EU to launch new probe against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland

The European Commission will open legal cases against the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland on Tuesday for failing to take in asylum-seekers to relieve states on the front lines of the bloc’s migration crisis, Reuters cited diplomats as saying.

The EU executive would agree at a regular meeting on Tuesday to send so-called letters of formal notice to Poland and Hungary, three diplomats and EU officials told Reuters. Two others said the Czech Republic was also on the list.

A Commission spokeswoman did not confirm or deny the executive would go ahead with the legal cases, but referred to an interview that Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker gave to the German weekly Der Spiegel last week.

“Those that do not take part have to assume that they will be faced with infringement procedures,” he was quoted as saying.

Reuters noted that this would mark a sharp escalation of a dispute between Brussels and these states, reminding that such letters are the first step in the so-called infringement procedures the EC can open against EU states for failing to meet their legal obligations.

Poland and Hungary have refused to take in a single person under a plan agreed in 2015 to relocate 160,000 asylum-seekers from Italy and Greece, which had been overwhelmed by mass influx of people from the Middle East and Africa. By September 2017, Hungary would have to accept 1,291 asylum-seekers from Greece and Italy.

Budapest, just like Bratislava, has appealed at the European Court of Justice, contesting the legality of the EU decision. Legal procedures are still ongoing.

The scheme has been a failure and fewer than 21,000 people have been moved so far. But only Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic have not pledged to accept migrants.

That allows the Commission to single them out on that formal basis, rather than open legal cases against just about every EU state for failing to take in the whole of their assigned quota, Reuters added.

In his interview, Juncker said: “The decision hasn’t been made yet, but I will say this: I am for it – not to make a threat, but to make clear that decisions that have been made are applicable law … At issue here is European solidarity, which cannot be a one-way street.