The European Commission adopted today 8 infringement decisions for failing to fully transpose and implement the Common European Asylum System. The decisions concern Greece, Croatia, Italy, Malta and Hungary. Today's measures follow the 40 decisions launched on 23 September 2015, in addition to the 34 already pending cases, on potential or actual infringements of EU asylum legislation. The Commission will continue to pursue infringement procedures swiftly and effectively to ensure full compliance with EU legislation in this area.
The Commission is today urging Greece, Croatia and Italy to correctly implement the Eurodac Regulation (Regulation (EU) No 603/2013), which provides for effective fingerprinting of asylum seekers and transmission of data to the Eurodac central system within 72 hours. Effective implementation of the Eurodac Regulation is essential for the functioning of the Dublin system and EU relocation schemes. The European Commission sent administrative letters to Greece, Croatia and Italy in October. Two months later, concerns have not been effectively addressed. The European Commission has therefore decided today to send Letters of Formal Notice to Greece, Croatia and Italy (the first step of an infringement procedure).
The Commission is also urging Greece and Malta to communicate the national measures taken to fully transpose the Asylum Procedures Directive, which sets out common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection, and the Reception Conditions Directive, which deals with access to reception conditions for asylum seekers while they wait for examination of their applications. Greece and Malta have not communicated the necessary transposition measures. Letters of Formal Notice were sent on 23 September 2015 to Greece, Malta and 16 other Member States concerning the Asylum Procedures Directive. Letters of Formal Notice were also sent to Greece, Malta and 17 other Member States on the same date concerning the Reception Conditions Directive. Despite these letters, Greece and Malta have not yet notified the Commission of their transposition measures. Therefore the Commission has decided today to address 'Reasoned Opinions' to both Member States concerning both Directives.
The European Commission has today addressed a letter of formal notice to Hungary, opening an infringement procedure concerning the recently adopted Hungarian asylum legislation. The Commission has found the Hungarian legislation in some instances to be incompatible with EU law (specifically, the recast Asylum Procedures Directive and the Directive on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings).
The Commission had already examined the legislative amendments adopted by the Hungarian Parliament in July and September 2015 and sent an administrative letter outlining our preliminary concerns to the Hungarian authorities.
After careful examination of the reply from the Hungarian authorities, a number of concerns remain:
Firstly, regarding the asylum procedures, the Commission is concerned that there is no possibility to refer to new facts and circumstances in the context of appeals and that Hungary is not automatically suspending decisions in case of appeals - effectively forcing applicants to leave their territory before the time limit for lodging an appeal expires, or before an appeal has been heard. The recast Asylum Procedures Directive establishes common procedures for granting and withdrawing international protection and sets clear rules on how to apply for asylum. It applies to all applications for international protection made in the territory, including at the border, in the territorial waters or in the transit zones of the Member States.
Secondly, regarding rights to translation and interpretation, the Commission is concerned the Hungarian law on fast-tracked criminal proceedings for irregular border crossings does not respect provisions of the Directive on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings, which ensures that every suspect or accused person who does not understand the language of the proceedings is provided with a written translation of all essential documents, including any judgment.
Thirdly, on the fundamental right to an effective remedy and to a fair trial under Article 47 of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the EU, there are concerns as to the fact that under the new Hungarian law dealing with the judicial review of decisions rejecting an asylum application a personal hearing of the applicants is optional. Judicial decisions taken by court secretaries (a sub-judicial level) lacking judicial independence also seem to be in breach of the Asylum Procedures Directive and Article 47 of the Charter.
As a consequence of these concerns, the Commission has today initiated an infringement procedure and sent a letter of formal notice to Hungary. The Hungarian authorities have two months to respond to the Commission.
In addition to the letter of formal notice concerning these specific issues, the Commission will continue bilateral contacts with the Hungarian authorities and will request additional clarification on other outstanding issues.