09:35 GMT +317 October 2019
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    Hungarian and Polish policeman patrol at the Hungary and Serbia border fence near the village of Asotthalom, Hungary, October 2, 2016 as Hungarians vote in a referendum on the European Union's migrant quotas.

    Hungarian PM Proposes Constitutional Ban on Migrants in Latest Row With Brussels

    © REUTERS / Laszlo Balogh
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    In the latest in a long-running argument over European migrant quotas, Prime Minister Viktor Orban has set out proposals to his country's constitution, containing a ban on settling a "foreign population" in Hungary.

    The new proposals before parliament would also ban foreigners from settling in Hungary unless they abide by the laws on obtaining residency. The move continues Orban's tough stance against proposals by the European Commission to relocate 160,000 migrants from Greece and Italy to EU member states on a mandatory quota system.

    ​Hungary held a referendum on the issue of immigration, October 2, in which 94.8 percent voted to reject the migrant quotas. However, since turnout did not exceed 50 percent, the result is invalid, but Orban has seized the result as backing for a change to the constitution.

    Brussels has been pushing for migrants granted asylum in Greece and Italy to be relocated across EU member states under a mandatory quota system, based on each country's population, GDP and other measures. However, the plan has run into stiff opposition — particularly from Eastern European states.

    Hungary and Slovakia — which itself holds the rotating presidency of the EU — have both launched legal action at the European Court of Justice against the plan. 

    Media Freedom

    Meanwhile, there is growing anger at alleged political interference by Orban's government in Hungary's media, after the closure of the Nepszabadsag newspaper.

    The left-leaning daily was closed by its publisher, citing falling sales. However, its journalists and the opposition allege "pressure" from the government after the paper ran a series of stories on government corruption.

    The issue is critical for Hungary as media freedom is one of the cornerstones of the EU. Italian MEP, Barbara Spinelli, said: "The Hungarian regime of Viktor Orban is taking another step towards the progressive erosion of constitutional democracy in his country.

    "Following a referendum pervaded by nationalistic and xenophobic undertones, after the interference of the executive power in the judiciary and in the constitutional court, and after the harassment suffered by several independent NGOs operating in Hungary, now we see the closure — albeit temporary — of an historic newspaper: the left-leaning daily, Népszabadság, together with its online edition, www.nol.hu," Ms. Spinelli said.

    "The measure is deeply alarming, and happens in clear violation of the principles of free and pluralistic press enshrined in the European Charter of Fundamental Rights," she added.


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    migrant distribution quotas, migrant quota, refugee crisis, migrant crisis, referendum, Hungarian Prime Minister's Office, European Union, Viktor Orban, Hungary, Europe, Eastern Europe, Slovakia
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