Budapest to Luxembourg court: Judgment ‘practically’ means supporting human trafficking

Hungary's Justice Minister Judit Varga gives a press conference during a General Affairs Council in Luxembourg, 22 June 2021. [EPA-EFE/JOHN THYS]

Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga accused EU judges in Luxembourg of making Budapest “practically support human trafficking” in response to a ruling that found Hungary’s 2018 law threatening jail sentences on anyone helping asylum seekers had violated bloc rules.

“In today’s judgment, the European Court of Justice stated what we would never have thought: we must practically support human trafficking,” Varga wrote on Twitter in reaction to the ruling made public on Tuesday (16 November).

“What happens next? Will member states be punished simply for protecting the continent from mass migration?,” she added, stressing once again that Hungary will “continue to defend Europe.”

The Court’s decision is the latest in a series of rulings against legal measures that Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban says defend the EU against illegal immigration.

The court also said in a statement on Tuesday (16 November) that Hungary had “infringed EU law” with its so-called “Stop Soros” measure, named after the Hungary-born billionaire US financier George Soros, a long-time ‘bogeyman’ for Orbán.

“Criminalising such activities impinges on the exercise of the rights safeguarded by the EU legislature in respect of the assistance of applicants for international protection,” said the statement.

The government accepted the judgment, spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said in a statement.

However, he said the government “reserves the right to take action against the activities of foreign-funded NGOs including those funded by George Soros, seeking to gain political influence and interference or even to promote migration”.

Budapest sometimes follows ECJ rulings but has also ignored several.

Last year, the authorities closed border camps after the ECJ ruled that their conditions amounted to detention.

But it has so far ignored a ruling against the police for indiscriminately and often violently deporting asylum seekers.

The Hungarian Helsinki Committee (HHC), a Budapest-based refugee rights group, praised the ECJ’s latest ruling.

“From now on, we can again serve our clients without the threat of prison,” co-chair Marta Pardavi told AFP, adding that the NGO had helped 1,800 asylum seekers since the 2018 law was passed.

She called on the government to repeal the law and “not sabotage the implementation” of the ECJ ruling.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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