I thought it might be useful to take a look at a Hungarian analysis of the conflict. First a few things about Political Capital. It is a very successful political think-tank that became a mini-multinational; it moved beyond Hungary's borders and established an affiliated institute in Bulgaria. Political Capital also has an online newspaper called Hírszerző. I'm not crazy about their opinion pieces because some of their writers seem to be enamored with neo-conservatism that, thank God, seems to be passé. The Institute has a fairly large staff and besides offering political analysis it also serves as an advisory body to Magyar Demokrata Fórum, the moderate conservative party of Ibolya Dávid. As far as I'm concerned, some of their leading analysts are very good. Usually they concentrate on internal politics, and therefore I was somewhat surprised to see the group put out a paper on the Slovak-Hungarian controversy. Below I'm going to summarize their assessment of the situation.
At the very beginning the analysis states the obvious: the conflict has more than internal aspects. I assume the authors of the analysis felt that they had to say that up front because at least in Hungary there is the widespread belief that Robert Fico "is playing the nationalist card" for home consumption. After all, there will be elections in Slovakia next year. No, they claim, both countries are also keeping an eye on what kind of impression they make on the international community. The assessment of others is not immaterial in these difficult economic times. However, Political Capital believes that there is no solution that would satisfy Slovak and Hungarian public opinion as well as diplomatic interests.
Political Capital is not optimistic about finding a quick solution to the current conflict. It is quite clear that neither the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) nor the European Union is ready to support one side against the other, and the commissioner's suggestions are not very helpful. Each country interpreted the commissioner's words differently. Budapest claimed support and so did Bratislava. It is becoming clear that the two countries must sit down and resolve the conflict themselves. But, the study adds, the internal situation in both countries is not conducive to reconciliation. The conflict will take center stage in both countries because of the 2010 elections. In both countries there will be a demand for more effective representation of the national interest. In Slovakia the rivalry will among Fico, Meciar and Slota while in Hungary between Fidesz and Jobbik. In both countries there are groups that think that inciting the national conflict will increase their popularity. In Hungary, the Slovak-Hungarian conflict might further strengthen Jobbik, and if the Hungarian extreme right becomes stronger and more vocal the Slovak side might be able to take advantage of it. If the diplomatic conflict doesn't subside it may adversely affect trade and tourism between the two countries. The conflict also might influence foreign investment in both countries because outsiders might consider them unstable and risky.
As far as diplomatic success is concerned, Political Capital thinks that Slovakia is ahead. The conflict brought into focus Hungary's poor diplomatic performance of late. For a number of years now in the international media one could hear about the growth of the extreme right, street demonstrations and clashes between police and demonstrators, paramilitary guards marching up and down, murders or attempted murders of Gypsies in Hungary, and of course near economic collapse. Slovakia, on the other hand, by 2000 had become one of the model countries of the region. It introduced structural economic reforms, foreign investment poured into the country, and its export capacity began to expand. By 2008 Slovakia was the fastest growing country in the region economically, and it was able to become, after Slovenia, the second country in Eastern Europe to adopt the euro. Fico is one of the most popular leaders in Eastern Europe while the Hungarian MSZP received a crushing defeat at the EP elections. The Slovaks also used the international media to their advantage. Robert Fico could argue that he was only reacting to Hungarian "aggression." For example, after the Dunajská Streda (Dunaszerdahely) soccer game or after Sólyom's badly handled but aborted visit to Komárno. As for the language law Fico could explain to the international community that it was a necessary step in light of Hungary "chauvinism." According to Political Capital "the essence of the Slovak government's strategy is the provocation of Hungarian diplomacy, the Hungarian opposition, and the Hungarian radical right, hoping that possible reactions can offer an opportunity for stronger steps to be taken." (As an aside. Not much provocation was necessary to get the worst out of Péter Balázs!)
Political Capital makes it clear that "the western countries traditionally are less tolerant toward political steps taken by Hungary to defend the Hungarian minorities living beyond its borders and they easily accept the argument which tends to equate the defense of minority rights with revisionist-irredentist ambitions." The commissioner of OSCE had this in mind when he warned the Hungarians that ethnic cooperation across borders may produce the impression of irredentism. This appearance is only strengthened by the growth of the Hungarian extreme right and "the confrontative politics of some politicians in Hungary as well as in the neighboring countries." This combines to "give the impression that Hungary is the troublemaker."
As for the Fico-Bajnai meeting, Political Capital considers Bajnai's position easier because he is the head of a government of experts allegedly without any political ambitions. Fico had to give in on several points but at the press conference he used strong language, most likely to defend himself against those who claim that he was "too soft." Yet the authors think that Fico might be able "to sell the eleven points more easily at home" than Bajnai. Fico apparently is trying to get rid of his coalition partner, the SNS (Slovak National Party) of Ján Slota. Fico, however, needs Slota's voters because lately his party, Smer, is losing ground. Smer did poorly at the EP elections (5 seats out of 13) and it is unlikely that Fico's Smer can form a government alone. He will need a coalition partner. Political Capital goes into all sorts of speculations about which parties might serve as coalition partners. Among them the Hungarian Híd/Most, a moderate party led by Béla Bugár as opposed to the more radical MKP headed by Pál Csáky.
As far as the Hungarian situation is concerned Political Capital's analysts are not too optimistic. The Hungarian opposition will take advantage of the conflict and it "will also play the national card" against its opponents. The noisiest will be Jobbik because neither the "duties of governing in the future" nor "European norms" restrain its propaganda. Fidesz in its rivalry with Jobbik will also have to be louder and more extreme. All in all, says Political Capital, the prospects are rather gloomy.