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ECJ rejects “Stop Soros” law

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Hungary/European UnionOn 16 November, the European Court of Justice ruled that the so-called “Stop Soros” law – adopted in 2018 by Hungarian lawmakers and aimed at countering the influence and activities of NGOs favouring uncontrolled mass immigration, and thus putting an end to the activities of George Soros’ networks in Hungary in that field – “impinges on the exercise of the rights safeguarded by the EU legislature in respect of the assistance of applicants for international protection”, that is to say, of migrants. 

Assistance to migrants who do not meet the criteria for asylum 

According to the ECJ’s ruling,

by criminalising organising activities in relation to the initiation of a procedure for international protection by persons not fulfilling the national criteria for granting that protection, Hungary infringed EU law.

In the opinion of the judges in Luxembourg, “Hungary has failed to fulfil its obligations under the Procedures and Reception Directives.”  

For the ECJ, arrival from a safe country cannot be a reason to reject an asylum application. 

According to the Court, “Hungary has failed to fulfil its obligations (…)

by allowing an application for international protection to be rejected as inadmissible on the ground that the applicant arrived on its territory via a State in which that person was not exposed to persecution or a risk of serious harm, or in which a sufficient degree of protection is guaranteed, 

(…) by criminalising, in its national law, the actions of any person who in connection with an organising activity, provides assistance in respect of the making or lodging of an application for asylum in its territory, where it can be proved beyond all reasonable doubt that that person knew that that application would not be accepted under that law. 

Consequently, according to the ECJ, “that legislation restricts, first, the right of access to applicants for international protection and the right to communicate with those persons and, second, the effectiveness of the right afforded to asylum seekers to be able to consult, at their own expense, a legal adviser or other counsellor.

The EU judges therefore consider “that such a restriction cannot be justified by (…) the prevention of the assistance of misuse of the asylum procedure and of illegal immigration based on deception”, and that “those rules are contrary (…) to EU law”. 

Hungary must comply with the judgment or face financial penalties

A note following the EU ruling recalls that “the Member State concerned must comply with the Court’s judgment without delay”, and that 

Where the Commission considers that the Member State has not complied with the judgment, it may bring a further action seeking financial penalties.

In other words, if Hungary does not repeal its Stop Soros law of 2018, it could be handed a substantial daily penalty, similar to that recently imposed on Poland over its justice reforms.