respond effectively and swiftly to an emergency situation characterized by a sudden inflow of displaced persons”.
It also held that the European Council, the body gathering the member states, “was not required to act unanimously when it adopted the contested decision.”
It was referring to the decision by a majority of EU member states in Brussels in September 2015 to relocate 120,000 Syrian and other asylum seekers from overstretched Greece and Italy to most of the other 28 EU member states.
It is part of a scheme to relocate a total of 160,000 asylum seekers.
Officials in Brussels have argued that the scheme is legally binding on member states, including those that voted against the quotas like Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Romania.
Poland initially supported the plan but has come out strongly opposed since a right-wing government came to power.
The court statement said Poland intervened in support of Hungary during the proceedings, while the executive European Commission, along with Greece, Italy, Germany, Sweden and several other member states, backed the relocation plan.
Eastern European member states opposed the plan, saying they were not equipped to integrate people from mainly Muslim countries.
Brussels launched the relocation scheme in September 2015, the year more than one million migrants arrived in Europe by sea.