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Quota referendum countdown

September 26th, 2016

A week ahead of the October 2 referendum on the EU migrant distribution quota, weeklies and weekend editions of the leading dailies wonder how the migration crisis should be handled, and ponder the broader implications of the referendum.

Prime Minister Orbán in an interview with Origo called on voters to participate in the 2 October 2 referendum. PM Orbán said that the decision on EU migrant redistribution is a matter of national importance which will seriously impact the life of future generations of Hungarians. If the referendum succeeds, he suggested, the Hungarian government will propose an amendment to the Hungarian Constitution as well as to the Lisbon Treaty. He did not specify exactly what amendments might be tabled, however. PM Orbán also suggested that undocumented migrants in the EU should be transported to an island close to the shores of North Africa secured by the EU and kept there until their asylum applications are assessed. “This would solve all current problems, according to the Prime Minister.

Neither the government nor the opposition have any idea whatsoever about how to handle migration, Sándor Révész writes in Népszabadság. The liberal columnist thinks that migration is a pseudo problem in Hungary in any case, as the vast majority of asylum seekers do not want to stay in the country but proceed to more prosperous western European countries anyway. Révész accuses the government of using classical anti-Semitic stereotypes and topics in its campaign against migrants. Révész also criticizes the left-wing and liberal opposition parties for not constructively engaging in the EU-wide migration debates and for not coming up with meaningful proposals of their own. In an aside, Révész adds that the distribution of migrants against their will in EU member states is not a feasible scheme.

Magyar Narancs in a first page editorial lambasts left-wing opposition parties for failing to delegate their representatives to the electoral districts. The left-liberal weekly suggests that in the absence of opposition delegates in the vote counting committees, the fairness of the referendum cannot be guaranteed. In conclusion, Magyar Narancs accuses the Left of incompetence and serving the interests of the government.

In Magyar Idők, András Giday estimates that the overall cost of accommodation, education, health care and other benefits of migrant families could be as high as 75-83 billion Forints over the next twenty years. The conservative economist adds that migrants, if and when they find a job, would take away the possibilities of under-educated Hungarians. Assistance to them would also drain the social budget of the Hungarian government, leaving less resources for the integration of poor Roma, Giday asserts. His calculations do not include non-material costs and other extras including health hazards and security issues. If Hungary were to accept migrants, it would need to spend a lot of money on them, Giday contends. Otherwise they would fail to integrate, and might turn to illegal activities in order to earn a living,.

Europe could learn from Austria’s migration model, Géza Jeszenky writes in Heti Válasz. The former conservative Foreign Minister and ambassador thinks that the EU should follow what he believes is the Austrian method, and keep asylum seekers away from its shores until their application is evaluated, offering shelter only to those applicants who have indeed fled from persecution. This approach helps to reduce the number of migrants, without violating basic principles of humanity, Jeszenszky claims.

In 168 Óra, Mária Vásárhelyi accuses the government of co-opting the rhetoric of the far-right, by inciting fear and hatred towards migrants and other minorities. The left-liberal sociologist dismisses as ridiculous the government’s suggestion that immigrants have been invited to Europe by what PM Orbán calls ‘nihilist’ elites who want to Islamize the continent. In conclusion, Vásárhelyi defines the government’s rhetoric as Nazi propaganda.

The referendum is about national sovereignty, Miklós Szánthó writes in Magyar Demokrata. Those who reject mass migration want to defend the national cultural homogeneity, while “human rights fundamentalists” call for the unconditional admission of all migrants, the conservative lawyer believes. Szánthó goes on to claim that both sides ground their arguments in Judeo-Christian values. Szánthó thinks that Europe would do better to help resolve the crisis in the Middle East in order to help migrants, rather than ‘jeopardizing European civilization through mass immigration’.

In a similar vein, Sándor Faggyas in Magyar Hírlap thinks that in order to defend its culture and civilization, Hungary and Europe have to stop mass immigration. The pro-government columnist cites the demographic projections of the UN to support his claim that unless Europe limits the inflow of migrants, it will soon become “Eurasia or Eurafrica, an invaded and annexed province”. In an aside, Faggyas criticizes European elites for ignoring what he considers a looming demographic and civilizational catastrophe, and praises PM Orbán for ‘taking the lead’ in stopping immigration in Europe.

In Magyar Nemzet, Miklós Ugró criticizes the government for what he calls its irresponsible fear mongering. The conservative commentator accuses the government of exaggerating both the costs and the dangers of migration. Ugró adds that the government could not possibly apply such rhetoric if the opposition parties offered credible answers and clear proposals to resolve the migration crisis.