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Sep 29, 2016

Hungary's referendum in the global spotlight

If Brussels wants to end the political drift toward populist and nationalist movements, it will have to show less disdain for legitimate public concerns about unchecked mass migration

Hungarian voters head to the polls on Sunday, October 2, for a referendum on the European Union's forced migration quotas, and polls show voters will reject the EU’s plan by a wide margin, writes the Wall Street Journal today.

At issue is whether the EU can impose refugee quotas on states that are reluctant to accept them. Under a system devised in Brussels last year, some 160,000 migrants were to be relocated among EU countries.

Hungary was expected to accept about 1,000, though the scheme would also see an estimated 54,000 now residing in Hungary relocated elsewhere. That system has failed, with only a few thousand actually relocated.

More recent proposals would relocate migrants to EU countries directly from the Middle East. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán objects in principle to the EU imposing quotas without the consent of elected national governments.

PM Orbán speaks for many in central and eastern Europe who argue that their relatively homogeneous societies have little experience integrating new arrivals. He also points to recent terrorist attacks by migrants in France and Germany, and to the West’s failure to integrate its Muslim minorities.

Europe’s leaders are guilty of dumping a humanitarian and political crisis on Hungary because they have been unwilling to tamp the flow of refugees or cap the number they’re prepared to accept.

If Brussels wants to end the political drift toward populist and nationalist movements, it will have to show less disdain for legitimate public concerns about unchecked mass migration.