Although it is likely that Knut Vollebaek, who is in charge of minority issues in the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, warned János Martonyi, Hungary's future foreign minister, that the OSCE would prefer a negotiated solution to the controversy over dual citizenship that is currently raging between Slovakia and Hungary, the Hungarians were not moved. Martonyi stated that Hungary was ready to talk with Slovakia, but only "after the the formation of the new Slovak government." Martonyi also said that "Hungary's position will be unambiguous, clear and determined." In plain language Hungary doesn't care a hoot about the Slovak response or about Knut Vollebaek's position, which of course represents the European Union's stance on the subject. The new Fidesz government will go ahead and will pass the law to which Slovakia so strenuously objects. The vote was scheduled for this morning.
And the law passed with an overwhelming majority. Of the 344 representatives present only three voted against it and five abstained. The three brave souls who dared to say no to this law that, in my opinion, will be most harmful to the Hungarian minority in Slovakia were Ferenc Gyurcsány, Tibor Szanyi, and Csaba Molnár, all MSZP. A fair number of MSZP representatives simply left the chamber and thus didn't vote one way or the other. But 32 socialist members out of 59 voted for the bill, including Attila Mesterházy and Katalin Szili. I'm not surprised about Szili, but I must say that I was surprised about Attila Mesterházy. Thus, members of MSZP voted four different ways: some voted against it, most voted for it, a few abstained, and a few didn't vote. This breakdown shows the deep divisions within the party, which doesn't bode well for the future. Ferenc Gyurcsány in his blog complained that although 40% of Hungarians are against this bill there were only three people in the whole parliament who represented their opinions.
In theory it will be very easy to obtain Hungarian citizenship. One doesn't even have to prove Hungarian ancestry. It is enough if the applicant had at least one ancestor who was a Hungarian citizen once upon a time. That in effect means all those Slovak citizens whose ancestors once lived in the Kingdom of Hungary. In fact, one doesn't even have to prove the existence of such an ancestor. It is enough if there is a "probability" of such an ancestor. Admittedly, one should know some Hungarian but this requirement is also very lax. The law speaks only of "some knowledge of Hungarian." From the Slovak point of view this provision of the Hungarian law almost sounds as if all indigenous Slovaks living in the country are eligible to become Hungarian citizens as long as they can mutter a few words in Hungarian. Now, surely, no real Slovak will take advantage of this "opportunity," but I must say it is a rather peculiar way of granting citizenship to foreigners. Of course, the same will apply to Transylvania and the Voivodina region of Serbia.
As promised, Slovakia retaliated immediately. The Slovak parliament changed the law on citizenship. If a Slovak becomes a citizen of another country, he/she will lose Slovak citizenship. Every Slovak citizen who asks for a second citizenship will have to report the fact to the authorities. If someone neglects to do so he/she will be fined 3,319 euros.
The Slovak parliament has 150 representatives and 115 were present for the vote. Ninety voted for the bill, seven voted against it, seventeen people abstained, and one refused to vote one way or the other. The Slovak law also stipulates that people who apply for foreign citizenship cannot be employed in "sensitive" positions that have anything to do with national security. For example, they cannot be policemen.
The two Hungarian parties in Slovakia had divergent reactions. MKP, a party close to Fidesz, promised to go to the Slovak Constitutional Court and if they find no satisfaction there they are ready to turn to the European Court of Human Rights. HÍD is less belligerent. Nóra Czuczor, the spokeswoman of the party, announced that they don't doubt Fidesz's good intentions, but they disapprove of the timing of the bill that was advantageous only to the Slovak nationalist parties. "And this means a serious threat to the Hungarians of Slovakia."
Although some Hungarian commentators expressed hope that Slovak-Hungarian relations will eventually improve and a few even predicted that Hungary will come out of this mess victorious, I very much doubt that this will be the case. I'm almost certain that the European Union will be on Slovakia's side and public opinion will blame Hungary, not without reason, for this latest upheaval between the two countries. I also have some idea what the diplomatic world will think of the foreign policy of the new Orbán government. Those who remember the period between 1998 and 2002 will say: "Unreal, these people didn't learn a thing!"