Budapest, February 26 (MTI) – The government initiative for a referendum on the migrant quota is fair and lawful, Justice Minister László Trócsányi said on Friday.
The referendum initiative announced by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on Wednesday is based on the principles of democracy because it aims to gauge public opinion, he told a press conference. A referendum is the most powerful tool, it represents even stronger legitimacy than parliament, he added.
The Constitutional Court has already ruled that European Union law is not international law but an internal law within an autonomous system, so putting this question to a referendum does not go against international law, he said. The government’s position is that the EU has not been given the authority to force a country to accept migrants and this is an important question affecting sovereignty, he added.
Relations with EU law and international law are regulated by separate sections in the basic law, which proves that the two are not identical, he said.
Hungary’s interest is to have a strong Europe of nation states based on equal rights to members, with protection for the four basic values and Schengen. At the same time, the member states have never agreed to give up “the essence of their statehood, sovereignty and independence” and they “retain the right to dispose over principles of the constitution that are indispensable for maintaining statehood and constitutional identity”, he added.
Trócsányi said the quota referendum initiative refers to the future and should be handled separately from a lawsuit filed with parliament’s approval last year in which the government maintains that the EU has no authority to impose a quota.
He added that holding national referendums on EU matters is not without precedent and cited Ireland, France and the Netherlands as examples. Such a referendum was also been in Hungary before its EU accession.
In the planned referendum, citizens will be asked “Do you want to allow the European Union to mandate the resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens to Hungary without the approval of the National Assembly”.
Trócsányi said if the outcome of the referendum is “no”, parliament should pass a law on Hungary’s approach to the EU’s mandatory quotas. If the outcome is “yes”, parliament should enact a law opening the way for the country to support amendments to the EU law, delegating the right to decide on the quotas to the EU’s competence.
If the referendum is not valid, parliament will make a decision within its own scope, he added.
The UNHCR, the United Nations refugee agency, expressed concern about the referendum. The organisation said in a statement on Friday the referendum announcement was a blow to common European efforts to resolve the migrant crisis. It said that asking the public to turn its back on victims of extremism, war and persecution goes against the decisions EU member states agreed on last year as well as basic European values.