Friday

23rd Feb 2018

Orban suffers setback in migration referendum

Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban's fight against EU migration policy suffered a setback in Sunday's (2 October) referendum on quotas as turnout was too low to make the result legally binding.

Orban vowed to continue his fight in Brussels against the mandatory migrant quota scheme, and said he would still amend the constitution based on the referendum result.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

Despite a year-long anti-immigrant campaign, Orban’s governmen failed to convince more than half of the 8 million voters to go to the ballot boxes on Sunday).

With over 99 percent of the vote counted, 39.8 percent of Hungarians cast a valid vote. Of those, 98.3 percent voted against allowing Brussels to decide on mandatory refugee quotas, while only 1.7 percent said yes.

Orban needed at least half of the voters to cast a valid ballot, which asked the following question: "Do you want the European Union to be able to order the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without parliament’s consent?”.

The number of invalid votes was over 6 percent, a relative win for the satire Two-Tailed Dog Party, which had called on voters to cast protest ballots.

Opposition parties, including the far-right Jobbik party subsequently called for Orban’s resignation, but the government hailed the result as a victory.

Hungary's government aimed to use the referendum to help divert attention from domestic issues, and boost its drive to stop any EU scheme set to distribute migrants among member states.

Downplaying the importance of the 50 percent threshold for the referendum to be valid, Orban said Sunday morning after casting his vote that the main issue is whether the "no" votes will be in majority.

After the votes were counted Orban sounded defiant.

"Brussels or Budapest. That was the question, and we have decided that the right to decide [with whom Hungarians want to live with] solely lies with Budapest," the prime minister said.

He said he would initiate a constitutional change to reflect the will of the people, and vowed to continue his fight in Brussels against migrant quotas.

"The weapon will be strong enough in Brussels too," he said about the referendum results, adding: "Brussels cannot force its will on Hungary."

Orban did not comment on the low turnout, but pointed out that more Hungarians voted in favour of his stance on Sunday than who many voted in favour of EU membership in 2003.

Orban has long been a staunch opponent of the EU's migration policy, and a fierce critic of German chancellor Angela Merkel's open-door policy.

His government challenged an EU decision last year on migration quotas at the EU's top court, and has refused to take in a single refugee.

It also opposes any mandatory distribution scheme under the EU asylum policy reform, which has been declared politically dead also by Slovak PM Robert Fico, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the EU.

"The whole of Europe has won. Populism and xenophobia have lost," Gianni Pitella, the socilaists group leader in the European Parliament said in a statement Sunday night.

"Stunning result in Hungary. 95% reject EU migration quotas. Are you listening Mrs. Merkel?," Nigel Farage, a leading Brexit campaigner and MEP tweeted.

The referendum setback is a disappointment for the government, which has mounted a massive communications campaign linking migration with criminality and terrorism, aimed at getting out the vote for Sunday.

A few hours before polls closed state television ran a caption claiming that "migrants will move towards Hungary, if the referendum is favourable to them."

Orban spins migrant vote result, as EU celebrates

Hungarians have rejected xenophobia with their resounding no-show to Viktor Orban's referendum on Sunday, according to European politicians. But the prime minister claims the vote has validated his battle with Brussels.

Defiant Orban to carry on fight with Brussels

Hungary's prime minister is moving ahead with a contitutional change despite the invalid referendum on EU migration quotas. He expects a tough fight with Brussels.

Frontex naval operation to look for 'foreign fighters'

The EU border and coast guard agency, or Frontex, has launched a new naval operation called Themis. The operation replaces its surveillance Triton mission but with a bigger emphasis on security and intelligence gathering.

News in Brief

  1. EU to double funding for Sahel forces
  2. EU parliament president: 'The immigration problem is Africa'
  3. May to unveil EU departure strategy next week
  4. Pregnant workers may be dismissed, EU court rules
  5. Romanian minister demands anti-corruption prosecutor fired
  6. Luxembourg and Ireland pay highest minimum wages
  7. Freedom of expression under threat in Spain, warn MEPs
  8. Report: EU to increase sanctions on Myanmar

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ILGA EuropeAnkara Ban on LGBTI Events Continues as Turkish Courts Reject NGO Appeals
  2. Aid & Trade LondonJoin Thousands of Stakeholders of the Global Aid Industry at Aid & Trade London
  3. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.European Free Alliance Joins MHRMI to End the Anti-Macedonian Name Negotiations
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Tourism Year to Promote Business and Mutual Ties
  5. European Jewish CongressAt “An End to Antisemitism!” Conference, Dr. Kantor Calls for Ambitious Solutions
  6. UNESDAA Year Ago UNESDA Members Pledged to Reduce Added Sugars in Soft Drinks by 10%
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsUzbekistan: Investigate Torture of Journalist
  8. CESICESI@Noon on ‘Digitalisation & Future of Work: Social Protection For All?’ - March 7
  9. UNICEFExecutive Director's Committment to Tackling Sexual Exploitation and Abuse of Children
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region 2018: Facts, Figures and Rankings of the 74 Regions
  11. Mission of China to the EUDigital Economy Shaping China's Future, Over 30% of GDP
  12. Macedonian Human Rights Movement Int.Suing the Governments of Macedonia and Greece for Changing Macedonia's Name

Latest News

  1. Election fever picks up This WEEK
  2. EU-Morocco fishing deal casts doubt on EU future foreign policy
  3. EU leaders put 'Spitzenkandidat' on summit menu
  4. European far-right political party risks collapse
  5. The key budget issues on EU leaders' table
  6. EU leaders to kick off post-Brexit budget debate
  7. Greek government's steady steps to exit bailout programme
  8. Frontex: Europe's new law enforcement agency?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Swedish EnterprisesHarnessing Globalization- at What Cost? Keynote Speaker Commissioner Malmström
  2. European Friends of ArmeniaSave The Date 28/02: “Nagorno-Karabakh & the EU: 1988-2018”
  3. European Heart NetworkSmart CAP is Triple Win for Economy, Environment and Health
  4. European Free AlllianceEFA Joined the Protest in Aiacciu to Solicit a Dialogue After the Elections
  5. EPSUDrinking Water Directive Step Forward but Human Right to Water Not Recognized
  6. European Gaming & Betting AssociationGambling Operators File Data Protection Complaint Against Payment Block in Norway
  7. European Jewish CongressEJC Expresses Deep Concern Over Proposed Holocaust Law in Poland
  8. CECEConstruction Industry Gets Together to Discuss the Digital Revolution @ the EU Industry Days
  9. Mission of China to the EUChina-EU Relations in the New Era
  10. European Free AlllianceEnd Discrimination of European Minorities - Sign the Minority Safepack Initiative
  11. Centre Maurits Coppieters“Diversity Shouldn’t Be Only a Slogan” Lorant Vincze (Fuen) Warns European Commission
  12. Dialogue PlatformWhat Can Christians Learn from a Global Islamic Movement?