Merkel keeps pressure on Hungary's Orban over refugee quotas

Published 13.09.2017 00:40

German Chancellor Angela Merkel says it is unacceptable for Hungary to ignore a ruling by the European Union's top court that it must accept refugees under an EU-wide plan. But she did not specify any consequences.

Merkel told yesterday's edition of the daily Berliner Zeitung: "That one government says it isn't interested in a verdict by the European Court of Justice cannot be accepted."

Asked whether that means Hungary must leave the EU, she replied: "It means that a very fundamental European question is affected, because for me Europe is a place governed by laws." Merkel said an EU summit in October must discuss the issue.

The European Union should cut funds to Hungary if the nationalist-conservative government continues to refuse to partake in the bloc's refugee burden-sharing scheme, German Justice Minister Heiko Maas told DPA news agency last Friday. "We need to increase pressure on countries that believe they can flout the law. When the law is violated, there must be a sanction," he said.

Hungary's prime minister declared a "political fight" over a ruling by the EU's highest court rejecting the country's objections to a European-wide migration relocation scheme. "Now instead of a legal fight, we have to fight a political fight," Viktor Orban told state radio.

"Hungary is a European Union member, so the bloc's treaties must be respected and the court's rulings must be acknowledged," the populist leader said in a radio interview. "But this is not a reason to change an immigration policy that rejects migrants," Orban said.

He also accused the EU of seeking to "transform Europe's traditional population and culture into a continent with a mixed population and a mixed culture". "We are not an immigrant country and Hungary does not want to be an immigrant country," Hungarian PM insisted.

The European Court of Justice last Wednesday dismissed legal action brought by Slovakia and Hungary against EU plans to relocate thousands of asylum-seekers across all member states.

In response to the migration crisis in 2015, the EU adopted a decision to distribute asylum seekers who arrived in Italy and Greece, which were dealing with a massive inflow of migrants.

Since compulsory quotas were introduced in September 2015, Hungary has not accepted a single asylum seeker, while nearly 28,000 people have been relocated under the scheme, far below the 160,000 target.

Hungary and Slovakia had asked the court to annul the scheme, claiming that "adoption of the decision was vitiated by errors of a procedural nature or arising from the choice of an inappropriate legal basis." The countries claimed the relocation scheme was non-binding as they had voted against the deal, together with the Czech Republic and Romania. In July, the EU Commission threatened the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland with lawsuits for not implementing the relocation measures.

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