EU refers three member states to the European Court of Justice

Brussels – The European Commission has taken the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to court for failing to take in refugees under an EU scheme to help overburdened member states cope with an influx of people at the height of the migration crisis.

The refugee relocation scheme was introduced in 2015 to relieve the burden on Greece and Italy, where migrants arrived in huge numbers, many of them fleeing the war in Syria. Prague, Budapest and Warsaw opposed the scheme from the start.

Hungary and Poland have taken no asylum seekers, while the Czech Republic has accepted 12 relocations from Greece. Under the EU scheme, they were supposed to take in more than 10,000 refugees between them.

Hefty fines can be imposed

The three countries “remain in breach of their legal obligations” and have given “no indication” that they will contribute to the relocation scheme, the European Union’s executive said Thursday.

“This is why the commission has decided to move to the next stage of the infringement procedure and refer the three member states to the Court of Justice of the EU.”

If no action is taken, the EU’s top court can impose hefty fines on countries that fail to abide by the bloc’s regulations. It ruled in September that the relocation scheme is valid under EU law, after Hungary and Slovakia challenged it, with Poland’s support.

There are still a “few thousand” refugees awaiting relocation in Greece and Italy, European Vice President Frans Timmermans said.

Around 31,500 people have been relocated from Greece and Italy to other EU member states, the commission said in its monthly report.

Meanwhile, Timmermans called on member states to press ahead with reforms to Europe’s migration policy, noting that the matter would remain pressing for at least a generation.

EU leaders are due to discuss migration at a summit next week, but the issue is sensitive amid a populist backlash to the recent surge in arrivals.