#Ukraine Temporary protection card extended until 2025

The Government’s refusal to respect the EU Court’s judgement is severely harmful

Today the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that Hungary is to pay a lump sum of 200 million euros for failure to implement an earlier judgement of the Court. The Government is also to pay a penalty payment of 1 million euros per day for each day it fails to put an end to the often violent pushback of migrants.

Translation is available for this content

Váltás magyarra

The Government, in spite of the principle of sincere cooperation, deliberately evaded the application of the EU common policy on international protection. The Court today held that this conduct constitutes a serious threat to the unity of EU law, which has an extraordinarily serious impact both on private interests, particularly the interests of asylum seekers, and on the public interest. Since this breach of EU law is severe and unprecedented, the Court levied a significant penalty on the Government.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee denounces the Government’s continuous breach of law. By refusing to respect the Court’s judgement – and judgements issued by domestic and international courts -, the Government falls short of one of the most basic principles of the rule of law. Today’s judgement is the most severe consequence of this irresponsible attitude. While the Government must bear the political consequences, the financial impact hurts the country’s taxpayers as long as the Government refuses to respect the law.

The road leading to today’s judgement is a long one. Summary removals (pushbacks) were introduced by the governing parties in July 2016 and the scheme was expanded to the entire territory of Hungary in March 2017. It means that anyone who is found to be staying irregularly in the country is arbitrarily removed to Serbia with no regard to their individual circumstances. Those who entered from Romania or at an international airport are also removed to Serbia, and even those who had originally entered lawfully. The unlawful Hungarian legislation applies to everyone indiscriminately: to children, the elderly, sick people, women or survivors of torture are no exceptions.

This is a policy worthy of a police state, not one that respects the rule of law.The fact that these removals take place outside of a procedure governed by law, with no possibility to seek legal aid or appeal hurts especially those who would be in need of protection. Thus the Hungarian State renounces its obligation under its Constitution and EU law to protect those in need and offer them a fair procedure. That is why the European Commission initiated an infringement procedure, at the end of which in December 2020 the Court of Justice of the EU held, in a very clear judgement, that summary removals violate EU law. 

All EU Member States must honor and implement the judgements of the Court, and Hungary is no exception. The Government should have put an end to these often violent pushbacks years ago. Yet this never happened, even though the European Court of Human Rights also found Hungary liable, in five separate judgements, for this despicable practice. Still, according to the Police, the number of pushbacks is now over 350 thousand – which is the number of the removals carried out, not the number of people removed.

The European Commission had no choice but to bring Hungary back to Court to sanction this exceptionally unlawful attitude. In such cases, the Court can order the country held responsible to pay a lump sum, and a daily penalty as long as its judgement is not implemented. In today’s ruling, the Court applied both: Hungary is to pay a lump sum of 200 million euros, and a daily penalty payment of 1 million euros. This means that if the Government refuses to honor the Court’s judgement from 2020 for another 100 days, it will be obliged to pay 100 million euros on top of the lump sum of 200 million euros.

‘Today’s judgement will hopefully put an end to one of the most shameful policies of Hungary’s asylum system, and uphold one of the most basic cornerstones of the rule of law: respect for the Court’s judgements. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee has been documenting this harmful practise and actively advocating and litigating against unlawful pushbacks since 2016. We have called on the Government, the Police, and the ombudsman several times from the beginning to put an end to them, as each and every pushback is a violation of Hungary’s legal obligations. Several people were also severely abused and beaten while pushed out from Hungary. The Government should have submitted bills to Parliament in December 2020 the latest to bring the domestic legal order in line with EU law. This is yet to happen. Before it does, Hungarian authorities must immediately put an end to these pushbacks.’ – said Zsolt Szekeres, senior legal officer of the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, when commenting on today’s judgement.

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Hungarian Helsinki Committee