Infringement procedure launched against Hungary over "Stop Soros" laws

Infringement procedure launched against Hungary over
By bne IntelliNews July 20, 2018

The European Commission has launched an infringement procedure against Hungarian legislation dubbed “Stop Soros”. Hungary will also be referred to the Court of Justice of the European Union over the country's asylum policies, EC spokesperson Mina Andreeva announced on July 19.

The legislation criminalises support for illegal immigration, punishable by imprisonment for up to 90 days. In case of repeated offence and financing of illegal immigration, it could lead to a one year prison sentence.

Political analysts say the infringement procedure will serve as a further pretext for the government to bash Hungarian-born billionaire George Soros for what they view as him exerting his influence in Brussels against Hungary. The government has vilified the 88-year-old Jewish philanthropist, claiming his network of NGOs are working to flood Europe with illegal migrants.

The Commission has sent the Hungarian government a letter of formal notice concerning the Stop Soros laws and related constitutional amendments.

The Commission said the related restraining measures curtail asylum applicants' right to communicate with NGOs, which is a violation of the Asylum Procedures Directive and the Reception Conditions Directive.

The legislation also allows the authorities to ban people from the border area who they believe are abetting illegal immigration, which unduly restricts the exercise of free movement rights of EU citizens, contrary to the free movement directive as well as the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, it added.

Brussels has given the Hungarian authorities two months to respond to its concerns.

The Hungarian parliament passed the contested laws, aimed at penalising the promotion or organisation of illegal migration, in June. 

The Venice Commission of the Council of Europe earlier criticised some passages in the new legislation, arguing that they would seriously hinder the operation of legitimate civil groups.

Also on Thursday, the EC announced it will take Hungary to the Court of Justice of the European Union over the country's asylum law. The infringement procedure was launched in December 2015. 

The final step of the infringement procedure was taken after Hungary failed to address the EC's concerns over the period during which asylum seekers may be held in transit zones at the border, access to asylum procedures, reception conditions and the practice of returning migrants.

The ruling Fidesz party, which gained its third supermajority win in April's general election, said the infringement procedure confirmed that Brussels is protecting the Soros organisations.