A battle is brewing between East and West over refugees
In total countries signed up to the EU’s flagship migrant quota system, which does not include Britain, have relocated a miserly 20,283 people in the space of two years.
The figure is well short of the bloc’s target that 160,000 genuine refugees should be distributed and settled across the bloc by September this year and demonstrates the immense political opposition to the programme.
In truth the situation would be much worse had not the bloc’s two biggest states, France and Germany, agreed to take in 9,000 people – half the total number relocated.
Six countries have effectively snubbed scheme altogether by refusing to take in any migrants, whilst others have deliberately stalled so they have to accept only a minimal number before its legal mandate expires.
Denmark and Austria have not complied by refusing to take a single refugee whilst Hungary, Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic are all publicly fighting the policy.
Alongside Germany and France it is the Netherlands, the Scandinavian countries and Switzerland which have relocated the most, with the Finnish, Norwegians and Swiss on track to fulfil their quotas.
The statistics paint a gloomy picture for eurocrats
Eastern Europe has taken in just 1,600 refugees
Figures released by the EU Commission show that just tiny Malta has lived up to the commitments made in 2015, with most other states shunning their responsibilities.
The quota scheme – technically known as the relocation mechanism – was set up at the height of the migrant crisis to help Greece and Italy which were struggling with huge numbers of new arrivals.
Eurocrats set the number of asylum seekers each EU member state was set to take by factoring in the size of a country’s population, its GDP, the number of refugees already living there and the unemployment rate.
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But the policy, which was passed by a Qualified Majority Vote in the EU Council amid fierce opposition from Eastern European members, has been hit by setback after setback.
Indeed, since its inception the whole of Eastern Europe has taken in just 1,629 refugees out of a total allocation of 19,567 – a pathetic take up rate of 8.3 per cent.
Two member states – Hungary and Slovakia – have taken the EU Commission to court over the scheme saying that it does not have the right to intervene so extensively in their sovereign affairs.
And today the Czech Republic, a long-time critic of the programme, announced it was pulling out altogether citing “dysfunctional” organisation in Brussels and a possible terror threat.
Interior Minister Milan Chovanec said: “Due to the aggravated security situation and the dysfunctionality of the whole system, the government approved… a proposal to halt this system for the Czech Republic.
"That means the Czech Republic will not be asking for migrants to be relocated from Greece and Italy."
Powerful images as migrants protest in Hungary Tue, April 4, 2017
Migrants protest outside Budapest's Keleti Railway Station after it was closed off by police to prevent people travelling on to western Europe
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A migrant taunts Hungarian riot police as they fire tear gas and water cannon on the Serbian side of the border, near Roszke
The announcement provoked a furious response from Brussels, with EU Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker accusing Prague of failing to live up to its responsibilities and raising the spectre of legal action.
His chief spokesman Maragritis Schinas told reporters: “Our approach to migration is about sharing responsibility and solidarity amongst member states. There is a big scope for the Czech Republic to do more.”
The debacle over migrant quotas comes at a difficult time for the EU, which has so far succeeded in putting on a defiantly united front in the face of tough Brexit negotiations.
Some Western nations, particularly France, have threatened to withdraw funding from Eastern Europe unless it steps up to the plate, drawing furious accusations of blackmail and threats of retaliation.