The bull in the china closet

That's how the new Hungarian government, still not in office, is behaving. It is throwing its weight around at home and abroad. Parliament met three days this week and each day passed important pieces of legislation without serious debate or even enough time for the members to think the proposals through. But why slow the revolutionary engine down? Reflection or debate would have been useless. In the final analysis the numerous legislative proposals submitted by Fidesz parliamentary members would have been accepted without the slightest change. Pardon me, I have to correct myself: the two-thirds majority accepted two changes. Both were simple grammatical corrections because these bills were thrown together in such a hurry that there were sentences that made not the slightest sense.

Just as the governing party is pushing through legislation without the slightest regard for the opposition, it is behaving the same way in foreign affairs. Viktor Orbán and his foreign minister, János Martonyi, are acting like masters of the universe. In diplomacy it is not customary to send the kind of message to the prime minister of another country that Viktor Orbán sent to Robert Fico. The incoming Hungarian prime minister turned down Fico's suggestion for the establishment of a Slovak-Hungarian joint committee to discuss dual citizenship for Hungarians living in Slovakia, the immediate introduction of which is contemplated by Budapest. But how did he turn it down? Not exactly in the language of diplomacy. Orbán's message included such sentences as "we will not be playmates in an election campaign of a foreign country." He added that "we don't respond to any provocative statements coming from Robert Fico."

In Orbán's view Hungary is the victim of Slovak provocation. Not unnaturally Robert Fico sees it differently. After all, it was the Hungarian side that brought up the issue of dual citizenship and not Slovakia. According to Slovak commentators Hungary's announcement of the unilateral introduction of dual citizenship most likely will have an impact on the forthcoming Slovak elections to be held on June 12. A few weeks ago I read that Fico's party, Smer, was still leading but the other parties were closing the gap. Ján Slota's chauvinistic right-wing (and fiercely anti-Hungarian) party, according the latest polls, was standing at around 6%. Orbán, by pushing through in a great hurry the bill on dual citizenship, seems to be playing into the hands of Fico and Slota. There are two Hungarian parties in Slovakia of about equal strength, HID and MKP. The latter is the favorite of Fidesz. I guess HID headed by Béla Bugár is too liberal for Viktor Orbán. Thus, when János Martonyi visited Bratislava and had his ill-fated meeting with Mirosláv Lajcák, he also visited the headquarters of MKP and talked to Pál Csáky, the chairman of the party. Csáky, by the way, was one of the invited guests at the opening of the Hungarian Parliament.

It seems that even Csáky thought that any legislative steps concerning dual citizenship should be postponed until after the Slovak elections. Csáky apparently had a talk with Orbán on the question, but  János Lázár made it clear Monday morning on Ma Reggel, MTV's political show, that although naturally Viktor Orbán would listen to Pál Csáky, "the legislative work cannot wait." So, basically, it really doesn't matter what the Hungarians of Slovakia want, the bull in the china closet charges ahead. After all, in the middle of a huge European financial crisis, dual citizenship is of prime importance in a country that is barely out of hot water economically. Neither the Hungarians of the neighboring countries nor the inhabitants of Hungary proper can live another moment without increasing the number of Hungarian citizens, even if it allegedly has only "symbolic significance." As far as the new Hungarian government is concerned the decision is theirs and theirs alone; bilateral talks are out of the question.

Alas, the Hungarians who are supposed to be the beneficiaries of this dual citizenship live in foreign countries and therefore are at the mercy of their own government's policies. And Fico is making threatening noises about introducing a constitutional amendment that would forbid Slovak citizens from holding a dual citizenship. Or, to be more precise, by choosing Hungarian citizenship they would lose their Slovak citizenship. According to Béla Bugár, whom I heard in an interview yesterday, Fico will most likely have a large enough majority in parliament to pass such a constitutional change. In Bugár's opinion, the result of all this will be the growth of Slovak nationalism and an increase in fears of reprisals against Hungarians in Slovakia. All in all, it is a singularly bad idea.

Some people don't understand why Fico is so paranoid. Most likely dual citizenship wouldn't threaten Slovakia's national security as Fico claims. However, given the Hungarian hyperbole with which the whole issue has been introduced, their fears might not be without foundation. It seems that June 4th, the day the Treaty of Trianon was signed in 1920, will be declared a day of remembrance. Speeches on such occasions are always inflammatory. And the legislation governing dual citizenship would be made official on August 20, the Day of St. Stephen. Orbán and his fellow politicians talk about "unification of the nation across borders" that might sound sweet to Hungarian ears, but it has a very bad ring in the successor states. Jobbik openly talks about border revisions. Hungarian nationalism inside of Hungary has been growing fairly steadily and with the change of government that nationalism will be magnified. I'm afraid Orbán & Co. are bad news for the European Union, for regional cooperation, and for the best interests of Hungary itself.

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Guest

Can’t the EU step in to stop this childish behaviour by both Hungarian and Slovak politicians ?
First that Slovak language law (I don’t know what came before that but it surely wasn’t the first Nationalistic nonsense), now Orban’s dual citizenship …
Do those politicians only think about getting the far-right votes or are people really that stupid ?
I just talked to some young Hungarians with university degrees and they’ve given up politics, saying it’s mostly a kind of “hooliganism” now …

Steve
Guest
“Neither the Hungarians of the neighboring countries nor the inhabitants of Hungary proper can live another moment without increasing the number of Hungarian citizens, even if it allegedly has only “symbolic significance.”” No they cant. The december 5, 2004 failed vote to give dual-citizenship to Hungarians in neighbouring countries, and the campaigning of MSZP and SZDSZ against it, was the most shameful act in Hungarian politics in later years. There were lots of misdoings in the last 20 years, but that issue was the most missuses. You can view this issue as nationalistic, but you have to see that every nation IS held together by some degree of nationalism. The concept of dual-citizenship for Hungarians living outside Hungary is no more nationalistic than existing dual-citizenship held by Slovaks, Romanians, Serbians, Croats, Austrians or even Germans. Every surrounding country has some kind of law for giving dual-citizenship to its nationals living outside the country. Everyone, even Slovaks living in Hungary can have Slovak citizenship more easily. It’s only Hungary that doesn’t have such a law yet. Fico is upset, because it suits him to be upset. To him, the issue is not the existence of dual-citizenship. What he wants, is to… Read more »
An
Guest
I can’t help but wonder how Hungarian nationalists don’t see how they shoot themselves in the foot with Orban’s plan. If this Hungarian citizenship policy is introduced in such a one-sided, careless, bombastic manner as the Orban government is doing it, it may encourage/force more Hungarians to come and seek to live in Hungary, if they face nationalistic retribution in their home countries. Now if you are a revisionist, or somebody who deeply cares about the “historic” Hungary (which I am neither), this cannot be good news for you, as the number of Hungarians living in the area of “historic” Hungary would decrease. This is just a highly hypothetical argument, expressing surprise how, for example, Jobbik is not all over this issue. Personally, I believe that Hungarians who are of Hungarian ethnicity and wish to come to live in Hungary, should be granted expedited access to citizenship. That is if they wish to come to live in Hungary. But a sensible policy toward minorities would be one that helps them as a group to cultivate their ethnic culture in the area where they live, while maintaining neighborly relationships with the countries where these minorities live. It’s better for the Hungarian… Read more »
Steve
Guest
@An “If this Hungarian citizenship policy is introduced in such a one-sided, careless, bombastic manner as the Orban government is doing it” Fidesz declared that once they come to power, first thing they will do is enact this law. That was 6 years ago. In the election campaign, it was communicated multiple times, that this law will be one of the first to be accepted. It is not careless, nor one-sided, nor bombastic. No-one is making an issue about it, not the Croats, not the Serbs or Romanians, and even the Ukrainians didn’t raise objections. They did not want to make any committees, nor did they want to meet Orbán in person, they just accepted it, since it was discussed long ago, and it is very well known to everyone, what this law is. Every surrounding country has it, they know very well what consequences it has, and what it does not. This law is more restrictive than what Slovakia has. This issue is not an issue of Hungary, this is an issue of Fico and Slovakia. I know this is political issue to hungarian left-liberals. To hungarian left-liberals, this law is a possibility to confront Fidesz. It doesn’t matter… Read more »
An
Guest

Steve,
In Slovakia, those who can prove their Slovak ancestry can be granted a so-called “Slovak expatriate status” and once they get this status they can apply for Slovak citizenship. But they still have to be residing in Slovakia during the process.
What seems to be a uniqueness of Orban’s plan is that it does not require residency for Hungarian citizenship. Now the details are quite murky, so it’s not clear what that would exactly mean…. and the lack of specific details is surprising if Orban and FIDESZ have been carefully planning this law for such a long time.

Steve
Guest
@An The law is clear, nothing murky, the only open question is that, will those who get citizenship this way get voting right too. Everything else is already worked out. I don’t know the Slovakian law, but from what i heard, getting Slovakian citizenship is very easy, so much that one doesn’t even have to know the language. Also don’t know the exact details of if there is any other requirement in case of Slovakia, but i know for sure that Croatia, Serbia and Romania don’t have the requirement of permanent residence. This law, and the similar laws of other countries are based on nationality of an individual. These laws don’t follow the territorial logic. That is the main importance. One can be a Croat living in Serbia, a Slovak in Hungary, or even a German living in France, they will get the citizenship more easily than someone of other nationality. The only thing special about Slovakia is that 10% of population is Hungarian. Don’t want to go into the shameful circumstances of that fact, but i understand the nervousness and bad conscience of the Slovakian nationalistic elite in relation to that fact. The issue of 10% Hungarian population in… Read more »
John T
Guest

“The only thing special about Slovakia is that 10% of population is Hungarian.”
Steve – Just to say that I think the Slovak reaction is out of proportion to the issue, which shouldn’t cause a problem. But the point above isn’t strictly correct – they are almost all Slovaks of Hungarian ethnicity.
My concern in all of this is that the radicals on both sides benefit from this antagonism and it then spirals out of control, with disasterous effects, particularly if ethnic cleansing takes place.

Steve
Guest

@John T
No one is benefiting from this in hungary, except the left-liberals who can point fingers at “Orban, who is causing unrest with neighbours”. Which is false too, since Fico managed to become “restless” against any Hungarian government in the past.
“they are almost all Slovaks of Hungarian ethnicity”
This is the old socialist view. Its a disgusting thing to tell too. If you want, call them “Slovakian citizens of Hungarian ethnicity”, which is not the same as calling them Slovaks. You cant force the country on someone’s nationality. A French-Canadian is still a French, since he speaks French and has French ancestors, no matter if he is Canadian citizen. Imagine if French-teaching in Canadian schools would be discouraged, public use of French language would be limited, and French-Canadians would be forbidden to apply for dual-citizenship in France. Its the situation of Hungarians in Slovakia.

Steve
Guest

@John T
I forgot to mention a thing.
“they are almost all Slovaks of Hungarian ethnicity”
There was a study made recently among the Hungarian-speaking population of Slovakia.
4% declared selves as “Slovak of Hungarian origin”
some 24% declared selves as “Slovakian Hungarian” (“szlovákiai magyar”)
some 70% declared selves as “Hungarian”
So as you see, Hungarians of Slovakia are considering selves to be … Hungarians. And not Slovaks.

Mark
Guest
Steve: “This law, and the similar laws of other countries are based on nationality of an individual.” I think this illustrates one of the problems with FIDESZ’s thinking on this, and one of the fundamental flaws in the proposal. This is – on the face of it true – of some national citizenship laws; normally and in all of the three cases mentioned (Serbia, Croatia, Romania) it generally grants citizenship to those who have at least one parent of the country concerned. The case that is closest to what is proposed by FIDESZ is that of Greece, which does allow the acquisition of citizenship on grounds of desecent but only after some fairly cumbersome tests have been met. In other cases, India does allow “citizenship by descent” but this is a kind of associate citizenship, which carries limited rights. Where full national citizenships are broadened beyond this to include an ethnic principle, they can be justified in international law through something called “the right of return” in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (this is how Germany and Israel justify their opening of citizenship to their respective diasporas). And this is the problem with the government’s proposal. The “right of… Read more »
Mark
Guest

Steve: “I’m sure if Dzurinda were in power in Slovakia, and not Fico, the Hungarian dual-citizenship law would be welcomed and not misused for political manipulation.”
You’ve obviously forgotten the stance the Slovak government took over the status law during the period of the last Orbán government.

John T
Guest

“This is the old socialist view. Its a disgusting thing to tell too. If you want, call them “Slovakian citizens of Hungarian ethnicity”.
Steve – you’ll see from elsewhere in this blog that I’m no fan of the MSZP. They were mediocre, but then I don’t rate Fidesz any higher either – if I see crap politicans, I’m honest enough to call them crap.
But my point is a fact in law, whether or not you and me agree with it.

John T
Guest

“A French-Canadian is still a French, since he speaks French and has French ancestors, no matter if he is Canadian citizen.”
Er no, if they were born in Canada, they are Canadian, of French descent. And no doubt, they can apply for dual nationality without much difficulty. That is a perfectly sensible thing to do.

Steve
Guest

@Mark
“normally and in all of the three cases mentioned (Serbia, Croatia, Romania) it generally grants citizenship to those who have at least one parent of the country concerned”
Not so. Neither of those requires permanent residence of its citizens in the given country (so no “reunification”) nor requires one of the parents to be citizens of the country. Some proof is required to prove nationality. In case of the Hungarian law it will be the knowledge of Hungarian language.
International law is concerned on preventing discrimination. So its concern is to disallow discriminatory “narrowing” of eligibility, and not the other way around. The main attack on the law seems to be that it is too broad. But, it is more strict than the Slovakian one.

Steve
Guest

If you know hungarian, please read this article:
http://index.hu/belfold/2010/05/12/kettos_allampolgarsag/
It clarifies much of the miss-informations about the law.
@John T
“Er no, if they were born in Canada, they are Canadian, of French descent. ”
Well don’t know how it works in Canada, but in Hungarian culture saying that someone is Hungarian (“magyar”) means that he speaks hungarian and has hungarian ascendancy. Its meaning is not linked to Hungarian citizenship.
It is insulting to tell to a Hungarian living in Slovakia, Romania or Serbia, that he is Slovak, Romanian or Serb. He is “Slovakian citizen” or “Slovakian” (“szlovákiai”), but he is not Slovak.

Mark
Guest

Steve: “Not so.”
I’d suggest you read the texts of the laws of the three countries concerned. Here they are:
http://web.archive.org/web/20030417000722/http://www.croatiaemb.net/consular.html
http://www.romanianpassport.co.il/english/romanian-citizenship-law/
http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/43de38344.html
The exemptions from the residential principle – Article 11 of the Croatian Law, and Article 23 of the Serbian are all justified internationally under the provisions of the “right of return”, in other words they are there to facilitate the return of the diaspora to the present-day territory. Not what I think FIDESZ has in mind!

Steve
Guest
@Mark In the territory of northern Serbia, almost all Croats have Croatian citizenship in addition to Serbian, and all population of Romanians have Romanian citizenship too. Yet they live in northern Serbia, not Croatia or Romania. The same situation is with the Romanians of southern Ukraine. The official Ukrainian law even forbids the practice, but “unoficially” the whole Romanian population holds Romanian passports in addition to Ukrainian. So lets not play lawyers here, by trying to formulate some side-interpretation to laws which have very clear meanings and effect. Hungarians, wherever in the world, based on some requirements (language, ascendancy), can get Hungarian citizenship more easily. The “reunification” is a valid issue in case of Israeli, German and recently the Serbian law. Those did involve actual migration of persons involved. The Hungarian situation is a bit different. In case of Hungary the diaspora stayed where it was previously, but the borders were moved over their heads. But at core of things, (and how those laws work in practice) it is no more different, that what the other countries have. It is national “reunification” just like in case of other countries and laws. But no migration is involved. But it is not… Read more »
Mark
Guest

Steve: “Dual-citizenship is actually THE spirit of European thinking.”
You may not have noticed but all citizens of EU member states are dual citizens, of both their own nation state, and of the EU. We all have the right to be guaranteed the same rights as citizens of that country whereever we live in the EU (except to vote in parliamentary elections, or to serve in the armed forces), we have the right to live in any state, to work, and so on.
I certainly don’t think an exclusive ethnically based national citizenship (which is actually deeply discriminatory to those of the non-dominant ethnic group that live within the borders) is in any way part of European thinking. If we were serious about that we would support the abolition of all national citizenships within the bounds of the EU, and replace them with a single European citizenship, which would confer rights on us whereever we chose to live.

John T
Guest

“It is insulting to tell to a Hungarian living in Slovakia, Romania or Serbia, that he is Slovak, Romanian or Serb. He is “Slovakian citizen” or “Slovakian” (“szlovákiai”), but he is not Slovak.”
Steve,
With all due respect, it is a fact, pure and simple, however insulting you think it is.
If someone is born in Hungary and then moves to Slovakia, they are a Hungarian living in Slovakia. If they are an ethnic Hungarian, born in Slovakia and living there now, they are Slovak of Hungarian descent. That is a fact.
I’m sorry if you find what I say insulting, but that is the situation, because Slovakia is recognised as a sovereign country under international law.
If you ask me whether I think Trianon was a disaster for Hungary, then of course I do. Do I think Hungary was punished unfairly, of course I do. And do I like the anti-Hungarian sentiment that exists in Slovakia. Of course I don’t.
And whether you like it or not, most of the rest of the world will view the matter in the same way.

Gábor
Guest

Steve “and all population of Romanians have Romanian citizenship too.”
That’s highly doubtful, rather a nationalist legend quite popular in Hungary. (Just like the one distributed in 2004 in Hungary that while Hungarians in Voivodina were regularly attacked by Serbs, Croats, due to having Croatian citizenship were preserved from these excesses. However, while for example József Kasza was never attacked by anyone, the chair of the Croatian party was, during a campaign rally.) Anyway, three years ago I attended a conference in Cluj, organized by a nationalist research institution and a leader of the Serbian Romanians gave a paper as well. Surprisingly, he traveled there with a Serbian passport and with a visa and while his broader topic was the situation of the Romanians in Serbia he didn’t mentioned holding citizenship en masse, rather demanded relaxation of the visa regulations in order to make it easier to keep contacts with the country.
The Romanian law explicitly restricts the possibility of acquiring citizenship from abroad to previously existed citizenship (either of the respective person’s or of its ancestors up to three generations) that was lost contrary to the will of those persons. Probably it would be better to read some Romanian documents…

John T
Guest

If someone is born in Hungary and then moves to Slovakia, they are a Hungarian living in Slovakia. If they are an ethnic Hungarian, born in Slovakia and living there now, they are Slovakian of Hungarian descent – sorry, but I meant Slovakian of Hungarian descent.

Steve
Guest
@Mark “We all have the right to be guaranteed the same rights as citizens of that country whereever we live in the EU” Which is all good, but it does not apply to all aspects of life, everywhere. For example ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia are limited in use of their native language by a law. Actually, more of EU politicians are thinking about a kind of “union of nations EU” as opposed to a “union of states EU”. Of course its nothing close to being a central issue now in the EU (even more so because of the bumpy issues with the banks, and overspending of states). But what you suggest sounds good to me. If you look back in the history of EU a bit, the first ideas for solving the question of minorities in Europe rose in relation to Germans living in France. The idea was, that on personal preference, anyone can choose what kind of school his kids should attend and such, a kind of “cultural autonomy”. So a German in France can live similar to a German in Germany, and the French state will not meddle in it. If you use this concept on grand scale,… Read more »
Steve
Guest
@Gábor “The Romanian law explicitly restricts the possibility of acquiring citizenship from abroad to previously existed citizenship (either of the respective person’s or of its ancestors up to three generations) that was lost contrary to the will of those persons” AFAIK that same element will be contained in the Hungarian law too. But since practically every successor state where ethnic Hungarians live was part of the Hungarian state at the start of 20’th century (or during the 2. WW), it is a non-issue in practice. Again, we should not play lawyers around non-issues. As for the citizenship of Romanians in Voivodina, i don’t know the numbers. But a political representative is not a good example, since he probably wont ask for his own citizenship on solidarity principle. But i’m really not aware of the state of Romanian minority in Serbia, so it really may be just a rumour, as you say. The dual-citizenship of Ukrainian Romanians was mentioned by Mártonyi, so i think that is an accurate claim. @John T “If someone is born in Hungary and then moves to Slovakia, they are a Hungarian living in Slovakia. If they are an ethnic Hungarian, born in Slovakia and living there… Read more »
John T
Guest
Steve – The difference here of course is that for people the same age as me (43), either their parents or grandparents had their Hungarian nationality forcibly taken away from them as a consequence of Trianon. And clearly people born after, are Slovakian because of international law rather than through choice. Nobody can dispute that. But they are Slovakian, however right / wrong that is. I personally don’t see any problem with someone being allowed to have dual citizenship, and it appears that for other neighbouring countries, this isn’t a problem. Now if Fico is just playing to the electorate, then no doubt this will be settled rationally at a later date. But, if events spin out of control, then the nationalists on both sides will push for more radical solutions. In Hungary, that means the Jobbik way, which is nothing other than recovery of former Hungarian land by force. No doubt Vona and the other loudmouths advocating this will be right behind the troops – 100 or 200 kilometres behind them of course. On the other side will be Slota and his ilk, ethnically cleansing the “traitors” from Slovakia. Now you might say that this is scaremongering. But, with… Read more »
kincs
Guest

@Steve: “The december 5, 2004 failed vote to give dual-citizenship to Hungarians in neighbouring countries, and the campaigning of MSZP and SZDSZ against it, was the most shameful act in Hungarian politics in later years. There were lots of misdoings in the last 20 years, but that issue was the most missuses.”
The idea that this referendum failed because of the government campaigning against it is one of the great Fidesz myths. Of the 38% that bothered to vote on the question, only 51% said Yes. That’s about 1.5 million out of about 10 million Hungarians. The data is available in English here: http://www.valasztas.hu/en/ovb/197/197_0.html
The notion that the other 8.5 million were against dual citizenship because of the MSZP government’s powers of peruasion is laughable now, as it was then.
The fact is that the vast majority of Hungarians were against the idea, or simply didn’t care.

Steve
Guest

@kincs
It is well known that when MSZP loses its supporters, they simply don’t go to vote. Loyal MSZP voters didn’t want to vote against it, but they didn’t want to vote against MSZP either, so they stayed at home.
Its not about what effect their campaigning had, its the fact that they were campaigning against it. You can’t blame the voter for his decision, but political leaders can be blamed for their attempt to mislead the voters (remember the “22 million Romanians”) on an issue carrying such a strong message.

Mihai
Guest

@Steve + @Gábor
Steve what you said about ethnic Romanians from Serbia and Ukraine holding Romanian citizenship en masse is just not true. Most ethnic Romanians from these two countries don’t hold Romanian citizenship.
I am Romanian.
“and all population of Romanians have Romanian citizenship too. Yet they live in northern Serbia, not Croatia or Romania.
The same situation is with the Romanians of southern Ukraine. The official Ukrainian law even forbids the practice, but “unoficially” the whole Romanian population holds Romanian passports in addition to Ukrainian.”

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