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Abuse under the Guise of Law: Brussels versus Budapest

Hungary Today 2024.06.20.

Professor Petr Drulák is a Czech scholar, diplomat, activist, and professor of the Department of Political and International Relations at the University of West Bohemia. He was ambassador to France and Deputy Foreign Minister of the Czech Republic. His opinion piece concerning the ECJ’s multi-million dollar fine against Hungary was originally published on the Slovak news site standard.sk.

“As the Hungarian presidency of the EU approaches, relations between Budapest and Brussels are heating up. At the end of May, Hungary blocked European arms money for Ukraine, to the disgust of others, claiming that Kiev was systematically discriminating against Hungarian companies. Last week, the attack came from the other side. The European Court of Justice imposed a draconian penalty on Hungary for refusing to comply with Brussels’ migration rules. The Hungarians are to pay 200 million euros immediately for their recalcitrance, plus a million euros for each additional day of defiance against Europe’s welcome to migrants. These sums will simply be deducted by Brussels from the European funds to which Budapest is entitled.

It is not only Hungary that is threatened by this legally disguised depravity.

The current dispute has its origins in a 2020 Hungarian law that limits the means by which asylum applications can be made in Hungary. The law stipulates that those who want asylum in Hungary must apply for it at consulates abroad. Asylum cannot be claimed at the border, and certainly not after crossing it illegally. The dispute was triggered by the case of a group of Afghans and Iranians who tried to claim asylum at the Hungarian-Serbian border, which the Hungarian authorities refused. The European Court of Justice struck down the law the same year, saying it contravened European rules.
European rules give illegal migrants the possibility to apply for asylum. If the authorities eventually reject them, governments usually fail to remove them. There are millions of them in the European Union. Living in semi-legality or illegality makes them easy victims of all kinds of exploitation but also perpetrators of crimes, from petty theft to drug dealing to rape and murder. From France and Germany, we repeatedly hear of their violent acts. Budapest therefore rejected the European verdict in 2020, adding that the only competent institution to judge Hungary’s migration law is the Hungarian Constitutional Court.

This really angered the Brussels judges. They have long inferred from a very loose and biased interpretation of the EU’s basic treaties that they are the final arbiters of any legal measure adopted on EU territory.

They are in disputes with several states, including Poland and Germany. Both supporters and opponents of the court agree that what the court’s claims goes far beyond what the states originally entrusted to it. Not only has the Orbán government dared to defy European migration policy, angering the European Commission, but it has also called into question the carefully constructed sovereignty of the European Court of Justice. Let us add, however, that the Hungarian Constitutional Court itself, unlike the German and Polish courts, prefers to avoid this issue. That is why the judges, in assessing the fine, still went along with what the commission had proposed. They did not have to look long for aggravating circumstances to justify this: The Hungarians are simply removing rejected asylum seekers to Serbia, where they came from, and not allowing them to stay in the country until all appeals are resolved.
That is why the amount is so drastic. If Hungary continues its defiance until the end of the year, for example, it will be hit with another EUR 200 million and will lose EUR 400 million. Let us compare this with another amount. In 2021, the difference between what Hungary contributes to the European budget and what it receives is just over EUR 4 billion in Hungary’s favor. In other words, the fine would cut the country’s net income from the European budget by almost a tenth, which is already noticeable.

With Hungary facing multiple court cases and more likely to come with the new migration pact, which Budapest fundamentally disagrees with, it appears that defending sovereignty may deprive the country of its position as a net beneficiary.

This vulnerability is even more pronounced in the case of the Czech Republic or Slovakia, whose net position vis-à-vis the EU is much lower than Hungary’s; three years ago, the former had a net position of around three billion, the latter half as much.

Author of the opinion piece, Prof. Petr Drulák. Photo: Hungary Today

Let us recall that EU funds are in no way related to migration. It is development money for the fact that, by joining the common economic space, the poorer countries are putting their assets at the disposal of the richer ones. After all, even seemingly generous European funds often do not compensate for what European investors make in profits in Central Europe each year. And if Brussels money goes to big infrastructure projects (highways, railways), it is usually raked in by big companies from Germany, Austria, France and other Western European countries anyway. In the end, there is not much left in Central Europe.

What little remains is used by the Eurocrats as a carabiner for the unruly Central Europeans – if they do not listen, they will starve.

Linking the drawdown of development funds with loyalty to a senseless and harmful migration policy is one of the worst acts of Brussels’ depravity. Let us not be fooled into thinking that everything is done by the instruments of law. Abolition disguised as law is one of the hallmarks of totalitarianism. Brussels progressives are clearly heading there. That is why the fine imposed on the Orbán Government is not just about Hungary.”

Quo Vadis Central Europe? A Discussion with Prof. Petr Drulák
Quo Vadis Central Europe? A Discussion with Prof. Petr Drulák

If we want to protect Europe, we will have to redefine what the rule of law means, says the Czech academic.Continue reading

Via Standard.sk; Featured Photo: Facebook SOS MEDITERRANEE France

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