EU steps up legal battle with Hungary over migration

Published 20.07.2018 00:00

The European Commission decided yesterday to step up its legal battle against Hungary over its refusal to respect European Union immigration and asylum rules. The EU executive said in a statement that it referred Hungary to the EU Court of Justice "for non-compliance of its asylum and return legislation with EU law", as reported by Reuters. It also said Hungarian legislation, which criminalizes activities that support asylum and residence applications was not in line with EU rules and had to be changed.

The commission, the European Union's executive arm, first launched procedures against Hungary in December 2015, following a migration surge to Europe that year, with many passing through the country. It took issue at time with restrictions on where and how people could apply for asylum in Hungary, reception conditions and shortcomings in the way the country returned those not eligible for asylum.

Despite a series of exchanges with the Hungarian authorities, "the commission considers that the majority of the concerns raised have still not been addressed," it said yesterday. The European Court of Justice could ultimately impose hefty fines on Budapest if it finds that the country is in breach of EU law.

The commission separately launched legal proceedings against Hungary over recently introduced laws that criminalize activities supporting migrants. The legislation, under which employees and activists can be sent to prison for up to one year for "assisting illegal migration," was passed by the Hungarian parliament last month.

It has been described as the "Stop Soros" laws, as many believe they are tailored to target the Hungarian-born US billionaire George Soros, whose philanthropic organizations support refugee work. The commission has initially informed the Hungarian government of its concerns in a formal letter of notice, giving Budapest two months to respond.

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