Mar 06, 2016 - Zoltán Kovács

PM Orbán on the referendum: ‘The question is not what we think, but what the people think’

“Here, there will be no breaking through of the [border] fence, no immigrant uprisings, no refugee camps set on fire and all kinds of gangs will not be out on the hunt for Hungarian women, our wives and daughters. This is impossible, it cannot happen,” said Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. “From this perspective, we will not make Europe out of Hungary. This will remain a safe place.”

At the first site of such illegal activities, the prime minister said during his regular Friday morning interview on public radio, police and other officials of the ministry of interior are authorized to take action to the full extent of the law.

As leaders of European governments prepare for yet another EU summit on migration on Monday, many ask why the issue remains so difficult to solve and why, in March 2016, illegal migration to Europe remains largely uncontrolled and unmanaged.

“Europe underestimates herself,” the prime minister said, offering one answer to the questions. Europe seeks protection from Turkey, and, as the prime minister explained, Hungary fully backs a well-defined, smart agreement between the EU and Turkey. However, that should not be Europe’s only objective.

“A continent of 500 million can never afford to have its security dependent on a country of 71-something million,” he said. “There are 500 million of us Europeans. That means there are more of us than the Americans and Russians combined. We are one of the most developed economic regions of the world. Our technical tools, development, and financial power makes it possible for us to protect ourselves. So why do we need to beg for protection from a country of seventy-something million instead of us protecting ourselves? No one understands this,” the prime minister said, quickly adding that agreements with the countries that border Europe are always important, but these agreements “never replace and never make up for [our] own [self-]protection.”

The prime minister later turned to the issue of Hungary’s plans to hold a public referendum on the EU’s migrant resettlement quota.

“The liberal and democratic way of thinking clashes over here,” when it comes to the question of “whether a refugee policy, which is in contradiction to the public’s will, can be right,” he said. “The liberals say of course, it can be. [They say] that society is not enlightened enough and in its values not modern enough, so our job, as their leaders, is to go against the will of the people to realize certain things.”

But there’s an alternative, the prime minister said. “[T]here are the democrats – we, Hungarians belong to this group – who say that of course, these debates can take place, but in basic questions, such as the faith of nations, the question is not what we [the leaders] think, but what the people think. So we have to ask them and listen to them and their opinions. Their decisions have to be accepted.”

Hungarians will be able to make that decision in an upcoming referendum for which, a decision of the Orbán Government that has come under heavy criticism from Brussels and other European capitals. In the radio interview on Friday, PM Orbán once again made it clear that the referendum will not be against the existing, one-time quota system, which was already approved by the Council. That decision is being challenged by Hungary and Slovakia in the proper forum, the European Court.

“The referendum is about the future,” the prime minister said, about a plan expected to come from certain European leadership in which they propose “a permanent system in place of the [existing] one-time resettlement system. This is what Hungary rises up against,” he said.