27th September 2015

EU interior ministers approve asylum-seekers resettlement

At an extraordinary meeting on 22 September, one day ahead of the extraordinary meeting of EU leaders on the same issue, interior ministers of the EU reached a conclusion on asylum-seekers resettlement quotas. The approval of the so-called quotas passed by vote. Although the Council usually tries to reach a consensus, even if it means painful compromises, resort to voting is becoming more often. Voting by qualified majority has become the norm in EU policies and extraordinary measures to tackle migration challenges, included in the EU Treaties since the Nice treaty of 2003, are also adopted by this procedure. From a legal perspective, therefore, it is no surprise that the widely discussed quotas to resettle 120 000 asylum seekers already in the EU, proposed by Jean-Claude Juncker several weeks before, have been approved even with fierce opposition by the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary. Poland, previously also in opposition, switched sides and voted for the measure, The remaining three V4 countries were joined by Romania. Finland abstained from the vote.

The exact wording of the approved measure was not known to the public immediately after the vote. The original proposal was about resettlement of some 120 000 asylum seekers from Syria, Iraq and Eritrea, at the time in Italy, Greece and Hungary. Together with the previously approved voluntary quotas, the EU now has mechanism to relocate 160 000 persons inside the EU.

Countries opposing the measure in general accepted their defeat, including the Czech Republic. Slovak PM, however, indicated that this was an outrage and that Slovakia would sue the Commission before the EU court. Although such possibility exists in theory, its usefulness in this case can be judged as doubtful. Formally, the procedure was fully compliant with the Treaties and different political opinion cannot be sued.

The Commission welcomed the outcome and recalled that quotas are just part of the solution. The next Justice and Home Affairs Council will, among others, discuss a more permanent reform of the defunct Dublin system to handle asylum-seekers.

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Members of the American Chamber of Commerce in the Czech Republic