Oct 19, 2016 - Zoltán Kovács

The amendment gives voice to the people’s will

“In 2015, a migratory wave of unforeseen proportions reached the borders of Europe,” according to the text presenting the proposed amendments to the Fundamental Law of Hungary. “One and a half million people crossed Schengen borders illegally. The cultural and economic integration of the masses of newcomers has made Europe face an unsolvable task, and uncontrolled border-crossings have significantly increased the danger of terror.

“The European Union tried to distribute those arriving into Europe among the Member States through mandatory resettlement quotas,” the text continues. “For the first time in Europe, the government of Hungary initiated a referendum on mandatory settlement.”

Ever since the Hungarian people, 3.3 million, voted a resounding 98 percent ‘no’ against the EU’s forced migration quotas, the government of Hungary has been looking at ways to incorporate this expression of the people’s will in the Fundamental Law.

Normally, if more than 50 percent of eligible voters take part in a referendum, the results automatically become public law in their own right. However, due in part to the fact that 44 percent of the voting public came out in force to cast their vote, passing these new laws requires additional support from members of Parliament. “I have to get additional support, I have to organize that additional backing,” the prime minister said during his radio interview on Friday.

Negotiations with opposition parties continue this week to secure the necessary support. But the prime minister has been clear about why the proposed amendment must be translated into law. A new unity has taken shape in Hungary. The people have clearly stated what they want, that only Budapest can make the decision as to whether any non-EU citizens are able live in Hungary, and it is the government’s duty to try and realize their will.

This is “not about the prime minister,” he said, “but the will of 3.3 million Hungarian people. And, I think, it is something that every member of Parliament - irrespective of party membership - could bravely support.”

Points in the proposed amendment to the Fundamental Law include: 

A clear statement on preventing Brussels from ordering the resettlement of migrants to Hungary under a resolution without the consent of the Hungarian parliament, and a ban on mandatory group resettlements.

A declaration that the resettlement of people without the right to free movement and stay in Hungary can only take place on the basis of individual requests assessed by the Hungarian authorities in procedures outlined in Hungarian laws enacted by parliament.

A change to the “national creed” of the constitution, stating “it is the state’s fundamental duty to protect Hungary’s constitutional identity rooted in its historical constitution,” highlighted in Article 1.

Making these changes part of the constitution means that they cannot be modified by Brussels. The prime minister has initiated the amendment process domestically and has sent the text of the proposals to European Commission President Juncker and discussed it with Slovak Prime Minister Fico, who holds the Council’s rotating presidency.

“The truth is,” Prime Minister Orbán said during the radio interview, “if President Juncker and the leaders of the Commission had obeyed the rules of the European Union, the Hungarian referendum wouldn’t have been necessary, in fact many of the issues that have arisen over recent months would not have occurred.”

“The European Council, where EU prime ministers are seated,” the prime minister continued, “has clearly stated not once but twice, that any form of movement of people – settling, relocation, reception, reassignment – can only take place on a voluntary basis.”

The Council documented the statement and announced it as the concerted decision of 28 European prime ministers. “The Commission, however, ignored Hungary’s decision, violated EU law and initiated a legislative process on the compulsory quota system.”

Taken together with the 98 percent voting ‘no’ in Hungary, this is why the Hungarian government believes the constitutional amendments to the Fundamental Law of Hungary are essential, and these changes will make the country a better and safer place for its citizens.

The complete text of the proposed amendment is available in English here.