Friday

18th Jan 2019

Hungary to hold referendum on EU migration plan

  • Orban: "You cannot make decisions over people's heads" (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

Hungary will hold a referendum on European Union plans for a system of mandatory quotas, prime minister Viktor Orban said on Wednesday (24 February) at a press conference.

Voters will be asked to answer the question: "Do you want the EU to be able, without the consent of the Parliament, to prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens into Hungary?". Orban did not specify when the plebiscite would be held.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The Hungarian prime minister said that nobody has asked the European people so far if they support, accept or reject the migrant quota system, which could fundamentally change their lives.

"You cannot make decisions over people's heads, against the will of the European people on issues that seriously affect their lives and that of future generations," he said, arguing it is a question of European democracy.

Orban also said the migrant quotas would redraw the ethnic, cultural and religious map of Hungary and Europe.

"The government is bowing to public sentiment. We feel that introducing resettlement quotas for migrants without the backing of the people amounts to an abuse of power," he argued.

The maverick PM said he would recommend holding a referendum in other countries as well.

Orban added that this is a fundamental and unavoidable question: "can anyone else decide for Hungarians who we Hungarians should or should not live with?"

Hungary rejected the decision on mandatory relocation quotas for 120,000 asylum seekers decided by qualified majority in the EU Council last September, where Hungary was overruled.

Along with Slovakia, Hungary has challenged the decision at the bloc's top court, the European Court of Justice.

Under the council decision, Hungary would have had to take in 1,294 asylum seekers from Italy or Greece, but has refused to do so while the court case is pending.

Orban earlier in the week told parliament that the EU plan to expand last year's one-off decision into an automatic mandatory resettlement programmewould top the agenda at the March EU summit.

"What's at stake at the European Council meeting in March is whether to have the prime ministers' blessings on a mandatory resettlement quota system, as part of EU law, that would continuously transfer migrants here, that we don't want to allow in," he said in a speech on Tuesday.

'Common sense'

Hungary has been criticised for erecting a fence last year along its southern border with Serbia and Croatia to stop the flow of migrants.

Orban has also been advocating for months a strengthening of the EU's external borders and creation of a second line of filters for migrants at the Macedonian-Greek border.

Earlier in the week, Orban said that at last week's summit the EU had accepted the Hungarian approach, namely stopping migrants as a priority.

"In a political sense we are now where the EU should have been a year ago," he said.

"The Balkan countries and Austria have taken the path of common sense," Orban told the parliament, referring to the decision of the countries along the Western Balkan migration route to tighten border restrictions.

Orban: EU leaders lack will to stop migrants

Hungarian PM said European leaders lacked will to create migration plan and vowed to fight mandatory relocations, while building a fence on Romanian border.

Stakes grow in Hungary's migration referendum

Orban's referendum on migration in October is designed to alter EU policy and boost his popularity. But in the post-Brexit climate it could mark a bigger anti-EU swerve.

UN concerned by Hungary's migrant push-backs

UN refugee agency has voiced concerns over new Hungarian rules leading to push-backs of asylum seekers and urged authorities to investigate reports of violence.

News in Brief

  1. Another referendum 'would take a year', Downing St says
  2. 82-year old Berlusconi to run in EU elections
  3. EU parliament votes to triple funds for democracy promotion
  4. EU parliament backs linking budget payments to rule of law
  5. Verhofstadt voted for Draghi amendment 'by mistake'
  6. 'Plan B' Brexit vote in UK parliament set for 29 January
  7. Verhofstadt wanted Draghi out of G30 group
  8. Putin heads to Serbia amid warnings against West

Opinion

EU parliament vote strengthens whistleblower protection

We must not undervalue what a massive step the European Parliament vote represents. The hard work has paid off. We can take a moment to celebrate, but the hard work begins again for finalising strong protection for European whistleblowers.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsOpen letter to Emmanuel Macron ahead of Uzbek president's visit
  8. International Partnership for Human RightsRaising key human rights concerns during visit of Turkmenistan's foreign minister
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersState of the Nordic Region presented in Brussels
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersThe vital bioeconomy. New issue of “Sustainable Growth the Nordic Way” out now
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersThe Nordic gender effect goes international
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersPaula Lehtomaki from Finland elected as the Council's first female Secretary General

Latest News

  1. Brexit delay 'reasonable', as May tries cross-party talks
  2. MEPs allow Draghi's membership of secretive bank group
  3. EU parliament backs Morocco deal despite row
  4. Barnier open to 'future relations' talks if UK red lines shift
  5. German spies to monitor far-right AfD party
  6. On Morocco, will the EU ignore its own court?
  7. UK parliament rejects May's Brexit deal in historic defeat
  8. EU suggests majority vote on digital tax by 2025

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us