Sunday

25th Feb 2024

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.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Get the EU news that really matters

Instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

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.

Opinion

Ukraine refugees want to return home — but how?

Fewer than one-in-ten Ukrainian refugees intend to settle permanently outside Ukraine, according to new research by the associate director of research and the director of gender and economic inclusion at the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development.

Latest News

  1. EU rewards Tusk's Poland on rule of law with €137bn
  2. UK-EU relations defrosting ahead of near-certain Labour win
  3. EU paid Russia €420-per-capita for fossil fuels since war began
  4. After two years of war, time to hit Putin's LNG exports
  5. Creating the conditions for just peace in Ukraine
  6. Energy and minerals disputes overshadow new EU-ACP pact
  7. Germany speeds up Georgia and Morocco asylum returns
  8. How Amazon lobbyists could be banned from EU Parliament

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersJoin the Nordic Food Systems Takeover at COP28
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersHow women and men are affected differently by climate policy
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersArtist Jessie Kleemann at Nordic pavilion during UN climate summit COP28
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersCOP28: Gathering Nordic and global experts to put food and health on the agenda
  5. Friedrich Naumann FoundationPoems of Liberty – Call for Submission “Human Rights in Inhume War”: 250€ honorary fee for selected poems
  6. World BankWorld Bank report: How to create a future where the rewards of technology benefit all levels of society?

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsThis autumn Europalia arts festival is all about GEORGIA!
  2. UNOPSFostering health system resilience in fragile and conflict-affected countries
  3. European Citizen's InitiativeThe European Commission launches the ‘ImagineEU’ competition for secondary school students in the EU.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic Region is stepping up its efforts to reduce food waste
  5. UNOPSUNOPS begins works under EU-funded project to repair schools in Ukraine
  6. Georgia Ministry of Foreign AffairsGeorgia effectively prevents sanctions evasion against Russia – confirm EU, UK, USA

Join EUobserver

EU news that matters

Join us