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Migration

The Reason Behind Hungary’s Migrant Resettlement Referendum

| March 16, 2016

Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced February 24 that Hungary will hold a referendum on mandatory migrant resettlement quotas.

The referendum will ask, “Do you agree that the European Union should have the power to impose the compulsory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary without the consent of the National Assembly of Hungary?”

The Socialist president of the European Parliament, Martin Schulz, wasted little time in denouncing the decision, calling it “populist and nationalist” in an interview he gave to Euronews. He argued that the figure in place for Hungary, according to the current plan, is around 1,300 people. Others asserted that the Hungarian referendum cannot have any binding effect as an existing policy, one that has already been approved by the Council, cannot be withdrawn based on the public referendum.

That’s true to a degree. But that’s why Hungary is challenging that decision, along with Slovakia, in the European Court of Justice. More importantly, that’s not what the referendum is about.

The critics missed an essential detail: Hungary’s referendum will not be on the quota scheme that was already accepted, but on future plans in general, that aim to impose mandatory quotas. Here’s what Prime Minister Orbán said in the State of the Nation speech, February 27:

“After all, the European Union is based on the foundations of democracy. This means that we must not make decisions which will dramatically change people’s lives without consulting people and against their will. This is why we are holding a referendum in Hungary. This is not about the quota that has already been decided on, and which is being challenged in court by Hungary; that is the past. The referendum is about the future: we call the citizens of Hungary to battle, in opposition to the new European immigration system’s compulsory resettlement quotas, which will be on the agenda for March.”

We have plenty of reasons to oppose the EU’s mandatory resettlement scheme (and, by the way, Hungary is not only one against). We believe the way it was forcefully accepted contradicts European law. We believe that it serves as an invitation for masses of migrants to come to Europe in hope of immigrating permanently. We believe that is the wrong thing to do, because instead of allowing millions to come to the European content, risking their lives and enduring the abuse of human traffickers, we believe we should help those masses at the source, by addressing the problems at their origin. A carte blanche for immigrants does nothing to solve the problem, but it brings those problems to Europe.

Despite all of the above, many European leaders are still in favor of enforcing migrant resettlement quotas. Not just those quotas that are in place as part of the plan previously approved by the Council, but additional ones, according to which more migrants may be taken in from Turkey.

Striking an agreement with Turkey for the advancement of border protection cannot be an aim pursued at all cost. Hungary and others blocked the agreement with Turkey for this very reason. The EU’s aim – in negotiating with Turkey or among its own members – should be to limit the influx of migrants, not increase it.