The European Commission has opened an infringement proceeding against Hungary over the country’s recently adopted (and very controversial) asylum legislation. According to the Commission, the legislation is incompatible with EU law, specifically the Asylum Procedures Directive and the Directive on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings. According to the EU’s highest executive authority, Hungary had been notified earlier about the Commission’s concern regarding two key pieces of legislation adopted in Hungary in July and September 2015.
According to the European Commission there are three key areas in which Hungary’s legislation violates EU laws:
- “Firstly, regarding the asylum procedures, the Commission is concerned that there is no possibility to refer to new facts and circumstances in the context of appeals and that Hungary is not automatically suspending decisions in case of appeals – effectively forcing applicants to leave their territory before the time limit for lodging an appeal expires, or before an appeal has been heard. The recast Asylum Procedures Directive establishes common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection and sets clear rules on how to apply for asylum. It applies to all applications for international protection made in the territory, including at the border, in the territorial waters or in the transit zones of the Member States.”
- “Secondly, regarding rights to translation and interpretation, the Commission is concerned the Hungarian law on fast-tracked criminal proceedings for irregular border crossings does not respect provisions of the Directive on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings, which ensures that every suspect or accused person who does not understand the language of the proceedings is provided with a written translation of all essential documents, including any judgment.”
- “Thirdly, on the fundamental right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial under Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, there are concerns as to the fact that under the new Hungarian law dealing with the judicial review of decisions rejecting an asylum application a personal hearing of the applicants is optional. Judicial decisions taken by court secretaries (a sub-judicial level) lacking judicial independence also seem to be in breach of the Asylum Procedures Directive and Article 47 of the Charter.”
Commenting on news of the Commission’s latest infringement proceeding against Hungary, Minister Overseeing the Office of the Prime Minister János Lázár said today that the EU is retaliating against Hungary.
“This isn’t about a legal dispute,” Lázár said. “This is about a political dispute. This is about applying pressure, this is about revenge, this is a threat, and this is a threat of fines and sanctions against those countries which built fences to protect Europe’s borders in accordance with the Schengen Agreement. This is about [the European Commission] applying pressure [on Hungary]. This is not a legal issue. This is fundamentally a political issue.”
News of the Commission’s latest infringement proceeding against Hungary comes as no surprise. Hungarian civil liberty and human rights NGOs, including the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, have expressed numerous criticisms of the government’s use of legislation to deprive asylum seekers of the right to seek asylum in Hungary.