One can acquire Hungarian citizenship by at least three methods, all on an individual basis. First, a foreign citizen who for one reason or other settled in Hungary can apply for citizenship after a certain period of residency. Apparently the process is fairly long and requires fluency in the language and a more than cursory knowledge of Hungarian history. Second, people who were born in Hungary but sometime during their lifetime left the country and settled elsewhere are also eligible to apply. Most of these people left Hungary illegally and therefore their Hungarian citizenship lapsed in the intervening years. However, now that Hungary is once again a democratic country, they would like to "revive" their citizenship in order to receive a Hungarian passport. This is especially handy for those who live outside of the European Union because a Hungarian passport allows them to travel freely within the EU. The third group of people eligible for Hungarian citizenship consists of the descendants of Hungarian citizens. In fact, one Hungarian-born ancestor is enough to acquire Hungarian citizenship. I know of a Hungarian woman married to a Canadian. Their two children were born in Canada but on the strength of their mother's citizenship they are eligible to use Hungarian travel documents. There is nothing unique about this. I also know an Irish couple who are American-Irish citizens and whose son, born in this country, claimed Irish citizenship, again for reasons of easy travel.
People who acquire Hungarian citizenship without actually moving to Hungary on a permanent basis "on paper" cannot participate in Hungarian national or local elections. But, as usual in Hungary, nothing is that simple. I know people who have been living outside the country for at least ten if not twenty years who have been voting in elections either in Hungary or at foreign consulates simply because officially they have an address in Hungary. Or I know retired people who either inherited or purchased an apartment or a house in Hungary and spend half a year in Hungary. They too can vote.
If I judge the situation correctly, the majority of Hungarians are not thrilled at the idea of people who don't live in the country on a permanent basis being able to influence the outcome of elections. Knowing how easily one can find ways to circumvent rules and regulations concerning a permanent address in Hungary, they are worried about giving citizenship to tens of thousands if not millions of ethnic Hungarians living in the neighboring countries.
Hungary's neighbors where Hungarians can be found in varying numbers can be divided into two groups: those who are members of the European Union and those who are not. Ukraine, Serbia, and Croatia belong to the latter group, but Croatia will most likely join soon enough. Ukraine doesn't recognize dual citizenship so Hungarians living there are not eligible–period. For Hungarians living in Serbia life would be much easier if they could claim Hungarian citizenship, but I'm not at all sure that the European Union would be enamored with that prospect. In Slovenia and Austria there are very few Hungarians, and they would be unlikely to want to participate in Hungarian politics or emigrate to Hungary. That leaves Slovakia and Romania. These two countries also belong to the EU, and therefore it is hard to see what advantage Hungarians living in these countries would gain by acquiring a second passport.
Oh, but the answer to this is that the whole question has nothing to do with rationality. Somehow the Hungarian minorities have felt excluded from the nation ever since December 2004 when a referendum on this very question failed. Only 19% of the eligible voters showed up instead of the requisite 25%, and those who did approved granting dual citizenship by only a very slim margin. That result by now is translated by Viktor Orbán as "a mandate" for granting dual citizenship. The yea's won. According to him. Orbán just the other day announced that once they win the elections they will grant dual citizenship. "It is that simple!" Again, according to him. However, it is not at all that simple because the countries to whose citizens Hungary wants to grant citizenship also have a say in the matter. And anyone who has followed Romanian or Slovak reactions to earlier attempts at granting some kind of special status to Hungarians in the neighboring countries should know that neither country will ever agree to that kind of arrangement. As Mikuláš Dzurinda, former prime minister and leader of the Slovak Democractic Union, a moderate right-wing party, and someone who allegedly got along splendidly with Viktor Orbán when he was prime minister, said rather bluntly: It is the right of the Budapest parliament to decide what kind of laws to enact, but those laws can be applied only within the confines of Hungary.
Orbán over the weekend added insult to injury when he attended the congress of Magyar Koalíció Pártja (Strana mad'arskej koalicie or Party of the Hungarian Coalition). Until recently indeed there was only one Hungarian political party in Slovakia and it was a "coalition" of sorts. However, when there was a change in leadership the party split. MKP moved to the right and that is the party Fidesz supports, while the moderates and those left of center established a party of their own called Híd/Most (Bridge). In his speech at MKP's congress Orbán emphasized that "autonomy is a common European asset that doesn't recognize different treatment for different people." According to him "what the Swedes get in Finland or the Catalans in Spain Hungarians also deserve in the Uplands, in Transylvania, and in Southern Hungary (Délvidék)." I assume he purposely avoided the words: Slovakia, Romania, and Serbia. But Orbán uses the word "autonomy" very loosely. Is he talking about "territorial autonomy," "cultural autonomy," or simply about the status of the Hungarian language? Because in Finland there are two official languages, Finnish and Swedish, although only about 6% of the population is Swedish. The Catalan language is one of the official languages of a group of cantons in Spain that constitutes a contiguous territory. Thus the situation in Spain and Finland simply cannot be compared. In Slovakia the Hungarians don't inhabit a contiguous territory where they would be in the majority, and therefore territorial autonomy would most likely be out of the question even if the Slovaks were eager to cooperate with Viktor Orbán. But there is another problem, according to Béla Bugár, head of Híd. The word "autonomy" has a different meaning in Slovakia than it does in some other countries. Bugár claims that the Slovaks on the road to independence always demanded only "autonomy" within Czechoslovakia, although deep down they desired a country of their own. So when Slovaks hear the word "autonomy" they can think of only one thing: the Hungarians want to leave Slovakia.
Orbán, however, is optimistic. He had wonderful relations with Dzurinda, and he will meet Robert Fico as soon as he is prime minister of Hungary again. He will be able to convince him of the utter reasonableness of dual citizenship. (In Hungarian, "pontot tenne a kettős állampolgárság ügyére.") I would like to see that. Orbán and Fico agreeing on dual citizenship for the Hungarians of Slovakia!
MSZP and SZDSZ are caught, and not for the first time. If they turn down the latest Fidesz-KDNP proposal to allow people to become Hungarian citizens without actually moving to Hungary from the neighboring countries, they can be accused of being unpatriotic and not having solidarity with the people who belong to the "nation." If they agree, there is the fear that István Mikola's vision will soon materialize: with the help of votes from Hungarians in Romania and Slovakia Fidesz will be in power for decades. Again, as often happens, MSZP is between a rock and a hard place.