The Hungarian government has called for a state of emergency across the country in relation to the migrant crisis. Domestic affairs Minister Sándor Pintér explained the decision came after several countries along the Balkan route, including Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia, decided to close their borders overnight between Tuesday and Wednesday, effectively denying access to anyone without a valid visa or passport.
The government in Budapest stresses that it is directly affected by the measures. “We don’t know what the reactions of people already inside those countries will be after the introduction of these measures,” Pintér said. For this reason, Hungary authorities decided to increase border patrols and resort to the state of emergency. The government plans to step up its military presence and controls across the border; create a preferential pathway for police and military across the country, to quickly deploy forces to the border; and illuminate the borders to ease patrolling operations.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has previously declared his fear of terrorist threats because of mass immigration, invoking drastic measures in response. Among them: a curfew, a ban on TV broadcasting, an internet blackout, warrantless searches of people’s houses and the summary arrests in the name of national security.
Orbán’s party, Fidesz, has already presented a proposal for a law to assign special powers to the government, a project that is fiercely opposed by the center-left opposition. Orbán, who lost his two-thirds majority in parliament in February, resorted to a referendum to bypass the opposing parties.
More recently, Orbán announced another national referendum on the mandatory immigration quota that Budapest rejects. The question the government wants to put to voters is this: “Do you agree that, without the authorization of the National Parliament, the European Union can make Hungary accept the relocation of foreign citizens on its territory?”Orbán stresses that the quota directly impacts citizens of Hungary, and it shouldn’t be imposed against their will. A request for the consultation has already been presented, and the ruling party is working to collect the 200,000 signatures needed. Commenters believe Fidesz activists will easily reach that number and go on to hear a resounding “no” from Hungarians.
But constitutionalists and international law experts observe that the constitution adopted in January 2012, and supported by Fidesz, in effect prohibits a referendum on any international agreement or duty. In any event, the experts say, the result would have no affect the E.U. or on Hungary’s obligations. Hungary’s left-leaning Népszabadság newspaper called the referendum a bluff. It is clear the government is trying to deliver a message to the E.U., not only that the Orbán opposes the quota policy but that the people do, too.
Among the Visegrád Group, Hungary and Slovakia are the main critics of E.U. policies toward migrants, and they blame Brussels for the crisis. According to Orbán, the only solution is border defense, and E.U. leaders are guilty of “not stopping the flow of migrants.” Believing his sentiment mirrors that of all Hungarians, Orbán said, “We don’t want to import terrorism, crime, homophobia and anti-semitism.”
Orbán made these statements in a period marked by heartfelt protests from the most progressive sectors of civil society, who have taken to the streets several times to protest against the government’s policies, especially in education and health sectors.
In February, teachers and their unions protested on an unprecedented scale, according to local sources. They’re critical of the highly centralized public education system, in which the government chooses the programs and books. The protests have drawn broad support from the public, and they reflect a general discontent over the government’s policies. But in Hungary there is no well-defined opposition capable of breaching the Orbán fortress.