EFEBrussels

The European migration commissioner on Thursday warned that he would open proceedings against European Union nations that did fulfill their commitment to resettle refugees within their national territory.

Dimitris Avramopoulos said at the current pace it would not be possible to resettle all eligible applicants currently present in Greece and Italy by Sept. 2017.

The commissioner said "member states cannot cherry-pick what they deliver on. Right now, all operational pre-conditions to make relocation work are in place on the ground in Greece and Italy."

He added: "it is up to the member states to act and deliver on their obligations to ensure that all those eligible are relocated in time."

Commissioner Avramopoulos said that the EC would not hesitate in taking legal action against countries that fail to fulfill these commitments.

The EC warned the relocation rate from Italy and Greece was below their expectations, although Feb. 2017 marked a new monthly record with 1,940 relocations.

To date, there have been a total of 13,546 relocations: 3,936 from Italy and 9,610 from Greece.

Spain, to date, had resettled 144 persons from Italy and 707 from Greece.

According to the EC data, only Malta and Finland were on track to meet their obligations for resettling refugees from Italian and Greek quotas.

Hungary, Austria, and Poland still refused to participate in the scheme at all and others, such as Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Croatia and Slovakia were doing so on "a very limited basis."

Italy, Greece, the EU agencies, and international organizations had increased their capacities and were ready and on stand-by to facilitate meeting these monthly targets.

The EC also gave figures related to another EU program to relocate among its member countries migrants who have already been granted refugee status but are currently located in third countries such as Turkey, Jordan, and Lebanon.

The EC noted that progress on resettlement continued to be promising. EU Member states had provided safe and legal pathways to 14,422 people so far, over half of the agreed 22,504 under the EU resettlement scheme.

Spain had admitted, to date, 289 refugees from third countries of the 1,449 refugees it has committed to relocating.

The EC also noted that the implementation of the EU-Turkey agreement continued to deliver tangible results, despite the challenging circumstances.

Daily crossings from Turkey to the Greek islands had gone down from 10,000 persons in a single day in Oct. 2015 to an average of 43 per day.

The EC also commented on the return operations which have continued to be carried out with a total of 1,487 returns since the agreement was activated, although the EC did warn that the number of arrivals continued to outpace the number of returns from Greece to Turkey.

On the other hand, it also reviewed the progress in making the new European Border and Coast Guard Agency (FRONTEX) fully operational and called for member nations to fill in the considerable gaps still existing regarding the technical material and the human resources required by this new European agency and to do so no later than by the end of March 2017.

The EC focused on the considerable gaps that still exist regarding material contributions to the Rapid Reaction Equipment pool, deployments to ongoing joint operations and to the three new pools of forced-return monitors, forced-return escorts and return specialists. EFE