A furious Hungarian government has vowed to continue fighting against the European Union’s refugee quotas for member states, after the bloc’s highest court rejected Budapest’s claim that the embattled programme was illegal.
Slovakia expressed disappointment but said it would accept the failure of a case that it brought jointly with Hungary, highlighting its reluctance to join Budapest and Warsaw in outright confrontation with Brussels.
"Politics has raped European law and values," Hungarian foreign minister Peter Szijjarto said after the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg ruled that the refugee relocation scheme "actually contributes to enabling Greece and Italy to deal with the impact of the 2015 migration crisis and is proportionate".
Mr Szijjarto called the decision "outrageous and irresponsible" and, echoing the view of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban, he said it "jeopardises the security and future of all of Europe".
“The real battle is only just beginning, and Hungary will be making use of all opportunities for legal redress to ensure that nobody can be relocated to Hungary against the wishes of the Hungarian people,” Mr Szijjarto said.
"In contravention of the founding treaties, the ruling asserts the power of the European Commission over EU member states. This is unacceptable, and we shall do everything possible to protect the country," he added.
Hungary’s government built security fences on its borders with Serbia and Croatia two years ago to stop refugees and migrants entering the country along the so-called “Balkan route” from Turkey to Germany.
Hungary asked Brussels last week to pay €400 million towards the cost of security at its frontiers, and Mr Szijjarto complained that “the European Commission is not funding border protection, but only the admission of illegal immigrants”.
Reaction to the ruling was considerably calmer in Slovakia, where prime minister Robert Fico said that, although his government's view of the refugee relocation scheme "has not changed at all" it would "fully respect the verdict".
Mr Fico has made clear in recent weeks that he wants Slovakia to be close to a “core” of major EU states, led by Germany and France, as they discuss plans for deeper future integration that are anathema to leaders in Budapest and Warsaw.
Slovakia has also confirmed that it will accept a few dozen refugees, in what the government calls fulfilment of an earlier commitment, not adherence to the quota plan.
Mr Orban has made the fight against immigration and what he calls EU meddling the key planks of his bid for re-election next year, and he has found allies in a Warsaw government that is clashing with Brussels over its push to exert more control over the judiciary, media and other areas of Polish life.
Polish prime minister Beata Szydlo said the court ruling would not have any effect on her government's refusal to accept refugees.
“This absolutely does not change the position of the Polish government with respect to migration policy,” she said.