Is Prime Minister Viktor Orbán shooting himself in the foot?

Yesterday, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán claimed victory when only 43% of eligible voters massively (98%) rejected the European Union’s mandatory migrant quotas. The fact that the referendum failed to get more than half of the Hungarian voting population out to vote – making the outcome invalid – is not even my point. The issue is the Prime Minister’s wish to set up an EU “à la carte” based on national preferences. But is he aware of the potential damaging consequences for Hungarians themselves if other EU countries embark on the same path of questioning agreed EU decisions?

Let’s start with the admission of non-nationals to an EU country. Hungarian voters were asked, “Do you want the European Union to be able to mandate the obligatory resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens into Hungary even without the approval of the National Assembly?” What if a referendum would be held in another Member State such as Germany or Austria: “Do you want the European Union to allow non-Austrian/German citizens into Austria/Germany without the approval of the national assembly?” The freedom of movement for EU workers is another “EU decision” guaranteed by the EU treaty. With the current level of Euroscepticism in Europe, what would be the consequences for the 330,000 Hungarians living in other EU countries and who collectively earned €3 billion per year as of 2013. This is a dangerous road to take not only for Hungary, but also for the EU project.

“Brussels” appears to be the beast to tame, but isn’t it true that “Brussels” is also good for Hungary? The country will receive €25 billion from the European Structural and Investment Fund over the period 2014-2020, which is the EU’s main investment tool. Funnily enough, I haven’t heard Prime Minister Orbán threatening to “pushback against Brussels bossiness” where this is concerned.

The EU project is severely questioned at the moment, and the fact is that there is no easy answer. However, Brussels-bashing should be done with caution; as the examples above demonstrate, it’s difficult not to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Let’s engage!

Pierre Baussand, Director