Hungary Refuses to Change Immigration Policies, Faces Heavy Fines From EU

Hungary refuses to change immigration policies despite a ruling from the European Court of Justice, Prime Minister Viktor Orban said Tuesday, potentially resulting in heavy fines from the European Union.

Last year, the European Court of Justice ruled that Hungary had failed to follow EU law by creating pushbacks of people entering the country without permission, refusing them the right to apply for asylum, and detaining them in "transit zones" along Hungary's southern border with Serbia.

Earlier this month, Hungary's Constitutional Court avoided ruling on if EU law takes priority over the enforcement of the government's own measure, according to Reuters.

The heavy fines would be next for Hungary if it continues to refuse. The bloc's highest court in September began giving a daily fine of 1 million euros ($1.2 million) to Poland, an ally of Hungary, once it failed to follow a court decision of halting changes to its judicial system.

The European Commission, the EU's executive branch, already withheld approximately $8 billion in COVID recovery funds allocated for Hungary due to what the commission considered inadequate anti-corruption provisions in the country's spending plan.

On Tuesday, during a news conference in Budapest, Orban said that Hungary would continue with its migration policies, and that "it doesn't matter what the European court ruled. Hungary must continue to defend its borders."

"We decided that we will not do anything to change the way the border is protected," Orban said. " We won't change it and we aren't going to let anyone in."

 Hungary, Refusal in Changing Immigration Policies
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said during a news conference in Budapest on Tuesday that his nation would continue with its migration policies, and that "it doesn’t matter what the European court ruled. Hungary must continue to defend its borders.” Above, Orban arrives for an Eastern Partnership Summit in Brussels on December 15, 2021. Johanna Geron/Pool Photo via AP

Orban's announcement came as Hungary's anti-immigration government is locked in a dispute with the EU over the bloc's jurisdiction over the affairs of its 27 members, especially concerning his government's policies on immigration and LGBT issues.

On Tuesday, Orban—who next spring will face what is expected to be the tightest election since he took power in 2010—called the withholding of recovery funds "political blackmail," and said the EU had "no right" to hold back money owed to Hungary.

"The entire procedure is the most brutal sabotage of the unity and future of the European Union," he said. "This is what is breaking up the Union. I've never seen more irresponsible politics than in this issue. Who after this will trust the Commission?"

Hungary's government this month decided to halt more than $1 billion in investments to stem budget deficits emerging from record-high inflation and major state expenditures in the form of tax cuts and social benefits to retirees and families with children.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Hungary, Refusal in Changing Immigration Policies
The European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, has withheld approximately $8 billion in COVID recovery funds allocated for Hungary due to what the commission considered inadequate anti-corruption provisions in the country’s spending plan. Above, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban gives a press conference following a meeting of prime ministers of central Europe's informal body of cooperation, called the Visegrad Group (V4), in Budapest, Hungary, on November 4, 2021. Attila Kisbenedek/AFP via Getty Images