Displaying a similar attitude as their Hungarian and Polish political colleagues, leading Czech political figures consider Thursday’s EU Court of Justice verdict regarding migrant quotas irrelevant.
The court concluded that the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary failed to fulfill their obligations under EU law after refusing to accept a portion of the 160,000 migrants the EU was looking to distribute among member states following the 2015 migrant crisis.
Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babiš considers it essential that the Czech Republic will not be obliged to accept any asylum seekers in the EU, and that the quota system has expired in the meantime. According to him, it is irrelevant that the three Visegrad countries did not win the court case.
“We lost the dispute, but that is not important. What is important is that we do not have to pay something. Usually, the court claims some compensation for the proceedings,” said Babiš.
“The point is that we will not accept any migrants and that the quotas have expired in the meantime, especially thanks to us,” added the prime minister.
Also, according to Interior Minister Jan Hamáček, the ECJ’s ruling is not significant since the situation has changed.
“The court’s decision responds to events that happened a few years ago. I’m taking the verdict into account but without any further consequences,” Hamáček said.
According to him, the situation has changed, and many European states and institutions, which previously considered quotas as a solution, withdrew from them.
The trial was just symbolic, an attempt for the EU to ‘save face’
Martin Smolek, the Czech government representative for the EU Court of Justice, explained that the trial was primarily symbolic and the verdict should not have any consequences for the Czech Republic.
Marian Jurečka, leader of the People’s Party (KDU-ČSL), stressed that the court did not take into account other measures the Czech Republic contributed to help solve the migration crisis. For example, the country was active supporting refugee camps and offered military aid in the fight against ISIS.
“The Czech Republic definitely tried show solidarity and help resolve the situation, while not endangering its own security,” Jurečka added.
Alexandr Vondra, vice chairman of the opposition Civic Democrats (ODS), also commented on the symbolism of the ECJ’s verdict and the absurdity of quotas.
“We have always argued that the quota system for redistributing migrants is wrong. The EU also withdrew from it, which is something the ECJ’s rulings cannot change. With the verdict, the EU just wants to save face, but I see no way how to put the ruling into practice,” Vondra said.
According to the ECJ, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland could not invoke the protection of their internal security as a legal defense for refusing asylum seekers. The court also rejected the argument that the system introduced in 2015 was allegedly non-functional.
However, lawyers from the three central European countries argue that the verdict will be of no practical significance, as the system of refugee redistribution based on mandatory quotas has already ended. Therefore, the judgment cannot demand a financial remedy as a form of punishment.
Against the will of some Central and Eastern European countries, the EU introduced migration quotas in 2015 in an attempt to relieve the burden on Greece and Italy, which saw tens of thousands of migrants entering their territory.
In particular, the Czech Republic, Poland, and Hungary refused to join the system, claiming that decision-making on matters related to the internal security of states should be left to nation states in accordance with EU treaties.