Viktor Orbán in Slovakia

The Hungarian prime minister has had a busy schedule since he decided to visit all twenty-seven capitals in the European Union. Wagging tongues claim that this "innovation" by the incoming "rotating president" of the Union came about because the new Hungarian prime minister didn't get too many invitations to visit the member states. In any case, it was about a month ago that Orbán came up with the idea of meeting all the prime ministers of the EU. Since then he has visited France, Portugal, Malta, Poland, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, Greece, Cyprus, Austria, Slovakia, and, today, Great Britain. Do you remember the funny film about the worldwind European tour organized for Americans called  "If it's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium"? Well, even that tour was less frenetic; it was a nine-country, eighteen-day bus trip from London to Rome.

In any case, most of these trips are totally useless. Nothing important is discussed. Orbán spends an hour or even less with the prime minister and perhaps the president where he tells them about the ambitious Hungarian plans for the six months during which Hungary will be the center of important meetings of the member states and back he goes to the airport.

The Slovak trip was somewhat different because in Bratislava the discussion focused not on the rotating presidency but on the rather strained relations between Hungary and Slovakia. The last time I wrote at some length about Slovak-Hungarian relations was on the occasion of the Hungarian parliament passing the bill that would allow ethnic Hungarians living in the neighboring countries to apply and receive Hungarian citizenship without actually moving to Hungary and living there on a permanent basis. The passage of the bill coincided with the Slovak elections, and the Hungarian parties of Slovakia–Magyar Koalició Pártja (MKP) and Híd/Most, a Slovak-Hungarian party–were anything but thrilled about the timing. They feared that the new Hungarian law on dual citizenship would strengthen the nationalist party of Ján Slota. As it apparently did.

Fidesz in the past, as at present, is constantly meddling in the affairs of the Hungarian communities in the neighboring countries, and it certainly has its favorites. Now that Fidesz is in power the Orbán government has the means to give financial support to favorite political groups and strip others of even minimal assistance. This is what's going on in Ukraine and in Romania where this policy can easily backfire. But the most interesting situation occurred in Slovakia.

Here the favorite of Fidesz was MKP, which was practically the Slovak arm of Fidesz. The "enemy" was Béla Bugár's Híd/Most. But then came the elections and MKP for the first time since Slovak independence didn't get enough votes to be represented in parliament. Híd/Most, on the other hand, is part of the ruling, although quite shaky, coalition government. Common sense would dictate that the Hungarian government should change its attitude toward Híd/Most but, no, Budapest decided that Híd/Most is a party that is ethnically mixed and therefore inevitably leads to assimilation. Hence, the Orbán government will not deal with them.

There is a body called Magyar Állandó Értekezlet (Máért/Permanent Hungarian Council) which as far as I'm concerned is one of those pointless organizations that gets together perhaps once a year. The delegates of various Hungarian civic and political bodies from the Carpathian basin listen to boring speeches. Ferenc Gyurcsány became so tired of the anti-government propaganda of Máért that he simply suspended its activities. Of course, the Orbán government immediately announced that Máért will convene again and because Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén is in charge of national and church affairs, the conference was to be held under his leadership. Already in June, Semjén made it clear that Híd/Most is unlikely to be able to participate because each organization must declare that its membership is ethnically Hungarian. Surely, Híd/Most was not welcome there.

Máért held its ninth congress in early November and Új Szó (Bratislava) wrote: "This new congress didn't prove that Máért is indispensable." In brief, nobody missed it in the last few years.

Meanwhile Fidesz politicians were paying visits to Slovakia, had friendly encounters with MKP, and acted as if Híd/Most didn't exist. Viktor Orbán followed suit. Yesterday when he had a brief meeting with Prime Minister Iveta Radičová and with the leadership of MKP, he refused to meet with Béla Bugár, head of Híd/Most. Considering that Híd/Most received 180,000 votes from the Hungarian minority, the prime minister's tactic seems to me more than odd. I would say insulting. Meanwhile, according to the liberal Slovak paper, Sme, MKP is in trouble because the closer it moves to the "leftist and nationalist Fidesz" the less chance it has to be able to form any kind of coalition with other Slovak parties. And in this case MKP will not be very useful for the Hungarian minority. The commentator thinks that, knowing Fidesz, money will still pour into the coffers of MKP, but it will be throwing good money after bad.

A truly devastating editorial appeared today in the same Sme with the title "Ria, ria, Argentina." The author, Peter Schutz, described the trip as utterly insignificant even though in the last nine years no Hungarian prime minister paid an official visit to Bratislava. In his opinion, Hungary's rotating presidency is a gift from heaven because with it Orbán can turn attention away from all the horrors he is creating at home with the assistance of the two-thirds majority. According to Schutz, Radičová shouldn't even try to find common ground with Orbán. Sure, the relationship between "the two countries should be correct, but not at the price of ignoring that Slovakia's neighbor is moving away from Europe and heading toward Argentina, Venezuela, or perhaps Russia."

In another comment that also appeared in Sme Peter Morvay practically warns Radičová not to try too hard to find common ground with Viktor Orbán because of the devastating foreign opinion of the Hungarian prime minister and his regime. He predicts that there will be no possibility of coming to an understanding on the question of dual citizenship: Orbán will not back down because he has nothing to lose and Radičová hasn't got the foggiest idea what to do about it.

The cold war between the two countries continues and may become even frostier as time goes by.

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The question is: to be violent or to be non-violent?
He is not the first, who ignores the legacy of the great Ferenc Deak! Or Gene Sharp! Or John Rawls.


“leftist and nationalist Fidesz”
It’s refreshing to see this accurate description.

Joe Simon

It was Csányi former president of the MKP who maintained that the Hid was designed to split the Hungarian minority in Slovakia and would inevitably lead to assimilation. I saw him speak once on Hungarian TV. He sounded sincere and very worried. He also considered Bugár to act in tandem with Slovak politicians. Orbán has no other choice but to support the MKP. Berényi József the present president has a good working relationship with Orbán.


Research of 1000 people interviewed, based on the population 18 years and older age, sex, educational attainment and place of residence shows support for the Fidesz-KDNP within the entire adult population of voters in November fell from 49 percent to 43 percent, while support for the Socialist Party has changed from 10 to 11 percent, while the proportion of non-respondents has increased from 31 percent to 35 percent.
Among Fidesz-KDNP voters, the 71 percent support in November, fell to 67 percent, while the support in MSZP voters has increased by from 14 percent to 17 percent. The two other parliamentary parties’ support has not changed in the past month. The non-parliamentary parties are still only measured support for the MDF, but only 1 percent – read the survey.
Hajrá Magyarorszag, hajrá Magyarok


Free Country USA


Slovakia should ignore Hungary because in the coming years Slovakia has a real chance to further integrate into the west, improve living standards (which require a lot of investment) and make themselves into a normal European democracy. None of those things are happening in Hungary. As such, the risk of some “defection@ of Slovak Hungarians to Hungary is de minimus. If things continue as is, the issue will be how many Hungarians living near the Slovak border try and figure out how to get Slovak citizenship instead.

Rigó Jancsi

Now, what is the problem with assimilation? Seriously. The Hungarian culture will not be lost if all ethnic Hungarians (as if you could define this properly) outside the borders would stop speaking Hungarian tomorrow. I know that the magic numbers are important: 20 million sound better than 9.999 million and dropping. But isn’t that a cheap self-deception? The additional 10 million are not part of Hungary. Period. Get over it. They will not become part of Nagymagyarország again, nem, nem, soha. I like what was written in Pester Lloyd: Aki mindig a múltba fordul a seggel megy a jövőbe.

Koroly Péter

Orbán did not meet with Bugár from the bi-national party Most-Hid.
While Kádár postulated after 1962 those who are not against us are for us, Orbán: Those who are not for us are enemies and should be treated as such.

Karl Pfeifer

Joe Simon, your view on the reality is one dimensional. On the one hand the good nationalist Hungarians on the other all the others.
I cannot see anything wrong in assimilation. After all imagine in that “wonderful” Great Hungary before Trianon ethnic Hungarians would have been a minority if not for the Jews and Germans who assimilated and declared during census in 1910 to be Hungarians.
So the majority of Hungarians in Slovakia decided to vote for a binational party Most-Hid. They are interested to live in peace with the majority, a very wise decision.

Kevin Moore

@Karl Pfeifer: I honestly believe you. I believe that you don’t see anything wrong with OUR assimilation.
I don’t think I should comment more on that.
Anyway, what you say shows how you are out of touch with reality. The whole world of nations and politics is governed by people belonging to nations. This is why wars break out all over the place, all the time.
That you don’t understand one bit from it is no surprise.

Eva S. Balogh

Karl: “ethnic Hungarians would have been a minority if not for the Jews and Germans who assimilated and declared during census in 1910 to be Hungarians.”
And let’s add the Slovaks who assimilated rapidly before 1918 for at least two reasons. (1) Migration from the north to Budapest and from countryside to cities which were by then Hungarian-speaking and (2) because the authorities closed the only Slovak high school. Thus any Slovak who wanted to have an education had to attend Hungarian school. As a Hungarian politician said about this situation: the Hungarian high schools were like sausage makers. Little Slovaks went in and not so little Hungarians came out.