The government’s referendum question asking voters if they want the EU to prescribe the mandatory resettlement of migrants in Hungary without the consent of Parliament is not about national sovereignty, the Socialist Party has said. Party leader József Tóbiás also criticised Parliament’s decision not to hold his party’s two proposed referendums at the same time.
The Socialist Party has already made it clear that it does not support the concept of mandatory migrant quotas and sees the sovereignty of Hungary’s Parliament as a national interest, Tóbiás said. “But that is not what this question is about.” He said his party’s job must now be to explain the government’s referendum question to voters, though “It’s difficult to say what the question is actually about”.
No on state-land and salary cap referenda
Concerning the two referendums initiated by the Socialists, Tóbiás said the party will urge voters to block the government’s state-owned land privatisation programme and support putting a 2 million forint cap on public officials’ salaries. He said the party aims to collect 250,000 to 260,000 supporting signatures for their referendum initiatives to be certain that they have the 200,000 required by law.
Tóbiás said the 100,000 signatures the party had already collected for each question would have enabled Parliament to approve including all three questions on the same referendum ballot.
Parliament has approved the referendum on migrant quotas but rejected a proposal by the Socialists to hold the government-initiated referendum on the same day as their two referendums.
The ruling Fidesz party said the Socialist Party wants to block Hungarians from having their say on Brussels’ migrant quota scheme. “The Socialists did not support building the border fence nor protecting the borders, and now they are challenging the referendum too,” Fidesz said.
“Apart from the Socialists, every Hungarian understands what the referendum question is about. It is about giving the people a chance to express their opinion about Brussels’ planned mandatory migrant relocation scheme.”
We’re staying in the EU
Speculations started to emerge later that the government plans to use the results of the referendum to start an anti-EU campaign, which could eventually lead to Hungary’s secession.
Government spokesman Zoltán Kovács dismissed as “nonsense” the idea that any rejection of the European Union’s planned mandatory migrant quotas in the Hungarian referendum would be a vote against the European Union. This charge is raised whenever Hungary criticises some aspects of the EU’s system and approach to certain issues, he said.
“A difference in opinion, however, does not mean that we are against something,” Kovács said. It is a common interest that a well-functioning, efficient and strong EU should meet the economic, social and demographic challenges it faces, he added.
Kovács said the government and a majority of Hungarians oppose the planned mandatory resettlement of migrants to the country. The referendum scheduled for September or October would enable the government and the prime minister to put forward a clear position which might serve as encouragement to several other member states.
Szijjártó blasts Asselborn’s ‘hypocrisy’
It wasn’t just on the domestic front that the referendum idea came under fire. In an interview with German public broadcaster ARD, Luxembourg’s Foreign Minister, Jean Asselborn, said “Europe will die” if member states held referendums to decide EU matters.
His Hungarian counterpart, Péter Szijjártó, responded in an interview with Magyar Nemzet: “If Europe dies it will be because of its hypocrisy, which Luxembourg’s foreign minister excels at.” Szijjártó said Western European politicians always talk about the importance of democracy, but at the point the Hungarian government canvasses opinion on an important issue they question the most democratic method – a referendum.
The proposal to fine countries that refuse to comply with the EU migrant quota is “plain blackmail” and goes against commonsense, European rules and European interests, he said. According to Szijjártó, Hungary is highly regarded for its participation in international missions. Currently, some 850 Hungarian soldiers serve in various missions abroad and a programme to increase defence spending by 0.1 percent of GDP each year will be extended until 2026, he added.