Hungary will sue the European Commission and resist mandatory migrant resettlement quotas if Brussels does not take them off the agenda, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán said on Friday (28 October).
Orbán said his government would use a recent referendum in Hungary, in which the overwhelming majority of those who voted rejected the EU quotas, to challenge Brussels. Turnout for the vote was too low to make it legally binding.
Reinforcing concerns about his respect for polls, Orban has already downplayed the political significance of the low turnout and said there would be “legal consequences” regardless of the outcome.
“A valid referendum is always better than an invalid one, but the legal consequences will be the same,” he said on the day of the vote (2 October).
Orbán said there was a stalemate on the issue right now; Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, who holds the rotating EU presidency, is to propose a solution by the next EU summit in December.
Orbán told state radio that if the European Commission did not give up the idea of quotas, “then we will resist … we will not carry out (the EU decision), we will sue the Commission”.
“There will be a serious legal debate on whether a foreign population can be imposed on the people of an EU member state against its will,” he added. “This will be a big battle, and for this we need the (amended) constitution.”
Orbán says deciding whether to accept migrants is a matter of national sovereignty, and wants to amend Hungary’s constitution next month to ban the settlement of migrants there.
Orbán responded to the influx of migrants last year by sealing Hungary’s southern borders with a razor-wire fence and thousands of army and police. He says Hungary, with its Christian roots, does not want to take in Muslims in large numbers, and that they pose a security risk.
The firebrand leader has emerged as the standard-bearer of those opposed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “open-door” policy, in the wake of the bloc’s worst migration crisis since 1945.
The EU migrant quota proposal — spearheaded by Germany and approved by most EU governments last year after antagonistic debates — seeks to ease pressure on frontline countries Italy and Greece, where most migrants enter the EU.
But implementation has been slow. Eastern and central European nations are vehemently opposed to the plan aimed at relocating 160,000 people, many having fled war in Syria.
Hungary has not accepted a single one of the 1,294 refugees allocated to it under the scheme and instead joined Slovakia in filing a legal challenge against it.