- The Spanish Supreme Court declared the Spanish Government to have infringed EU Law when failed to fullfill its duties under the relocation scheme created by the Council
Last week’s Supreme Court Judgement declared the Government of Spain to have failed to relocate its quota of 19.449 refugees from Greece and Italy between 2015 and 2017 under two Council Decisions of May and September 2015. The Judgement partially admits and supports the suit filed by Stop Mare Mortum –a value-based civil society organization advocating for change on the European policies in order to create legal and safe pathways to Europe-. Stop mare Mortum asked the Supreme Court to declare that the Council Decisions contained clear and concrete obligations the Spanish Government had failed to respect. On this, both Stop and later the Supreme Court relied on a previous ECJ Judgement from 2017 that declared the quotes and obligations included in the Decisions as binding for all Member States and condemned Hungary and Czech Republic for the refuse to relocate any refugee from Greece or Italy.
The Supreme Court’ Judgement is important for at least three reasons:
First, it takes a step further from the ECJ previous Judgement by considering Spain bound by the obligations contained in the Council’s Decisions of 2015, and that proceedings could be brought against a Government not only for its refusal to relocate but also for its failure to reach the quotas assigned.
Second, it underlines the role of solidarity as a key piece to keep all Member States, and particularly countries at the EU external borders having to manage unexpected refugee flows, loyal to their obligations under the Geneva Convention, as well as the Dublin Regulation and the rest of EU Asylum Law. Civil society and the national Judiciary can act as watchdogs to keep national Governments loyal to their solidarity and burden sharing duties, even if they are reluctant to do so. In this sense, the Spanish Supreme Court Judgement is an stimulus to other NGOs and national Courts to force their Governments to
Third, the Supreme Court also admits that the Commission’s failure to bring infringement procedures against Member States’ for not having fulfilled their quotas was the responsibility of the Commission, did not impede the Court’s assessment of those obligations. On one hand, the Commission should take more clear and bold steps to force the Member States to do so, even more so after the Supreme’s Court Judgement. On the other hand, the Council and the European Parliament should be taking due note of the need to establish a permanent relocation system that strengthens the solidarity among Member States.