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Nov 23, 2018 - Zoltán Kovács

Q&A on the latest developments in the case of former PM Nikola Gruevski’s asylum

Hungarian authorities on Tuesday granted asylum to former Macedonian PM Nikola Gruevski. Since announcing his request last week, the government of Hungary has emphasized that the case is one of a purely legal nature, where international protocols on asylum and Hungary’s laws dictate procedure. Some questions have been raised about how the case came about, how Hungary followed the rules and how the decision was reached. Here are a few of those questions and the responses.

[Read more about the basic facts in my previous blog post here.] 

How did Nikola Gruevski arrive in Hungary?

Despite allegations that members of the Hungarian diplomatic corps were involved in “smuggling” the former PM across international borders between Hungary and Macedonia, Foreign Minister Szijjártó said yesterday that Gruevski crossed all three borders legally and in line with international regulations.

The former prime minister traveled from Macedonia to Albania and sought out the Hungarian embassy in the capital, Tirana, where he submitted his request for asylum. From Albania, he traveled to Montenegro and then to Serbia. Crossing these borders, he used his personal identity card, which is a valid form of identity for crossing borders between Albania, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia (for citizens of those countries). He then traveled by car from Serbia to Budapest. At the Hungary-Serbia border crossing, because it is an external border of the EU, he was requested to show a passport and was able to present a document issued by the Hungarian authorities, based on his asylum request presented in Tirana, to permit a one-time crossing of the border.

For the duration of his journey, the former PM presented valid travel documents that were examined by competent authorities. Hungarian diplomats were not involved in any illegal activity whatsoever.

It’s also important to note, as Prime Minister Orbán has pointed out, that critics in this case, those who oppose the granting of asylum to former Macedonian PM, closely coincide with the list of openly pro-migration groups. That’s no mere coincidence. Former PM Gruevski was also the first politician in the Balkans to build a fence and ask for assistance in stopping illegal migration.

On what grounds did Nikola Gruevski request asylum?

The former prime minister cited political persecution, threats against his life, and the lack of a fair process in judicial proceedings.

Why was the former prime minister granted asylum?

During the review of his case, Gruevski presented extensive documentation, press reports and his own testimony concerning political pressure on the office of the special prosecutor in Macedonia, changes to personnel on the criminal court, procedural irregularities, death threats and more.

Hungary’s Immigration and Asylum Office determined, based on this, that the former prime minister was likely subject to discrimination in the legal proceedings against him, that the impartiality of the judicial system was questionable, and that the legal irregularities in the process had reached the level of persecution. Based on this the Immigration and Asylum Office granted his request for asylum.

Hungary’s Immigration and Asylum Office refused to confirm that Gruevski’s asylum request was granted on Tuesday, even though he announced it on his Facebook page. Why is that?

Because the state is forbidden from doing so. According to Chapter 10 of Hungary’s Act 53 of 2007 on the right to asylum, Hungarian immigration authorities are prohibited from sharing details about the applicant’s asylum request and procedure.

As Minister of Interior Sándor Pintér said in a statement yesterday, the Immigration and Asylum Office acted “precisely, professionally and legally” when informing (or in this case refusing to inform) the public about the state of the asylum request. In fact, and it’s a general rule, authorities are barred from sharing information about asylum procedures to anyone except the United Nations.  

On the other hand, the applicant is not bound by confidentiality and is free to speak about the status of his or her asylum request at any time, or make the information public, as Mr. Gruevski did, by posting about it on his Facebook page.

Shouldn’t they involve the Macedonian party in the case around Nikola Gruevski’s asylum?

Both Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó and Interior Minister Pintér have confirmed that they are in touch with their Macedonian counterparts. As Prime Minister Orbán has noted, several other high-ranking political officials have in the past been granted asylum in Hungary, giving Hungary considerable “experience and routine in handling such affairs.”