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Hungary fined €200 million by ECJ for breaking asylum rules

June 13, 2024

The European Court of Justice says Hungary has not complied with a previous ruling on the treatment of migrants, and must pay €1 million per day until it does.

Police patrol the Hungarian border fence with Serbia on January 18, 2019
Prime Minister Vicktor Orban’s government built a fence along Hungary's border with SerbiaImage: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled on Thursday that Hungary must pay a lump sum of €200 million ($216 million) and a penalty of €1 million per day for not implementing migration and asylum measures.

The court made the decision based on its own December 2020 ruling that Hungary had failed to comply with EU law on the treatment of migrants, after which Budapest was ordered to implement changes.

What did the court say?

"In its judgment, the Court holds that Hungary has not taken the measures necessary to comply with the 2020 judgment," the judges in Strasbourg said. 

This failure, they added, "constitutes an unprecedented and extremely serious infringement of EU law."

The court ruled that Hungary had not complied in terms of giving new arrivals access to the international protection procedure.

It also said Budapest had not observed the right of applicants seeking protection to stay in Hungary pending final appeals on their applications, and "the removal of illegally staying third-country nationals."

Poland, Hungary oppose EU migration policy reforms

The judges said that, in doing so, Hungary was "disregarding the principle of sincere cooperation" and "deliberately evading the application of the EU common policy."

How did Hungary respond?

Prime Minister Viktor Orban slammed the court's decision shortly after it was made.

"The ECJ's decision to fine Hungary with 200M euros plus 1M euros daily(!!!) for defending the borders of the European Union is outrageous and unacceptable," the nationalist premier wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

"It seems that illegal migrants are more important to the Brussels bureaucrats than their own European citizens," he added.

Why did the court make its ruling?

The anti-immigrant government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban has taken a hard line on people entering the country after more than a million people entered Europe in 2015, many of whom were fleeing the Syrian civil war.

Budapest erected border fences and forcefully tried to prevent many from entering.

After the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in 2020, Orban's government introduced a law forcing people seeking international protection to travel to its embassies in Belgrade or Kyiv to apply for a travel permit to enter Hungary. Only after this would they be able to file their applications.

The European Commission took Hungary to the ECJ over the law. Brussels insisted that the country had failed to meet obligations under the 27-nation bloc's rule that obliges members to have common procedures on granting asylum.

rc/ab (Reuters, dpa, AP, AFP)