European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Picture: REUTERS/MAX ROSSI
European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker. Picture: REUTERS/MAX ROSSI

Brussels — The EU’s executive would decide on Tuesday to open legal cases against three eastern members for failing to take in asylum seekers to relieve states on the front lines of the bloc’s migration crisis, sources said.

The European Commission would agree at a regular meeting to send letters of formal notice to Poland and Hungary, three diplomats and EU officials said. Two others said the Czech Republic was also on the list.

This would mark a sharp escalation of the internal EU disputes over migration. Such letters are the first step in the infringement procedures the commission can open against EU states for failing to meet their legal obligations.

The eastern allies Poland and Hungary have vowed not to budge. Their opposition to accepting asylum-seekers, and criticism of Brussels for trying to enforce the scheme, are popular among their nationalist-minded, eurosceptic voters.

Speaking in Hungary’s parliament earlier on Monday, Prime Minister Viktor Orban vowed not to give in to "blackmail from Brussels".

A spokeswoman in Brussels 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 a German weekly last week.

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

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.

Poland’s Interior Minister Mariusz Blaszczak was quoted as saying on Monday by the state news agency PAP: "We believe that the relocation methods attract more waves of immigration to Europe, they are ineffective."

The Czech Republic had initially taken in 12 people from their assigned quota of 2,691, but said earlier in June it would take no more in.

A series of deadly Islamist attacks in western Europe since late 2015 has put the spotlight on public security and the eastern countries said hosting people from the mainly Muslim Middle East and North Africa increased risks to safety.

The bloc has fought two years of these bitter migration battles but the two southern states, backed by rich countries such as Germany and Sweden that are the final destinations for many refugees and migrants arriving in the EU, have failed to force Warsaw and Budapest to change their policies.


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