Hungarian PM reportedly planning push for EU treaty amendment

Hungarian PM reportedly planning push for EU treaty amendment
Orban has struggled in efforts to get his Visegrad peers to support his "revolution"
By bne IntelliNews September 21, 2016

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban plans to propose the amendment of the Lisbon Treaty of the European Union should the Budapest's upcoming referendum on the EU’s migrant quota system is valid, local press reported on September 21.

While the referendum itself will not be legally binding, the populist Orban will likely use the results to point to the dysfunction of the EU and call for its reform, Nepszabadsag says, quoting unnamed sources. The PM's ambition to develop a standing as a heavyweight on the European stage has grown throughout the migrant crisis, with attitudes across the continent moving closer to his extreme views on accepting refugees.

Orban noted last week in a radio interview that he “already has an idea for the next step” should the referendum prove successful on October 2. Hungarians will be asked whether they “want to allow the European Union to mandate the resettlement of non-Hungarian citizens to Hungary without the approval of the National Assembly?”. The vote needs a turnout of 50% to be recognised - a threshold that only one of the five Hungarian referendums held in the last 26 years has reached.

Orban did not disclose details about his 'next step". A firebrand at home, the Hungarian premier consistently tones down his performance in the company of other EU leaders. He spoke of "revolution" ahead of the EU summit in Bratislava in mid-September, but largely toed the line laid down by Brussels and Berlin when it came to it.

Efforts to pull the rest of Central Europe into a united front to "reform" the EU have seen little success. Czechia, Poland and Slovakia are also opposed to migrant quotas, but have made it clear they will follow national interests on other issues.

“The migrant issue was a rare point of agreement for the Visegrad states,” Otilia Dhand at Teneo Intelligence noted recently to bne IntelliNews. “However, while that point illustrated the V4 can no longer be expected to simply sign on the dotted line, they are not going to lead a unified call for EU reform. There are too many different interests between them.”

According Nepszabadsag’s sources, however, in case of a successful referendum, Orban would like to put forward a treaty modification proposal that strengthens the sovereignty of nation states and prioritizes the immigration policy of member states over community law.

“According to Fidesz’ hopes, after Brexit and in the midst of the refugee crisis, it would seem Orban is the only one who has clear vision of Europe,” they suggested to the newspaper.

Yet that appears to over estimate Orban's weight, and track record in Europe. Analysts point out that the Visegrad states do not tend to put forward major proposals in Brussels, but instead seek sponsorship from major EU states for their ideas instead. In additiona, any move to change the Lisbon Treaty would require the approval of the parliaments of all 28 members.