Why Hungary's referendum is so important

Matters of migration and citizenship must remain the competence of individual member countries, not the EU

András Gyürk, a Member of the European Parliament and head of the Hungarian delegation to the European People’s Group, has written a compelling piece on the October 2nd referendum for Politico.eu today,

Gyürk writes that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and the Hungarian government has openly campaigned for a 'No' vote in Sunday's referendum due to its firm beliefs that matters of migration and citizenship must remain the competence of individual member countries, not the EU.

Critics have labelled the referendum as the first step in a Hungarian 'Brexit', however, Orbán has been unequivocal about the country’s support for the EU.

It was, in large part, Orbán’s government that negotiated Hungary’s accession and put the question to a referendum vote in 2003. His party, Fidesz, then in the opposition, staunchly supported it, as did the voters.

Gyürk writes that this referendum is about what kind of Europe we will have in the future.

Do we want to allow EU institutions to usurp powers they have not been given by the founding treaties? We see today an EU that is seriously challenged, in no small part because decision-makers and bureaucrats in Brussels have become out of touch with the will of European citizens.

By giving the people a voice in such an important matter — the right to decide who has the right to live in one’s country — Hungary wants to send a strong message to the EU, one that we hope will help the Union correct its course.

In an attempt to respond to the migration crisis, the European Commission has proposed, in a number of variations, a migrant resettlement scheme that would foist illegal immigrants onto member countries, often against the will of national governments and migrants themselves.

It was first put on the table as a one-time measure and thus circumvented a procedure that would require the agreement of all member states, but the Commission’s subsequent proposals outlined a permanent and mandatory plan.

Some saw Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s State of the Union speech as a withdrawal of these plans, but his spokesperson has confirmed that mandatory quotas are still on the agenda.

Gyürk writes that we should be focused on how to receive the massive influx of illegal migrants, instead of how to stop it. We should focus on finding ways to process asylum claims outside the EU and sending help where it is needed instead of bringing trouble into the Union.

Hungary has contributed to the humanitarian efforts and was among the first to send doctors and medicine to the refugee camps in Greece.

Hungarian initiatives to more effectively respond to the migration crisis, including stepping up border security, have helped Europe avoid an even deeper crisis.

We believe there is a role for the European Union in this crisis, but when it comes to the decision of who will live in our country and by what criteria, we will defend our national sovereignty, Gyürk adds.

The reasons include security-related concerns and worries about socio-economic consequences. But there is also a more important reason.

Ignoring the will of citizens, as we have seen in recent local elections, can come at a painfully high cost.

At the end of the day, all European citizens will vote on the way the migration crisis should be handled.

In Hungary, it will be a referendum. In other countries, voters will make themselves heard at general elections, presidential elections or local elections.

It would be to the benefit of the EU as a whole if decision-makers in Brussels and member countries shifted their focus to stopping illegal migration before radical parties take the upper hand.

Read more here.