Hungarian court avoids ruling on whether EU law has primacy in migration case

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Hungary’s Constitutional Court has avoided a ruling on whether European Union law has primacy over national law.

The court declined to rule on a challenge by Budapest over the country’s treatment of refugees and asylum-seekers.

Hungarian Justice Minister Judit Varga had opposed a ruling last December by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU).

The EU’s top court had ruled that Hungary failed to respect EU law by pushing back people entering the country illegally, denying the right to apply for asylum, and detaining them in “transit zones” along the southern border with Serbia.

But Varga had argued that the ruling was incompatible with Hungary’s constitution

On Friday, Hungary’s top court said its own procedure does not “by its very nature” allow it to rule on the primacy of EU law.

In a video on Facebook, Varga hailed the decision as a victory, stating it meant Hungary could preserve its sovereignty.

But the human rights organisation Hungarian Helsinki Committee instead said that the ruling meant that Budapest could not continue ignoring the EU court’s decision.

A spokesperson for the European Commission said it would “analyse the ruling in detail” but noted that Hungary was obliged to implement the judgment of the EU court.

“We understand that the ruling does not as such challenge the principle of the primacy of EU law,” spokesperson Christian Wigand said.

Hungary’s government — led by right-wing Fidesz Prime Minister Viktor Orbán — has frequently clashed with the EU over immigration.

In 2015, Hungary refused to participate in an EU scheme to settle hundreds of thousands of refugees across the bloc’s 27 member nations.

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The EU member state also erected a razor-wire fence across its southern border to prevent migrants from entering.

Poland also challenged the primacy of EU law in October, which led to an internal crisis within the bloc after a Polish court ruled that the country’s constitution took precedence over some of the bloc’s treaties.

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