BRATISLAVA • Slovakia filed a lawsuit at the European Court of Justice yesterday against an EU decision to redistribute 120,000 asylum seekers among member countries, the first legal challenge to a measure that has divided the bloc.
So far this year, nearly 890,000 migrants and refugees have reached European shores, about four times the total in 2014, according to UN data. The question of how to cope with the mass inflows have caused a rift between European Union governments.
Germany and France have thrown their weight behind a quota system to redistribute migrants across EU members, but some of the bloc's smaller, less wealthy and more socially conservative countries strongly reject the idea.
Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Romania opposed mandatory quotas, but were outvoted at a meeting of EU interior ministers in September.
"We demand that the court rules the decision on imposing mandatory quotas is invalid," Prime Minister Robert Fico said. "I consider the quotas to be nonsensical and technically impossible... the quotas have become a fiasco."
Slovakia, which is due take in 802 migrants under the scheme, argues it has no power to keep migrants in if they wish to move on to Germany and other richer EU member states.
The Czechs and Romanians have said they will not sue. But Poland's new government has overturned the previous centre-right, pro-EU Cabinet's pledge to take in thousands of refugees, saying the terrorist attacks in Paris showed the need to review the quota system.
Hungary is also planning to challenge the quotas. Prime Minister Viktor Orban yesterday said the EU and Turkey could announce a behind-the-scenes agreement within days to resettle 400,000 to 500,000 Syrian refugees directly from Turkey to the EU.
Mr Orban said he expected intense pressure from Europe to accept some of these refugees.
"They will portend that once the agreement is made by certain parties - and to avoid diplomatic complications I will not tell you which country Berlin is in - we should not only bring these people to Europe but divide them amongst ourselves, as an obligation.
"The issue (of resettlement) will be a hot potato... because even though this could be kept in a semi- secret state... someone somewhere - I think in Berlin this week - will announce that [400,000 to 500,000] Syrian refugees could be brought straight from Turkey to the EU," he said. "This nasty surprise still awaits Europeans."