The European Commission announced on Thursday that it has decided to take Hungary to the European Court of Justice over the so-called ‘Stop Soros’ legislation, which makes supporting asylum seekers a criminal offense.
Brussels had sent a letter of formal notice to the Budapest authorities in July 2018. The government had two months to send its response which, as expected, was found to be unsatisfactory, resulting in a “reasoned opinion” in January.
In a statement, the Commission said that after two warnings “most of the concerns expressed [have] still not been taken into account”. On the one hand, by making support for asylum seekers a criminal offense, Hungary “restricts the right of asylum seekers to communicate with, and be assisted by, the relevant national, international and non-governmental organisations”, according to the Commission. On the other hand, this is for Brussels an “illegal limitation of the right to asylum” and “the introduction of new grounds for inadmissibility of asylum applications.”
The legislation imposes a penalty of up to one year in prison for anyone assisting a person who has entered Hungary illegally from a non-Schengen country, unless their life is in immediate danger.
Zoltan Kovacs, the spokesman of the Hungarian government, said that he was “totally ready” to defend the provisions in question. “Hungarian voters have said loud and clear that they do not support immigration and want to protect the Christian culture of Europe,” he continued.
The Commission also opened a new infringement procedure against Hungary on Thursday, this time on the situation of detainees held in Hungarian transit zones on the Hungarian border, with a first warning.
“The Commission notes that the conditions of detention in the Hungarian transit areas, in particular the refusal of food, do not comply with the material conditions prescribed by European legislation. Budapest has one month to respond in this case, a reduced period” given the urgency of the situation