Hungarian leader seeks referendum on EU migrant quotas

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Hungary's prime minister on Wednesday called for a national referendum on the European Union's plan for a mandatary quota for the resettlement of migrants and refugees.

Analysts said the proposal was an attempt by Viktor Orban to establish himself as a leader of those opposed to the EU scheme, and demonstrate his growing influence on the European stage.

Orban said that the referendum question would be: "Do you want the European Union to prescribe the mandatory settlement of non-Hungarian citizens in Hungary even without the consent of Parliament?"

He said a "no" vote would be "in favor of Hungary's independence and rejecting the mandatory settlement plan."

The EU has set up a scheme to share 160,000 migrants arriving in overburdened Greece and Italy. But so far, barely 600 people have been relocated, and only some EU partners have offered places for them — fewer than 5,000 spots in all.

For Hungary, the plan would gravely impact people's lives and "redraw Hungary and Europe's ethnic, cultural and religious identity" for generations to come, Orban said.

"The Hungarian government believes that neither the union nor Brussels nor the European leaders nor any European body has the authority to do this," he said. "We feel that introducing a settlement quota without the consent of the people is nothing but abuse of power."

He said the referendum question had already been submitted for approval to the National Election Office.

Analysts said that Orban was trying to become the leader of the movement opposed to the German and EU position on quotas.

"It is not a wider anti-EU initiative but Orban wants to show strength on the migrant issue," said Tamas Boros, analyst at Policy Solutions, a political research and consultancy firm. "He wants to show Europe what an influential politician he is."

Boros said that with the referendum idea Orban was also trying to give leaders of other countries in the region opposed to the quota plan, like Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, a resource that could be used to put pressure on EU leaders.

For the referendum to be valid, turnout has to be above 50 percent.