(June 28, 2010) On June 24, 2010, the European Commission issued a reasoned opinion in the infringement proceedings initiated by Hungary against Slovakia for denying the Hungarian President entry into its territory. The events that gave rise to the proceedings unfolded on August 29, 2009, when the Hungarian President intended to visit Slovakia to attend the unveiling of a statue dedicated to the first king and patron saint of Hungary, St Stephen I. The day coincided with the 41st anniversary of the occupation of Czechoslovakia by the Warsaw Pact nations.
The Government of Slovakia deemed the timing of the Hungarian President's as posing a security threat to the country and denied him entry on the basis of Directive 2004/38/EC, regulating the right of citizens of the European Union and their family members to move and reside freely within the territory of the EU Member States. Under the rules of this Directive, EU Members retain the right to deny entry to EU citizens on grounds of public health, security, and safety.
In the aftermath of the event, Hungary submitted a complaint to the European Commission and requested that the Commission initiate infringement proceedings against Slovakia for violating the 2004 Directive. The Commission responded that official visits by heads of a Member State to the territory of the other do not fall within the scope of EU law, and that, moreover, EU Members retain complete jurisdiction over their bilateral diplomatic relations. Subsequently, Hungary initiated a formal complaint with the Commission, based on article 259 of the Treaty on the EU, which requires that EU Members refer an issue to the Commission first, prior to filing a suit against another EU Member before the Court of Justice of the EU.
The Commission, in its reasoned opinion, reiterated its findings in the initial complaint and reached the conclusion that the EU treaty rules and secondary legislation, in particular Directive 2004/38/EC, apply to EU citizens exercising their rights as private individuals, and do not apply to visits of heads of a Member State to another EU Member State. The Commission also held that EU institutions lack the power to amend international law governing bilateral diplomatic relations among EU Member States. (Press Release, IP/10/827, Reasoned Opinion – Article 259 TFEU – Hungary/Slovakia (June 24, 2010), RAPID, available at http://europa.eu/rapid/pressReleasesAction.do?reference=IP/10/827&fo