Author: NIKOLAJ NIELSEN
Non-complying member states have until June to start accepting asylum seekers from Greece and Italy or face possible sanctions and infringements.
EU commissioner for migration Dimitris Avramopoulos told reporters on Tuesday (16 May) in Strasbourg that a handful of member states have yet to take in any pre-screened and vetted asylum seekers under a legally-binding policy agreed almost two years ago.
«If no action is taken by them before the next report in June, the Commission will not hestitate to make use of its power under the Treaties and to open infringement procedures,» he said.
Avramopoulos said it was question of «political and institutional credibility for the European Union» to take action if nothing is done.
His comments were broadly directed towards Austria, Hungary and Poland, all of which are yet to accept any relocations.
It was also geared towards EU states like the Czech Republic, which have failed to pledge any additional spaces for asylum seekers for a year.
All of them have protested against the scheme, with both Hungary and Slovakia filing legal challenges against the mandatory quotas at the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg.
Slovak prime minister Robert Fico had last year described the quota system as «politically dead».
While Austria has reluctantly agreed to take in 50 migrants from Italy, the overall figures remain far below the initial projections.
When the scheme first launched – following decisions in September 2015 – the figures bouncing around had eventually added up to a proposed number of 160,000 to be relocated.
Those numbers have since been revised to just under 100,000 and plummeted even further, given that so few are eligible under the two-year scheme.
With so few people eligible, the European Commission is now claiming that the scheme could become a success noting what it now describes «as a positive trend».
But the «positive trend» has so far only resulted in a grand total of 18,400 relocations.
If EU member states accept those who are currently eligible under the scheme in Greece and Italy, the figure is likely to almost double.
Administrative bottlenecks and other restrictions have further delayed the process. Bulgaria won’t accept Eritreans, whereas Slovakia will only admit single women with children and people with travel documents. Additional security screenings mean neither Estonia and Ireland have accepted anyone from Italy.
The commission is also asking other EU states such as Belgium, Croatia, France, Germany, Romania, Slovakia and Spain to increase their pledges.
«There is a month ahead of us and within this month all member states will take up their responsibilities,» Avramopoulos insisted.