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Quota Referendum: European Commission “Respects Hungarians’ Democratic Will”

By Ferenc Sullivan // 2016.10.03.

The European Commission respects the democratic will of Hungarians, including those who stayed away from polling stations on Hungary’s referendum on the EU’s proposed compulsory migrant quota scheme, a spokesman for the Brussels body has said.

Had the referendum been legally valid, we would have reacted by acknowledging it. Now, that the result has proven to be unvalid, we reacted by acknowledging it”, spokesman Margaritis Schinas said at the Commission’s regular daily press conference on Monday.

Answering a question on whether the Hungarian government’s plan to amend the Constitution based on the referendum’s outcome could raise problems, the spokesman said that taking action in the aftermath of the referendum is a right reserved for the cabinet and declined to comment.

European Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas

“We respect the democratic will of the Hungarian people, both of those who voted and of those who did not”, he added, pointing out that the referendum’s result concerns future decisions.

Commenting on a journalist’s question relating to a letter of complaint sent to the Commission by the so-called Nordic Alliance, a group comprising five Nordic states, on Hungary’s refusal to take back refugees, the spokesman said that the body is attempting to work closely with all member states in order to secure the operation of the Dublin system. Officials have also contacted Hungarian authorities concerning this question, Mr. Schinas added.

In response to a question on whether the Commission has knowledge of a possible visit to Brussels announced by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, Mr. Schinas said that Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker’s office is always open to member states’ leaders.

Of the just over 4.1 million votes cast at Sunday’s government-initiated quota referendum, an overwhelming result of 98.33 per cent rejected the EU’s planned migrant distribution scheme. Speaking today in Parliament, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán announced a constitutional amendment based on the outcome of the vote despite voter turnout falling short of the 50 per cent+1 election threshold.

cover photo: Petr Josek/AFP