Schengen and Hungary

Midnight December 20, 2007. The moment when all border crossings will disappear between Hungary and her neighbors to the north and west: Slovakia, Austria and Slovenia. Hungary officially will belong from here on to a zone which began with an agreement in Schengen (Luxembourg) in 1985 and began to be implemented in 1995. There won’t be any official crossing stations, no one will stop travelers to check their papers. People will hardly notice that they left one country and entered another. There will just be a roadside sign indicating that one has entered, let’s say, Germany from Austria. Here one can see the actual "border crossing" between Austria and Germany, or more precisely between Tyrol and Bavaria.

This is certainly a great day for Hungary. Travelers will have the feeling, at least travelling toward Slovakia, Austria, and Slovenia, that they are in the old Austro-Hungarian Monarchy when there were were no borders between Austria and Hungary. Today’s Slovakia was part of Hungary, Slovenia was part of Austria, and one didn’t need any special paper to visit the monarchy’s Czech or Polish provinces either.

One wonders what the effects of this frontierless Austria-Slovenia-Hungary-Slovakia will be. In the Burgenland, formerly part of Hungary but given to Austria by the Allies, the population was predominantly German speaking. Along the Slovenian-Hungarian border there are also very few Hungarians on the Slovenian side. The situation is different along the Slovak-Hungarian border where, due to the Czechs’ territorial appetite, large solidly Hungarian territories were annexed by Czechoslovakia. There, the Slovaks fear, the completely borderless situation might strengthen the ties between the Hungarians living in Slovakia and Hungary proper. As it is, there are Hungarian villages on the other side of the border where very few people speak Slovak. Along the Austro-Hungarian border I expect bilingualism to be even stronger than is the case now.

The heads of the governments of Slovakia, Austria, Hungary, and Slovenia will celebrate together at midnight at the main border crossing between Austria and Hungary. All former Hungarian prime ministers were invited, but it seems that only the current prime minister will attend. Gyula Horn, who broke down the wire fence between the two countries in 1989, I’m sure would be happy to be there but he is in the hospital which he is unlikely to leave. Viktor Orbán is busy elsewhere. Purposely of course because he refuses to be together with Ferenc Gyurcsány. Péter Medgyessy has some business abroad.

As for the reaction of the opposition to this great day? Negative, or course. Yes, yes, nice, nice, but what about those poor Hungarians in Serbia and Ukraine who now will have greater difficulty entering Hungary, part of the Schengen zone? Well, one can always find the darker side of anything. Especially if one tries hard enough.