Three well-known Slovak-Hungarians have written or talked about the new Hungarian citizenship law in the last couple of weeks. The first article that appeared in Élet és Irodalom (May 21, 2010) was by Péter Morvay, a commentator for the well respected and much read Slovak paper, SME. The second appeared only today in Hírszerző; it is by László Barak, editor of parameter.sk, an on-line paper that is apparently the most popular Hungarian-language site in Slovakia. And finally, I will mention an interview with Miklós Duray, a Slovak-Hungarian activist and actually a promoter of the unification of the Hungarian nation without border changes.
Let's start with Morvay. His article, entitled "No, They Will Not Get Used To It," starts with a clash between Slovakia and Hungary that occurred in the final months of the first Orbán government. Let's keep in mind that in those days the Hungarian Foreign Ministry was also led by the János Martonyi-Zsolt Németh duo. Then the cause of the friction was the so-called status law. It was called the status law because if offered a special status to those Hungarians who lived in the neighboring countries. This special status included such privileges as job opportunities in Hungary for a limited period of time, a monthly stipend for families who send their children to Hungarian-language schools, and perks like cheaper transportation in Hungary. Both Romania and Slovakia strenuously objected, primarily on the ground that the law provided certain privileges within their own countries to Hungarians only and that was discriminatory. Eventually Hungary had to back down and alter the provisions of the law.
Morvay begins his article by saying that at the beginning of the controversy he was told by a high official in the Hungarian Foreign Ministry that Slovakia and Romania "will get used to" the status law. Moreover, the Hungarian diplomat added, why are these countries complaining when the Hungarians are "consulting" with them? As Morvay found out from a Czech diplomat, "consultation" for the Hungarian Foreign Ministry simply meant giving "information" to the countries about their plans. Only after both Slovakia and Romania made it clear to the Hungarians that this kind of "consultation" will not do was Budapest willing to sit down and negotiate.
Morvay hopes that eventually the same thing will happen in the case of the citizenship law. János Martonyi is inclined to call simple information "consultation." Zsolt Semjén at least tells the truth. Hungary will not consult with Slovakia because the question of granting citizenship is the prerogative of any sovereign country. Hungarians in 2010 will likely blame Robert Fico and the election campaign for the Slovak reaction, completely forgetting that although in 2002 the prime minister of Slovakia was Mikulás Dzurinda and MKP (Magyar Koalíció Pártja) was a coalition partner, Slovakia's reaction was pretty tough even then.
According to Morvay Slovakia's reaction is not at all surprising if one takes a look at Slovakia's demographic situation. The proportion of Hungarians in Slovakia is the highest among Hungary's neighbors, over 10 percent, and the Hungarians live very close to the Slovak-Hungarian border. Therefore in the eyes of the Slovak majority this half a million people could easily become a kind of fifth column in the service of a foreign country and therefore could endanger the territorial integrity of the country. Thus Slovakia has reasons to be suspicious.
Morvay adds that no sane person could possibly think that Hungary would try to revise her northern borders, but at the same time the Hungarians must understand that the country's new prime minister is constantly talking about "the unification of the nation" and at one point had a decal of Greater Hungary on his car. Moreover, there is a party in parliament that received 17% of the votes at the last elections that openly discusses revising the Treaty of Trianon.
According to Morvay the question of the Slovak-Hungarian minority's position will be decided in Slovakia, and any change requires the assistance or at least the goodwill of the Slovak majority. "Budapest can do whatever it wants, it can flex its muscles, it can be aggressive, it can run to various international organizations, it cannot change this fundamental truth."
László Barak's article entitled "Whose Shame?" (Kinek a disznósága?) which appeared in today's Hírszerző comes to the conclusion that the shame is on the Hungarian side because Hungarian politicians knew full well what the Slovak reaction would be but they didn't care. Raising the level of nationalist fervor almost always works, especially when someone wants to divert attention from other issues. Because surely it will become clear soon enough that the new Orbán government will face the same problems the Bajnai government did: there will be no money to fulfill all those expectations Fidesz politicians hinted at.
How irresponsible to pass a law that at least for the time being has no tangible benefits, only symbolic significance, while the Slovak reaction may contain concrete provisions that are disadvantageous to the Hungarians of Slovakia. The Slovak-Hungarians "have become the hostages of the selfish politicians of Hungary and Slovakia."
And finally, it was Miklós Duray who surprised me most. Already during the Czechoslovak one-party dictatorship he was the champion of Hungarian nationality rights. He was in the 90s the chief protagonist of the unification of the Hungarian nation across borders. Therefore I was astonished to hear him in an interview today announce that he has no intention of taking out Hungarian citizenship. He explained that all his life he fought for the rights of the Hungarian minority, first in Czechoslovakia and later in Slovakia. Slovakia is his country and he is a member of the Slovak-Hungarian minority.
My impression is that the Hungarian government doesn't have the support of the Slovak-Hungarian minority. But then why grant citizenship to people who most likely would gain no advantage from it and risk serious negative consequences for the Hungarian minority in Slovakia, even if they don't take advantage of it? Indeed, it is a shame. Budapest's shame.