The European Commission is taking Hungary to court over the treatment of asylum seekers. The legal action is poised to escalate tensions within the bloc over how to balance popular demand for more border protection and Europe’s legal guarantees. Following almost three years of threats of a legal action, the EU’s highest court is going to rule over the Hungarian government’s violation of a number of EU treaties requiring protection for asylum seekers in Europe. The European Court of Justice can fine Budapest for non-compliance and thus rule on a fundamental issue cleaving Europe.
Hungarian President enjoys wide popular support in his country and his political party has campaigned on keeping out refugees since 2015 when more than 1 million people crossed into Europe from the Middle East and Africa. Mr. Orban won a third consecutive in spring 2018 and pursued anti-refugee actions such as detaining asylum seekers in remodeled shipping containers. According to EU law, Hungary now has two months to respond to Brussels’ concerns before the Commission starts assessing whether Mr. Orban breached regulations. “We are, of course, ready for the debates that this procedure is going to bring,” said Hungary’s Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto.
Observers think that in the short term, the court case could backfire and empower the Hungarian government to keep public attention on its signature policy theme. Later this year, Mr. Orban hopes to pass a constitutional amendment – which reads “Foreign populations cannot be settled into Hungary.” – that would block the EU from enforcing refugee and migrant rules in Hungary. According to Gabor Gyori of Budapest-based think tank ‘Policy Solutions’, the government’s draconian policies are meant to exert tight control over institutions such as the media, the judiciary and the central bank.