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Court OKs Slovak Bar of Hungarian President

(CN) - Slovakia did not break EU law when it barred the president of Hungary from crossing its borders, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled Tuesday.

Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom was denied entry into Slovakia on Aug. 21, 2009, after he had been asked to attend the dedication of a statue of Saint Stephen, the founder and first king of Hungary. The dedication was to have taken place in the town of Komarno, Slovakia.

After several diplomatic exchanges between the two countries, Slovak leaders adopted a joint resolution in which they said Solyom's visit was deemed inappropriate since he had not expressed a desire to meet Slovak dignitaries.

The Aug. 21 visit would also coincide with the 41st anniversary of the invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact troops, which included members of the Hungarian army.

While Solyom waited outside the Slovakian border, Slovakia notified the Hungarian ambassador of its decision, citing security reasons as allowed by EU directive. Solyom refrained from entering Slovak territory.

After the European Commission declined Solyom's request to bring proceedings against Slovakia on grounds that security concerns are insufficient to refuse heads of state entry into another member state, Hungary sued on his behalf. The European Commission intervened in support of Slovakia. An adviser to the Luxembourg court opined in March 2012 that Slovakia broke no laws, and the court agreed Tuesday.

While all EU citizens enjoy the right to move freely between member states, heads of state are governed by international diplomatic law, according to the court.

"Accordingly, the fact that a Union citizen performs the duties of a Head of State is such as to justify a limitation, based on international law, on the exercise of the right of free movement conferred on that person by [EU law]," the decision states.

While the court found that Slovakia had incorrectly invoked EU law in denying Solyom entry - a move Hungary claimed was politically motivated, it also said that the action did not constitute an abuse of rights under European case law.

"The court has already held that evidence of an abusive practice requires, first, a combination of objective circumstances in which, despite formal observance of the conditions laid down by the European Union rules, the purpose of those rules has not been achieved, and, second, a subjective element consisting in the intention to obtain an advantage from the European Union rules by creating artificially the conditions laid down for obtaining it," the justices found. "In the present case, first, the conditions laid down for the application of [the law] were not formally complied with. Since the only act making reference to that directive is the note verbale of 21 August 2009 from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Slovak Republic to the Ambassador of Hungary in the Slovak Republic, no decision for the purposes of [the law] had been adopted by the competent national authorities."

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