(CN) - The European Commission on Monday cleared the way for people peeved at how Hungary has handled the Syrian refugee crisis to collect signatures to bring a constitutional action against the former communist nation.
Under the European Citizens Initiative, ordinary citizens are given an opportunity to urge the commission to act in legal matters where it has the authority to do so. An agenda-setting tool, once the commission registers an initiative supporters have a year to collect 1 million signatures from at least a quarter of the 28 member states before the commission can take further action.
The initiative cleared for circulation on Monday is short and to the point: its organizers believe Hungary has become antidemocratic and xenophobic since Prime Minister Viktor Orban came to power in 2010.
"Since coming to power in 2010 the government of Viktor Orban has stepped up antidemocratic measures, xenophobic and contrary to the founding principles of the rule of law," the initiative says. "This situation is likely to undermine the EU project as defined in Article 2 of the Treaty of the European Union. In addition, the unacceptable treatment of migrants by the Hungarian authorities raises fears that such actions extend to other member states whose democratic culture is recent and fragile."
The initiative asks the commission to bring a constitutional case against Hungary to the EU Council.
If the required signatures are collected by Nov. 30, 2016, EU law requires the commission to decide whether or not it will act and to explain the reasons for its choice.
The initiative, titled "Wake Up Europe! Acting to Preserve the European Democratic Project," is one of five open petitions currently circulating around the EU.
Others include a proposal to decriminalize the marketing of cannabis; a call for equal treatment of EU transport workers; a plan to fight poverty in Europe; and a bid to stop plastic waste in Europe's oceans and seas.
Earlier this fall, Orban closed Hungary's borders and declared a state of emergency while the nation finished a 109-mile razor wire fence at its border with Serbia in an effort to stem the flow of refugees.
Orban's government also balked at plans by EU lawmakers to apportion 120,000 refugees among member states, instead calling on the EU to house the refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey.