X Close

Is the EU unfairly targeting Hungary over migration policy?

Viktor Orbán makes no bones about his refusal to comply with the ruling. Credit: Getty

June 15, 2024 - 8:00am

EU elections have confirmed a continent-wide shift to the Right, but a ruling handed down by the European Court of Justice against Hungary on Thursday has underlined how difficult it will still be to shift EU policy on key issues. The ECJ hit Budapest with a €200 million fine for breaking asylum laws and a €1 million daily fine for as long as it ignores the court’s judgements.

Hungary has a controversial approach to migration. Its policy has seen migrants deported before appeals against asylum rejections are processed, while requiring that they file asylum applications in embassies in neighbouring countries rather than at the border, which was found to be illegal by the ECJ in 2020. After being taken to court again by the European Commission for failing to comply with that judgement, the ECJ ruled that Hungary’s refusal to change constitutes “an unprecedented and extremely serious infringement of EU law” as Budapest is “deliberately avoiding the application of a common EU policy.”

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán makes no bones about his refusal to comply. Speaking on Hungarian radio on Friday, he claimed “the court of George Soros” had made a “blood-curdling” decision, calling the fine “an insane amount.” Orbán assured listeners he would see to it personally that “this will hurt Brussels more than us.”

While Hungarians are used to anti-EU rhetoric, the sheer animosity of Orbán’s response to the ruling was notable. He said the plan of the “Brussels bubble” is that “a continent with a mixed population will be created in Europe” in which “it’s okay if the whites run out.” While Hungarian politicians speak plainly, he said, Brussels bureaucrats are “sneaky” and “slimy”; in Belgium, “the one who speaks the truth stands out.”

The Hungarian leader’s frustration has been compounded by apparent double standards in the EU’s treatment of member states. Orbán’s view, that “being pro-peace means being against migration,” could also sum up the approach of Poland, where Donald Tusk’s pro-EU government is quietly renewing harsh border measures with Belarus which were initially enacted, amid great controversy, by the country’s previous Eurosceptic regime. NGOs claim Tusk’s government has been responsible for thousands of “pushbacks” of migrants since coming to power — yet the EU is de-escalating tensions with Warsaw and cancelling previous sanctions procedures.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has, meanwhile, sought collaboration with Italian leader Giorgia Meloni, striking deals with north African states to keep migrants out of the EU. Like all strong migration measures, these deals have come under fire from rights groups; they have reportedly led to terrifying “desert dumps,” in which migrants are rounded up and then left stranded in deserts or other remote areas.

Such inconsistencies make it tempting to look for other explanations for Hungary’s particular treatment, and there’s no doubt that EU fines make a strong political impact. Domestically, Orbán faces arguably his most serious challenger yet in Péter Magyar, a charismatic former Fidesz loyalist whose newly-formed party, Tisza, won almost 30% of the vote in EU elections. Magyar stands to win politically from further EU fines; he promises Orbán-style conservatism without the alleged corruption, incessant arguing with Brussels, or EU sanctions.

This promise seems implausible. The ECJ’s ruling proves that, notwithstanding a shift to the Right in public sentiment, the bloc’s legal framework remains inimical to strongly conservative migration policies. Public opinion is shifting closer to Orbán’s stance, but in the eyes of EU officials, this makes him no less worthy of punishment.


William Nattrass is a British journalist based in Prague and news editor of Expats.cz

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

12 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Catherine Conroy
Catherine Conroy
1 month ago

How Hungary deals with immigration should be a sovereign issue. No wonder people are fed up with the EU.

Paddy Taylor
Paddy Taylor
1 month ago

Of course Brussels has Orban in their sights, the EU fear leaders who are patriotic and who wish to see powers returned to elected Govts within the bloc. Most of all they fear leaders who can galvanise support for such a position.
The EU’s clear mission is the erosion of the nation state – it has always been that – by fair means or foul.
One way to lessen the sense of nationhood, to undermine the patriotism of individual member states, is for them to import vast numbers of new immigrant citizens who have no sense of national identity. It seems almost conspiracist to state such a thing – but at some point the wilful refusal of western governments to deal with immigration becomes so undeniable that one has to draw the conclusion that it is deliberate and part of a broader globalist agenda.
The EU can’t hope to function with 27 sovereign states, each with a representative govt. The EU can only ‘succeed’ in a future where decisions are made above the nation state; by institutions, large corporate interests and financial markets, overseen by politicians who remain entirely unaccountable and never have to subject themselves to the inconvenience of achieving a popular mandate. The commission – who sets such policy – operate with no transparency and under no democratic mandate. In the Eurozone it is even more obvious, with markets and credit ratings agencies able to entirely override the will of the people.
Throughout its existence the European Project has been constantly changing (though never reforming), always moving forward towards further integration, towards political and fiscal union – towards federalism.
If you had any doubts left then you only need look at who was appointed to replace Juncker et al. Open federalists – despite the fact that the EU Parliament put forward more pragmatic candidates who did not want to see the federalist future pushed so hard.
Wishing to be part of a USofE is an entirely credible and valid position – I wholeheartedly and strongly disagree with it, but have no problem with those who genuinely espouse such a view – if they have the moral courage to be open and honest about it. Where I do have a problem is with those who seek to achieve such an aim via the back-door, without gaining the consent of those they wish to govern.
At least for the present, if an honest referendum were held on a federalist future in all EU member states then we’d see a widespread rejection of it. Say the EU laid out a 5 or 10 year plan, leading towards a fully federal European state, then there’d be wholesale opposition to that idea.
Of course there’d be some backing for such a vision amongst Federalist supporters – but country by country, how many would see a majority vote to become a state within a USofE? Hungary? Ireland? France? Spain? Italy? Germany? The Netherlands? Not a chance. Not even Denmark. …. Maybe, just maybe, Belgium would enjoy the idea, but who’d join them?
But, of course, the EU won’t do that – for the same reason they have never done that. The concerns of the citizenry have never been allowed to stand in the way of the broader EU ambitions. It would happen incrementally, as all these things do – but quite deliberately. As the arch federalist J-C Juncker himself described it, “We decide on something, leave it lying around, and wait and see what happens. If no one kicks up a fuss, because most people don’t understand what has been decided, we continue step by step until there is no turning back.”
And don’t for a minute imagine that a veto would save a sovereign state from being subsumed – Such trifles have been swatted aside by the commission before now. ‘Unanimous consent’ becomes ‘Qualified Majority voting’ whenever it suits the commission’s broader objectives. I’d no more trust Brussels to honour a veto than I would have trusted Juncker with the keys to the wine cellar.
There has never been much popular support for such a plan. Federalism becomes difficult to impose if countries retain a strong national identity and the majority of the population are firmly set against it, so I can only surmise that the willing acceptance of mass immigration is, at least partly, a way of diluting that sense of national cohesion as a stepping stone to the Federalists’ preferred future.
Remember how hard downhill SirKier and most of his party agitated for us to rejoin this wanna-be empire? Well, they’ll be in power very soon and they want it still.

Mike Downing
Mike Downing
1 month ago

The EU was constantly on Poland’s back but have just cancelled all those nasty ‘fines’ since Tusk has come back to power.

As Auntie Ursula said about Meloni and her supposed fascist tendencies ‘We have zee tools ….’.

Mike Michaels
Mike Michaels
1 month ago
Reply to  Mike Downing

Another bloody toolmaker.

Ted French
Ted French
1 month ago

is it pronounced Huxit or Hexit?

Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
1 month ago
Reply to  Ted French

Magxit

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

Not sure this is a good time for the EU to do this. Hungary takes over the EU presidency in July. This will give it control over the agenda, so it could conceivably put a temporary pause on proposals it doesn’t like and could delay actions on things that might require more immediate attention such as issues on Ukraine or China. But the EU plows ahead regardless …

Amelia Melkinthorpe
Amelia Melkinthorpe
1 month ago

Yes. Next question?

William Brand
William Brand
1 month ago

The immigration problem is that Moslem theology is incompatible with western Christian derived culture. Moslems believe God demands that they go to war to produce an Islamic nation. An Islamic holy war results in any nation with a substantial Islamic population as the Moslems fight to overthrow the host government.

Arthur King
Arthur King
1 month ago
Reply to  William Brand

Yup. Accepting mass migration is cultural genocide.

Andrew F
Andrew F
1 month ago

This article clearly shows that Brussels beaurocracy want compliance from national government on range of issues.
Poland was the subject to the same, or worse, treatment, when “wrong” government was in power.
Regardless whether particular policy was even part of EU treaties.
Part of pleasure of being in Fourth Reich.

Arthur King
Arthur King
1 month ago

The native Hungarians are resisting cultural dissolution which is the right of any culture. They are an example to native EU cultures.