Hungary will not change its immigration laws, defying a ruling by the European Union’s top court. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán vowed to maintain the country’s existing laws on immigration despite a decision by the EU court that would require changes to these regulations.
“We will maintain the existing regime, even if the European court ordered us to change it,” Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said this week at a press conference in Budapest.
Orbán was referring to a ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) that stipulated the country “failed to fulfill its obligations” under EU law due to a bill passed by Hungary in 2018. The bill bars people from applying for asylum if they arrive in Hungary from a country where their life and freedom is not at risk. In addition, individuals and organizations that help illegal migrants claim asylum engage in illegal activities under the bill. In the past, Hungary pushed asylum seekers over the border into Serbia, saying Serbia was a safe country.
After Hungary passed the controversial 2018 law, the European Commission sent a formal letter accusing Budapest of violating EU rules. Hungary, however, kept the legislation in place, as a result of which Brussels referred the country to the ECJ.
Orbán’s anti-immigration stance rallied support for Fidesz after the 2015 migrant crisis. A government official said earlier this month that the European Commission was hindering rather than promoting the defence of borders, and the ECJ’S ruling encouraged mass migration.
Defending the borders
"The government decided that we will not do anything to change the system of border protection," Orbán said, adding that despite the EU court ruling "Hungary will still have to defend its borders."
This is not the first time that the Hungarian premier stood up against the EU. A dispute over the rule of law and corruption allegations has led to a freeze in EU economic recovery funds. The freeze comes at a politically delicate time for Orbán who is facing a closely fought election in spring 2022.
Orbán is relying on a court ruling by the Hungarian constitutional court in its defiance of the ECJ ruling. Hungary’s government previously asked the nation’s constitutional court to review the ECJ ruling on migration. The panel came forth with a ruling that said Hungary was entitled to apply its own measures in areas where the EU has yet to take adequate steps for common implementation of EU rules. Nevertheless, the constitutional court did not rule on the government's challenge to the primacy of EU law.
Orbán also said at the press conference that migration and LGBTQI rights, two issues over which Hungary has sparred with the EU, would dominate the agenda for his right-wing Fidesz party at the elections next April.
Election on the horizon
Fidesz will face a united opposition in next year’s general elections, an unprecedented occurrence in post-Socialist Hungarian history. Orbán won the last three general elections with an impressive majority.
The dispute with Brussels and the resulting freeze of recovery funds is a stumbling block for the feisty premier as Hungary’s economy relies heavily on EU funds. The economic malaise caused by the coronavirus pandemic has hit Hungary and the nation is battling rampant inflation that hit a 14-year-high, the economy is set to slow next year while the budget deficit has surged due to pre-election spending.
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