BRUSSELS, Feb 25 (Reuters) – Hungary has the right to organise a referendum on migrant quotas, Klaas Dijkhoff, migration minister for the Netherlands, which currently holds the European Union’s rotating presidency, said on Thursday.
“Every country has the right to organise referenda. It seems to be quite popular these days on European issues,” Dijkhoff told reporters in Brussels ahead of a meeting of EU justice and home affairs ministers.
Budapest on Wednesday announced a referendum on the EU’s plan to introduce mandatory quotas on migrants, part of its flailing efforts to curb an influx of refugees and migrants from the Middle East and Africa.
“I don’t think there is a prohibition on referenda in European law,” Dijkhoff said. “First of all, we have to see if there is a referendum, what the question will be, what the result will be and, then, what the government will take back to the European table.”
The EU’s top migration official said on arrival at the meeting that Europe was at a “critical moment”.
“Lone initiatives do not lead anywhere. Right now, the unity of the union and human lives are at stake,” Migration Commissioner Dimitirs Avramopoulos said. “There are only 10 days left till the 7th of March.”
March 7 is when the EU holds a summit with Turkey, which it is pressing to stem an influx that saw over a million refugees come to Europe last year. More than 100,000 more have already come since the turn of the year, and the rate is set to rise as the weather improves.
That has prompted a growing number of EU states to introduce unilateral border controls, straining the EU’s cherished free-travel zone to the brink of collapse.