Poland has not accepted any refugees as part of an EU programme to relocate migrants fleeing the war-torn Middle East and Africa from camps in Italy and Greece.
The European Commission’s move is likely to chill relations between Warsaw and the EU, already tense following concerns voiced in Brussels about the state of the rule of law in Poland.
Dimitris Avramopoulos, European Commissioner for migration, told reporters on Tuesday: “I regret to say that despite our repeated calls to relocate, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland have not yet taken the necessary action.
"For this reason the Commission has decided to launch infringement procedures against these three member states.”
The Commission will now send Poland, the Czech Republic and Hungary an official letter asking them to accept the quotas of migrants allocated to them.
If it does not get a reply or judges the response as insufficient, it will send a second letter.
Court of Justice
The Commission can then file a case to the EU Court of Justice but without requesting financial penalties. Brussels can only apply for sanctions to be imposed when a country ignores a ruling by the judges in Luxembourg. The process could take years.
Polish Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski said earlier on Tuesday: “Most of [these people] are not refugees, only immigrants who have illegally come into Europe.” He added that people from Africa and the Middle East do not want to be transferred to Poland.
Konrad Szymański, Poland's deputy foreign minister in charge of European affairs, said that the European Commission’s decision “may move us further away from a necessary political compromise on migrant policies and may deepen divisions within the European Union.”
He added that Poland was ready to defend its arguments at the Court of Justice, and said that problems stemming from the implementation of what he described as “erroneous” decisions taken in September 2015 have affected all EU states.
In September 2015, EU leaders agreed that each country would accept a number of migrants over two years to alleviate the pressure on Greece and Italy, which have seen the arrival of tens of thousands of people from the Middle East.
EU leaders agreed to relocate a total of about 160,000 migrants of more than two million people who arrived in Europe since 2015.