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May 06, 2016 - Zoltán Kovács

Score one for democracy: Hungary’s top court gives green light to referendum on migrant quota

Hungary’s top court ruled this week in favor of the government’s plan for a referendum on the European Union’s mandatory migrant resettlement quotas. With the court’s decision, the last legal obstacle in Hungary has been removed

The people now have a chance to voice their opinion on a question that has the potential to impact the fundamental character of life in Hungary for generations to come. Though the match is far from over, score one for democracy.

Last year, one country alone – Germany, after the declarations of Chancellor Merkel – decided to unilaterally suspend the protocols regulating migration into the Schengen zone by saying that all migrants from Syria would be received in Germany. Encouraged by what was interpreted as an open invitation, more than 1.5 million illegal, largely unchecked migrants flocked into the EU. We now know that the migration routes, because the borders were not fortified, were exploited by criminal organizations engaged in human trafficking and terrorist cells, including terrorists since implicated in recent attacks in European capitals. Nevertheless, the mainstream media and opportunistic politicians came down hard on Hungary for protecting its stretch of the EU’s external border, upholding its responsibilities under the Schengen Agreement.

Despite these facts, Brussels, undemocratically and without any basis or precedent in its common law, foisted migrants upon each member state, despite the fact that many opposed the plan and the EU lacks a common migration policy. Hungary, along with other member states, turned to the European Court of Justice to overturn this clear violation of member state sovereignty.

Hungary’s referendum, which would take place this autumn, is not about the first decision of the European Council to redistribute migrants among the member states according to a quota but about stepping on the brake to prevent Brussels from continuing the quota system. Clearly, the Eurocrats intend to build this one-time measure into an ongoing scheme. The European Commission announced this week “a first set of legislative proposals” to reform the Common European Asylum System, including imposing a so-called “solidarity contribution,” otherwise known as a fine, of 250 thousand EUR on a member state for every migrant that it refuses.

The upcoming referendum in Hungary is the first of its kind in Europe. For once, the citizens will decide on whether the EU can intervene in their lives so drastically and whether it can force sovereign, independent countries to admit people who they never agreed to receive.

We believe Hungary’s citizens must decide if they will permit an outside power to intervene so seriously in their lives and the lives of future generations. We believe that people are entitled to safe borders, social and cultural security, and that the democratically elected leaders of the state have a responsibility to maintain security. We also believe that European countries have their own social problems to overcome. For example, southern Europe’s youth unemployment problems should be solved before importing a migrant labor force.

Others may disagree. But every member state should be able to decide whether it wants to be a part of a program to resettle migrants from outside the common EU borders. Countries may decide alone if they want to invite migrants from the Middle East, but then they must bear the consequences alone. They cannot force other member states to share that responsibility. They cannot invite migrants to their own territory and then relocate them to countries where they are unwelcome and where the migrants themselves often do not want to go.

If the EU ever builds a common migration policy, it should be based on consensus. Today, such a common migration policy does not exist. What exists is a common border protection policy based on a treaty. If, heaven forbid, the EU decides to suspend the common border protection policy and put in place an “open door” migration policy, there has to be a consensus. It cannot go against the will of the people of the countries of the EU.

Make no mistake, the Orbán Government will endure heavy criticism for the decision to put this to a popular vote. That’s fine. We’ve grown used to it. We feel strongly that the people should have a chance to decide on a decision so grave, and we sincerely hope others will follow. “Brusselsism” must be stopped.