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The Constitutional Court (AB) has ruled on a petition from Justice Minister Judit Varga about whether the government is required to enforce a judgment issued by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) last year.

The ECJ ruled at the time that the Hungarian practice of returning asylum seekers to third countries considered “safe” without a thorough investigation first was contrary to EU law.

The Luxembourg body found that Hungary had not fully complied with its obligation to allow migrants to apply for asylum. However, as Hungary’s government did not take the necessary measures to rectify the matter, the European Commission asked the ECJ to impose a financial penalty on Hungary in November.

In the present case, the AB examined where the boundaries of jurisdictions between national and EU law were, and in which cases an EU Member State can disregard court decisions issued at European level and in which cases it cannot.

In its ruling yesterday, the AB did not take a position on this specific case, but stated that if it was unclear whether some area fell under the competence of national or European law, the Hungarian government could assume in good faith that it was national. In other words, the Hungarian government did not receive the same confirmation that the Polish government did from its own courts that national law may take precedence over EU law.

In the Helsinki Commission’s interpretation of the ruling, “the government failed in its sabotage attempt, and must implement the European Union’s decision.”

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By Steven N.

Steven is the editor-in-chief of Hungarian Politics. He has been following the political scene in Hungary and the Central European region more or less since 1994.