A top EU lawyer has delivered yet another blow to Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban and the policies of his administration. The lawyer said that the country's criminalization of individuals or groups who helped migrants stood at odds with EU law.
Advocate General Athanasios Rantos at the European Court of Justice (ECJ) said that a number of Hungarian anti-migrant laws amounted to an "unjustified obstacle to the exercise of the rights guaranteed by the EU legislation concerning assistance for applicants for international assistance."
Rantos has urged the court to follow his opinion. Although in practice the ECJ often follows the opinions of its advocate generals, the court is under no obligation to do so.
A judgement will follow in the case at a later date.
Hungary in breach of its EU obligations
In a bid to reduce the number of people making their way into the EU member state, Hungary in 2018 had criminalized certain political activities such as helping people with applying for asylum. Known as the so-called "Stop Soros" laws, the legislation received its name after Orban accused Hungarian-born US billionaire George Soros of orchestrating mass migration to Europe in the course of the past few years.
The European Commission, the EU's executive branch, found that such criminalization of migrant aid was in breach of the country's legal obligations under EU legislation regarding asylum procedures, bringing the case before the ECJ.
Legalizing pushbacks abroad
As an extension of its immigration policies, the Hungarian government has also deemed all applications from people who had passed through a so-called safe transit country before arriving in Hungary as inadmissible, saying that they should have lodged their application there.
"By introducing that ground for inadmissibility, Hungary has failed to fulfil its obligations under the Procedures Directive," Rantos wrote, referring to the EU's asylum protocols.
In practice, this would affect both EU nations like neighboring Croatia but also Hungary's non-EU neighbors like Serbia and Romania, which Orban's government can deem to be perfectly safe for migrants if the law was accepted by the EU. It would also give some legal allowance for the practise of pushbacks.
Read more: How Hungary is violating EU law on refugees
At odds with the EU
Hungary's right-wing Fidesz government has been a staunch opponent of immigration. What's more, its treatment of migrants has repeatedly caused disagreement between the eastern EU member state and the rest of the 27-nation bloc.
Orban claims he is seeking to protect Hungary's conservative Christian identity while trying to defend the whole of Europe from immigration from the Middle East and Africa.
In reality, there are hardly any migrants or refugees succeeding in making their way into Hungary at all.
with AP, dpa