Europeans have not talked so much about European affairs as they have since the summer of 2016. After the clap of thunder generated by Brexit, another storm is building up and heading towards Brussels. Indeed, another European Union (EU) member state is speaking out against EU politicians, leading to a situation seen equally as the EU attempting to defy the sovereignty of its member states and vice versa. In just a matter of weeks Hungary will hold a referendum on October 2, with ruling fight-wing Fidesz asking Hungarians if they accept the migrants relocation mechanism created by the European Commission under the head of Jean-Claude Juncker. It is no surprise that Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who is generally described as a populist and constantly on the outlook for scapegoats, uses the tool of referendum to legitimize its decisions rather epically. Marine Le Pen, leader of the French National Front, also announced that she would be consulting the French volk more often if she would be elected in the 2017 presidential election.
In a period when people are not trusting their politicians, referendums do appear to propose a solution to directly involving the citizens of a given state, but such mechanisms have also garnered a great deal of negative attention. To some, referendums remain a risky political tool wielding the danger of potentially self-inflicted harm.
However, direct democracy is a virtuous goal to reach, at least in principle, though one should note that referendums stand as latent threats to governance. In 2005, France’s population rejected the Lisbon Treaty due to the ghost fear of an invasion by Polish plumbers. Populations tend to use their say in referendums to express rage toward authorities rather than expressing politically informed views on the matter asked of them.
Though the legality of organizing this referendum is not questionable, its outcome could be. The European Council has, through a narrow majority, approved the migrant relocation mechanism, which has been created to relocate about 160,000 migrants per year through the 28 member states by means of quotas – a plan that was formulated in 2015 as part of the EU’s migrant crisis response.