Hungary seeks EU treaty change due to refugee crisis

Anti-immigration government ready for referendum to oppose refugee quotas

Hungary would like the European Union's Lisbon Treaty to be changed in light of the migration crisis, a government spokesman has said, as the country prepares for a referendum on whether to accept a Brussels-mandated quota of refugees.

Prime minister Viktor Orban is urging his compatriots to vote No to any plan that would see the EU oblige Hungary to take in refugees, a stance in line with his rejection of a German-led scheme to distribute refugees among member states.

The Nepszabadsag newspaper reported yesterday that if the No camp prevailed in the October 2nd vote, and it was rendered valid by more than 50 per cent turnout, then Mr Orban's government could press for reform of the EU treaty.

The newspaper claimed an emboldened Mr Orban might seek to enshrine the exclusive right of member states to decide on migration issues, and so prevent the EU from imposing any plan to share the burden of resettling refugees.


Government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs did not confirm the accuracy of the report and insisted no such formal proposal had been made, but acknowledged that "on the basis of principle, Hungary would prefer to address these issues by opening up the treaty".

“But we are small enough that we cannot push this through on our own. So any suggestion that opening the treaty is on the table should be seen in light of this,” he added.

"The prime minister has been fairly outspoken about the situation we face in Europe. and how we believe the Lisbon Treaty and existing legal environment within which Europe is working has not faced the kind of challenges of the last couple of years," Mr Kovacs told The Irish Times.

“It would be a lot better to address those issues by opening the treaty, instead of letting institutions try to push through the same mode of rule- and law-making . . . We believe it’s not for the benefit of the country and can result in bad decisions – like the compulsory [refugee] quota.”

Hungary and neighbouring Slovakia are mounting a legal challenge to the quota plan, and with Poland and the Czech Republic they have formed a bulwark against Berlin's efforts to push it through.

Asked if the four central European states might work together for EU treaty change on migration, Mr Kovacs said: “Maybe. But I have no knowledge of whether it has been actively discussed or is a viable option.”

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin

Daniel McLaughlin is a contributor to The Irish Times from central and eastern Europe