Published: Fri, December 08, 2017
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

European Union takes Hungary to top court over crackdown 'aimed at George Soros'

European Union takes Hungary to top court over crackdown 'aimed at George Soros'

The European Commission took the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland to the European Court of Justice Thursday over their failure to accept the required quotas for refugees.

The move shows the determination in Brussels to enforce the controversial scheme launched at the height of the migrant crisis in 2015 to share 160,000 refugees around the bloc and ease the burden on Greece and Italy.

The refugee relocation plan was adopted in a legally binding vote by a majority of European Union member states, but not the three refusing to take part.

Newly elected premier Andrej Babiš said it was wrong to force migrants on unwilling nations, while his spokesman denounced the quota system as "interfer [ence] in the Czech Republic's internal affairs".

The dispute has highlighted the deep divisions among Europeans over how best to handle the migrant wave, which saw more than one million people enter Europe in 2015, mostly from Turkey to the Greek islands and across the Mediterranean to Italy.

Poland's rightwing government is also in the EU's legal crosshairs.

This morning on emerging judicial precedent, said Deputy head of the European Commission Frans Timmerman.

"Going to court is always the instrument of last resort".

Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski also pointed to the fact Poland issued more than a million work permits past year alone for migrants from the country's conflict-stricken neighbour Ukraine.

Waszczykowski said that Poland's position towards European Union's (EU) decision on refugee relocation remains clear, that is unchanged for two years when EU implemented its refugee policy.

Referral to the CJEU is the third step in the infringement procedure, coming the same day as the EC also announced it had referred Hungary to the court in separate infringement proceedings related to amendments to the country's Higher Education Law and legislation on foreign-funded NGOs.

On the Hungarian asylum law, a response from Budapest to a letter from the Commission was "found to be unsatisfactory as it failed to address the majority of the concerns", the Commission said in a statement.

At the core of both laws are the Hungarian government's efforts to curtail the influence of Hungarian-American financier George Soros in Hungary.

In June, Hungary approved a law aimed at forcing civil society groups receiving more than €24,000 annually in overseas funding to register as a "foreign-supported organisation", or face closure.

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