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  Viktor Orban vows to bring power back from Brussels

Viktor Orban vows to bring power back from Brussels

AFP | NINA LAMPARSKI AND PETER MURPHY
Published : Oct 4, 2016, 5:28 am IST
Updated : Oct 4, 2016, 5:28 am IST

Hungary’s Prime Minister on Monday vowed that Budapest would still reject the EU’s controversial migrant quota plan despite low turnout in a referendum on the issue invalidating the vote.

Viktor Orban
 Viktor Orban

Hungary’s Prime Minister on Monday vowed that Budapest would still reject the EU’s controversial migrant quota plan despite low turnout in a referendum on the issue invalidating the vote.

A day after 98.3 per cent of voters backed his hardline stance on migrants, Viktor Orban hailed the result as an unprecedented mandate to stop Brussels encroaching on national sovereignty.

 

Mr Orban said he would introduce a bill in the coming days to amend the Constitution and reflect “the will of the people in the spirit of the referendum”.

“In the history of Hungarian democracy, no party or party alliance has ever received a mandate of such scale,” Mr Orban told an applauding Parliament in Budapest. “We wont let these 3.3 million people be tricked, or have their opinions downplayed.”

In another blow to the EU four months after Britain voted to leave the bloc, the referendum saw Hungarians — or rather those who voted — almost unanimously back Orban’s bid to spurn an EU proposal seeking to share migrants around the 28-member bloc via mandatory quotas. But after a campaign in which government billboards and TV campaign linked migrants with “terrorism” and crime, the ballot was declared invalid with only 40.1 per cent casting valid votes, well below the 50-per cent minimum.

 

This was due in part to people heeding a call from Opposition parties, non-government organisations and activists to boycott the referendum or spoil their votes. More than 230,000 invalid ballots were recorded, a record for a Hungarian referendum.

Comparing immigration to “poison”, Mr Orban has emerged as the standard-bearer of those opposed to German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s “open-door” policy, as the bloc battles its worst migration crisis since World War II. His referendum hiked further pressure on the quarrelling EU, already weakened by the “Brexit” referendum result, a decision Mr Orban has blamed on Brussels’s handling of the migrant crisis. EU Parliament president Martin Schulz had warned Sunday that Mr Orban was playing “a dangerous game” by attacking EU treaties to cement his power at home.

 

Hungarians “did not heed Orban’s call. What the EU now needs is dialogue to deliver solutions, not artificial tensions,” he tweeted on Monday.

The European Commission, the EU’s executive body, said there was “no silver bullet” to solving the migration crisis, but said “a holistic approach” was required.

The EU migrant quota proposal, spearheaded by Merkel and approved by most EU states last year, aims to ease pressure on Italy and Greece, the first port of arrival for most migrants.

But implementation has been slow, with just 5,651 out of a hoped-for 160,000 people relocated so far, with eastern and central European countries in particular opposed.

 

Austrian foreign minister Sebastian Kurz warned it would be “a mistake” to dismiss the Hungarian referendum. “There are many states in Europe, which think similarly to Hungary and are unhappy with the politics in Brussels,” he said.

Location: Hungary, Budapest