EU calls for fines against Hungary over asylum policy

BUDAPEST, Hungary (AP) — Hungary could face fines from the European Union for failing to comply with a ruling by the bloc’s top court on its treatment of refugees and handling of asylum claims.

The European Commission, the 27-member bloc’s executive arm, said in a statement Friday that it would refer Hungary to the EU Court of Justice for failing to amend its asylum procedures in line with the court’s ruling, and recommended sustained financial penalties until Budapest complies.

In its statement, the commission said that “as of today, Hungary has not addressed several aspects of the judgment.”

“In particular, Hungary has not taken the measures necessary to ensure effective access to the asylum procedure,” it said. “Hungary has also not clarified the conditions pertaining to the right to remain on the territory in case of an appeal in an asylum procedure.”

The referral came after the EU court issued a ruling in December that found Hungary had failed to respect EU law by denying people entering the country without authorization the right to apply for asylum, and by unlawfully detaining them in “transit zones” on its border with Serbia.

Hungary’s right-wing populist Prime Minister Viktor Orban is a steadfast opponent of immigration, and has portrayed his country as a bulwark against migrants from the Middle East and Africa and a defender of Christianity in Europe.

Orban is also a fierce critic of the EU, and Hungary faces financial penalties over what the bloc sees as violations of its fundamental values and the rule of law.

Around $8 billion in EU coronavirus recovery funds earmarked for Hungary have been withheld over insufficient anti-corruption safeguards in its spending plan.

On Friday, the Commission asked the EU court to impose fines against Hungary in the form of a lump sum and a daily penalty payment. Such a fine would be similar to EU sanctions recently imposed on Poland, a key ally of Hungary’s, which in October was ordered to pay 1 million euros ($1.2 million) a day over what the EU sees as breaches of its values concerning the judiciary.

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