EU nations agreed in September 2015 to relocate 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy over two years, but only around 27,700 people have been moved so far. Hungary and Slovakia were seeking to have the plan annulled.
BUDAPEST, Hungary — The European Union’s top court on Wednesday rejected legal action by Hungary and Slovakia seeking to avoid accepting refugees under an EU-wide plan, a decision seen as a victory for those countries bearing the greatest burden of Europe’s migrant influx.
In a long-awaited test case, the European Court of Justice said it had “dismissed in its entirety the actions brought by Slovakia and Hungary.”
Hungary branded the ruling “outrageous and irresponsible,” while Slovakia said it would accept the verdict even if it still opposes legally-binding EU refugee quotas.
Human rights group Amnesty International welcomed the ruling, saying Hungary and Slovakia had been trying to turn their countries into “refugee-free zones.”
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Greece and Italy have been on the front line of the torrent of migrants and refugees flooding into Europe in the last few years, as hundreds of thousands of people from war zones like Syria and Iraq or job-seekers mostly from Africa have arrived on their shores.
EU nations agreed in September 2015 to relocate 160,000 refugees from Greece and Italy over two years, but only around 27,700 people have been moved so far, according to figures released Wednesday. Hungary and Slovakia were seeking to have the plan annulled.
Hungary and Poland have refused to take part altogether, while Slovakia has accepted only a handful of refugees from Greece.
The refugee sharing plan was adopted by a “qualified majority” EU vote — around two thirds of the bloc’s members — and the court held that this was appropriate, saying the EU “was not required to act unanimously” on this decision.
The court noted the small number of relocations so far is due to factors that the EU could not have foreseen, including “the lack of cooperation on the part of certain member states.”
Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto called the court ruling “outrageous and irresponsible.”
“The decision puts at risk the security of all of Europe and the future of all of Europe as well,” Szijjarto said, calling the ruling “contrary to the interests of the European nations, including Hungary.”
Szijjarto said Hungary…