Hungary came under heavy criticism for pushing asylum seekers back to Serbia | Photo: picture alliance
Hungary came under heavy criticism for pushing asylum seekers back to Serbia | Photo: picture alliance

Hungary's top court did not rule on a challenge to the primacy of EU law in its response to an EU court finding that Budapest broke the bloc's laws by deporting asylum seekers.

Hungary's Constitutional Court on Friday struck down a bid by Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government to challenge a ruling by the EU's top court against Budapest's asylum policy.

Orban's justice minister asked the court earlier this year to review a ruling from the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) that Budapest broke EU law by allowing police to physically "push back" asylum seekers across the Serbian border.

What exactly did the court rule?

Judges ruled that the legal challenge by the Hungarian government "cannot be the subject of a review" of the European court's judgment, nor can it lead to an "examination of the primacy of EU law."

The Hungarian Constitutional Court did, however, rule Friday that Budapest has the right to apply its own measures in areas where the European Union has yet to take adequate steps for common implementation of EU rules.

Judges said Hungary can also decide whether a person can remain in the country, where there is "incomplete effectiveness" in terms of EU rules.

Judges also said Hungary's constitution protects the "inalienable right" of the country to "determine its territorial unity, population, form of government and state structure."

Last month, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that Hungary had failed to fulfil its obligations under EU law with its rule that considers asylum applications inadmissible if the asylum-seeker arrived in Hungary via a third country considered safe.

Secondly, judges found that the Budapest government also went against EU law by criminalizing certain activities of providing assistance in making or lodging an application for asylum in its territory.

The challenge to the EU court's ruling was made by Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga.

Varga argued that implementing the ruling by the European court would result in many migrants staying permanently in Hungary.

Migration still a bone of contention

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has been one of the most strident opponents of mass immigration to Europe from the Middle East and Asia.

In 2016, he held a referendum against an EU scheme to settle migrants in member states, which Hungarian voters overwhelmingly opposed.

In power since 2010, Orban has repeatedly been in conflict with EU institutions, portraying himself as a champion of Hungary's national interests.

Ahead of Friday's ruling, Orban said if the court decided in favor of his government, he would push for the EU to reform its rules on immigration.

"The reality of immigration is not in Brussels, but on the Hungarian border, the Polish border and in the ports of Italy," Orban said. "We need to tackle the problems that have emerged, and change the rules."

The Hungarian prime minister is also under fire from the European Commission over a number of issues relating to freedom of the press, justice and science.

Orban's critics accuse him of stepping up his challenges to EU rule of law as parliamentary elections approach next April or May.

First published: December 10, 2021

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