27th Oct 2016

Orban would ban mass resettlement in constitution

Hungary's prime minister Viktor Orban is to propose constitutional amendments banning the mass resettlement of migrants by the EU without parliament's approval.

"In Hungary 3.3 million voters decided they will not let others decide for them on resettlement of migrants," he told journalists on Tuesday (4 October), after a referendum on Sunday saw 98 percent of voters who cast a valid ballot rejecting EU competence over migration quotas.

The referendum was however invalid according to Hungary's national election committee, as it failed to bring out more than half of Hungary's 8 million eligible voters.

Orban has nevertheless vowed to make constitutional changes, saying the referendum result "cannot remain without consequences in politics, if there is still democracy in Hungary".

The proposed amendments would state that without the parliament's consent no EU legislation can order the resettlement of migrants in Hungary.

They would also ban mass resettlement into Hungary, because as Orban argued, "it is a question of sovereignty, and no decision in Brussels can question Hungary's inalienable right to decide on its territorial integrity and population".

The prime minister said the government would amend the basic law, that came into force in 2011.

One of the amendments would state that resettlement could only happen after Hungarian authorities examined an individual request claim, or if Hungary's parliament passes a law allowing resettlement.

Hungary's government will review the proposed amendments on Wednesday, which would require a two-thirds majority in parliament.

The ruling Fidesz no longer has a two-thirds majority but Orban can count on the support of the far-right Jobbik, which has earlier submitted similar proposals for constitutional change.

The opposition socialists said it was "not legitimate" to amend the constitution based on an invalid referendum.

EU supremacy?

Orban also added that "he cannot imagine" that Brussels would make a decision that goes against the will of Hungarian voters.

Since Sunday's referendum Orban has dismissed the issue of validity, and has been instead focusing on the high proportion of votes going his way.

"Brussels cannot make rules that override the national legislation," Orban was quoted by the Hungarian news wire.

EU law however is superior to national law - if there is conflict, then European law prevails.

EU officials quizzed on the issue said they would have to look at the language Orban uses in the legal text to check if the amendments could go against EU law.

However, Orban might use as a legal basis the part of the EU treaty that says the union "shall respect their essential State functions, including ensuring the territorial integrity of the State, maintaining law and order and safeguarding national security".

If all goes according to Orban's plan, MPs could vote on the proposed constitutional amendments on 8 November and they could come into force mid-November.

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