Thursday, May 27, 2010

Slovakia Hungary

(a quick blog posting from today)

Pandora's passports

May 27th 2010, 13:50 by E.L. | LONDON

IN SOME parts of the world, having two or even three passports is nothing unusual. Plenty of people in Ireland (north and south) have both British and Irish passports; a sprinkling have American ones too. Even countries that frown on dual citizenship rarely make much of a fuss about it (not least because it is so hard to police). That lesson seems to be lost on Slovak and Hungarian politicians, who are cooking up an almighty row about the Hungarian new dual citizenship law which will give all ethnic Hungarians outside the country the near-automatic right to a Hungarian passport. The new law, passed by parliament on May 26th, removes the requirement for permanent residency in Hungary; in future, applications will simply need to show they speak Hungarian and have some Hungarian ethnic roots (such as a Hungarian grandparent).

For Hungarians, that salves a wound that has been open since 1920, when the Treaty of Trianon dismembered old Hungary, leaving more than three out of ten Hungarians stranded in other countries such as newly independent Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia and a much bigger Romania. Giving passports to these Hungarians, who now number around 2m, appeases the radical right in Hungary and also signals to other countries that the Magyar minorities have a protector. That does not matter much in places such as Serbia, Slovenia or Austria, where Magyars live happily alongside their fellow-citizens. But it is potentially explosive in Slovakia, where some in the Slav majority are twitchy about what they see as the uppitiness of the ethnic Hungarian minority, who number about 10% of the population. Slovakia has annoyed Hungary, and alarmed some outsiders, with a poorly-drafted language law that in some cases penalises the use of the Hungarian language.

So Slovakia has protested, appealed to outsiders, and now says it will strip dual passport-holders of their Slovak citizenship. In theory, the fact that both countries belong to the European Union should mean that passports are largely irrelevant. Hungarian passport-holders have the right to work and live in Slovakia just like any other EU citizen. But these sort of ethnic-historical squabbles are just the sort of thing that EU enlargement was meant to settle. It is troubling to see them bubbling up. When Slovakia's new government takes office at the end of June, outsiders will be hoping to see some serious diplomacy between Bratislava and Budapest.

It is also odd to see ethnicity taking such precedence over more modern forms of political identity. The term "ethnic Hungarian" is convenient journalistic shorthand but a poor basis for legislation. There are people who speak excellent Hungarian but have no Hungarian ancestry, and others with pure Magyar blood (nasty term) who happen not to speak the language. It would take a new Nuremberg Law to determine exactly what level of Hungarian ancestry counts as sufficient.

Hungary would be on stronger ground if chose political-historical rather than an ethnic base for the law. For example, it could say that anyone whose ancestors were citizens of the old Hungarian Kingdom had the right to apply for a passport from the modern republic. (Estonia and Latvia took that approach when they regained independence in 1991, giving passports automatically to all citizens of the pre-war republics, regardless of ethnicity, while asking Soviet-era migrants to apply). If Hungary did the same, it is a fair bet that few non-Magyars would bother to take up the offer.

9 comments:

Benjamin said...

So... Hungary held a referendum on this same issue (I believe they also offered pensions in 2004, I'm not sure if pensions are a part of this offer?) but the vote failed due to popular Hungarian apathy - low voter turnout. But, In 2004 Hungary and Slovakia were being accessed into the EU, the economy was still afloat, and things were, all in all, looking up. So why then in 2010 when the economy is in it's worst shape in a decade (i.e. IMF bailout of 2009) are they so enamored with providing citizenship now? I mean, I understand the historical pull of nationalism for Magyars, the seething anger towards the Treaty of Trianon, the political expediency of it, and the dissatisfaction with treatment of Hungarian minorities in Slovakia, Transylvania, and the Voijvodina, the advantages of passport diplomacy in weakening the states from which the minorities currently reside (i.e. Russia in Crimea)... but how, especially as unemployment remains high, is this economically advantageous for Hungary and Hungarians residing and working in Hungary? Why, other than campaign promises made by Fidesz, wouldn't they hold another referendum? Or, do the aforementioned reasons take precedent over the present state of the economy? Is there something simple I am missing?

I would appreciate an objective, and not ethnically tinged, conversation from subsequents commenters.

Regards,
Ben Gavin

Jaroslav said...

1. why you lie aboute slovak language law ? did you read that ??? (5 pages)
slovak language law affects only artifitial persons, did you know that ?
if englishman has a traffic accident in scotland, and doctor speaks only scottish language to him and patient dies, is it ok for you ? If there is a law that every doctor in Britain must use english language if his patient speaks only english is that a violation of doctors minority rights ?
If a policeman in scottland doesnt want to help you and he speacs scottish to you (and you speak only english) is it ok for you ? or if a clerk doesnt want to sale something to you because you are english and the shop is in wales ?
Its clearly written in slovak language law : if patiens speaks hungarian (or german or english) and doctor speaks hungarian too, they may use hungarian language but the documentation must be in slovak. If patiens speaks only slovak doctor must speak slovak too. If not - 5000 Euro. (and i believe such punishment is not high enough)

2. Why you lie aboute double citizenship ? There is no double citizenship allowed in Germany, Austria, Denmark, Czech rep. New slovak citizenship law is only a copy of czech citizenship law. If a slovak citizen goes to live to USA and he gets US citizenship he may keep slovak citizenship too, because there is an agreement between USA and slovakia. But slovak who lives only in slovakia has no right to get US citizenship, that would be absurd. Hungary wanted no negotiations, no agreement with slovakia aboute this topic, so this is the result.
Are you trying to tell me its normal if slovak citizen still lives in slovakia and he gets hungarian citizenship, so he may vote twice to european parliament ? One hungarian party from slovakia and one from hungary ? Is it ok for you ?

Jaroslav said...

1. why you lie aboute slovak language law ? did you read that ??? (5 pages)
slovak language law affects only artifitial persons, did you know that ?
if englishman has a traffic accident in scotland, and doctor speaks only scottish language to him and patient dies, is it ok for you ? If there is a law that every doctor in Britain must use english language if his patient speaks only english is that a violation of doctors minority rights ?
If a policeman in scottland doesnt want to help you and he speacs scottish to you (and you speak only english) is it ok for you ? or if a clerk doesnt want to sale something to you because you are english and the shop is in wales ?
Its clearly written in slovak language law : if patiens speaks hungarian (or german or english) and doctor speaks hungarian too, they may use hungarian language but the documentation must be in slovak. If patiens speaks only slovak doctor must speak slovak too. If not - 5000 Euro. (and i believe such punishment is not high enough)

2. Why you lie aboute double citizenship ? There is no double citizenship allowed in Germany, Austria, Denmark, Czech rep. New slovak citizenship law is only a copy of czech citizenship law. If a slovak citizen goes to live to USA and he gets US citizenship he may keep slovak citizenship too, because there is an agreement between USA and slovakia. But slovak who lives only in slovakia has no right to get US citizenship, that would be absurd. Hungary wanted no negotiations, no agreement with slovakia aboute this topic, so this is the result.
Are you trying to tell me its normal if slovak citizen still lives in slovakia and he gets hungarian citizenship, so he may vote twice to european parliament ? One hungarian party from slovakia and one from hungary ? Is it ok for you ?

Seth53 said...

Dear Benjamin,

You seem to be a bit emotional about the subject.

1 - In the UK nobody will fine you if you speak only Gaelic. In fact, you can even become British citizen if you learn only the Welsh language while you cannot speak a word in English. You can be a policeman, doctor etc. in Wales if you speak Welsh. It might be disadvantageous, but nobody will officially discriminate you if you do not speak English, given you are fluent in another indigenous language.

2 - The reason why you cannot become US citizen while living in Slovakia, because the US does not want to grant this status on that base, and it has nothing to do with Slovakia.

3 - In general, I do not understand the fear and panic you have in Slovakia. If an ethnic Hungarian wants to be a Hungarian citizen, and Hungary wants to award it to that person, it is a love made in heaven. You cannot stop it. You cannot force people to become ethnic Slovakian, and to love the you / the nation / the country with poisonous laws. The whole idea of this damned EU is meant to be grounded in democracy, i.e. with other words: the freedom of choice. If Hungarian citizenship is what the ethnic Hungarians want let be it. Or your worry is that too many of your people would prefer Hungary to Slovakia?

Seth53 said...

Dear Benjamin,

You seem to be a bit emotional about the subject.

1 - In the UK nobody will fine you if you speak only Gaelic. In fact, you can even become British citizen if you learn only the Welsh language while you cannot speak a word in English. You can be a policeman, doctor etc. in Wales if you speak Welsh. It might be disadvantageous, but nobody will officially discriminate you if you do not speak English, given you are fluent in another indigenous language.

2 - The reason why you cannot become US citizen while living in Slovakia, because the US does not want to grant this status on that base, and it has nothing to do with Slovakia.

3 - In general, I do not understand the fear and panic you have in Slovakia. If an ethnic Hungarian wants to be a Hungarian citizen, and Hungary wants to award it to that person, it is a love made in heaven. You cannot stop it. You cannot force people to become ethnic Slovakian, and to love the country with poisonous laws. The whole idea of this damned EU is meant to be grounded in democracy, i.e. with other words: the freedom of choice. If Hungarian citizenship is what the ethnic Hungarians want let be it. Or your worry is that too many of your people would prefer Hungary to Slovakia?

István said...

Dear All,
I am a H citizen living in Budapest and have a lot of H and SK friends in SK.
I never felt tension with them as the people I know do not really buy the nationalist-populist crap of the current government.

To be honest it did not feel good when Slota (2nd man in SK gov.) was talking in public about raiding Budapest with tanks.

For me Slota is playing on SK people's minority complex to gain votes and to make some pocket money (pretty successful). Come on Slovaks! You have strong economy, pretty good hockey team; why do you still feel inferior to us?

Please remember, that H was also playing this nationalist game in the 19-20th century. Who knows history knows where it leads...

Now we have populist government in H (I am not happy), but I feel that SK politics is also partly responsible for this. In H we say now eat what you cooked! Problem is I have to eat also what stupid nationalists cooked (on both sides)!

Let us try to get civilised!

Why does it hurt a SK that a Slovakian Hungarian has double nationality? Come on, he is a Slovakian Hungarian, SK people call them that way also... What damage does this cause to SK? Be happy about present borders (that we do not want to change) and let your fellow citizens get something that does not cost you anything...

Cheers,

István

PS: Slovakians in Hungary have the right to double nationality:)

woron.org said...

Mr. Edward Lucas
The Economist

Dear Sir,

I read with interest the article posted on your blog titled “Slovakia Hungary/Pandora’s passport”, not only because I am a Hungarian specialist, but also because Mr. Adam LeBor dealt with the same subject recently in the Guardian, in his article, "Hungary’s passport law is a diversion”.

The subject is undeniably controversial for outside observers, particularly if they do not pay sufficient attention to the complicated historical context of the Hungarian parliament's recent decision to adopt the legislation under discussion.

The losses that the Kingdom of Hungary suffered after the First World War as a result of the Treaty of Trianon, which of course you wrote about, cannot only be calculated in terms of square kilometers lost. Of course population losses -- if one can put it like this -- were also of enormous significance.

Of the greatest significance, however, was what impact the Treaty of Trianon had on the historical and cultural thinking of the Hungarian political elites, as well as its citizens. It was an enormous civilizational shock for the Hungarians, which in Europe has not been discussed much, since it was perceived as a consequence of Hungary's place on the losing side.

As a result, it was not taken into account that revisionist tendencies usually appear in countries that have been "severely" punished after losing wars. Presented to the country in more or less successful ways, these tendencies incline its people to agree to risky solutions -- one such example is Germany.

Of course in Hungary, for many reasons, these kinds of radical views appeared with less strength, but which nevertheless did lead the country to conclude risky alliances, which can be seen in the example of Hungary's participation in the Second World War.

The passing of the legislation on dual citizenship is an expression of Hungarians' admission that earlier attempts at rebuilding an ethnic (national) community of Hungarians failed, not only in its intention, but also in its consequences. Because however the problem is alive, since Hungarians are still living beyond Hungary's borders, the current government wants to rebuild this community on the foundation of a shared language and culture.

Even at first glance one can see that this is an undeniably difficult task, but one that shows that the authors of this legislation were thinking in terms of the future -- even if the legislation might have been more precisely formulated, which you allude to delicately in your article.

Respectfully yours,
Szczepan Woronowicz, Warsaw

kaiser said...

To Szczepan : In year 1918 (in this year was 1st czechoslovak republic established and aknowledged from almost all states) lived in hungary 630.000 slovakians - check it out, source : Conférence de la paix 1919-1920. Recueil des actes de la conférence. Partie IV.

so hungarian minority in slovakia and slovakian minority in hungary were approximately same

to speak aboute punishement of hungary after lost war is inapropriate because that was also a liberation of occupied nations

Krakow's New Dragons said...

Oh dear ! This is, of course, deeply embarrassing to Mr Lucas' whose deeply paranoid and propagandistic thesis of 'The New Cold War' in which only Russia is playing on ethnic nationalism is undermined somewhat.If this is what politics in Hungary-Slovakia is like, imagine Georgia and the Caucasus !

"Reform" minded states like Georgia have Bumpy Rides on their Inexorable March to Natopia, including vicious ethnic nationalism, reigning down grad missiles on civilians in Tskhanvali in South Ossetia and then blaming Russia by progecting Saakashvili's aggression onto a heinous plot by Russia to dismember Georgia when it reacted.

Naturally, in accordance with the Orwellian doublethink that is the hallmark of Lucas' writing, when Hungary and Slovakia start ethnic nationalist stirring it's "curious". Never to to with the failure of neoliberal policies and a populist-nationalist backlash.

History has proved time and time again that Utopian laissez faire policies have an in built tendency to create political instability. Georgia's appalling descent into even greater poverty after the Rose Revolution and Saakashvili's war was a divertionary measures

Again if Russia gives passports out to South Ossetian's, Lucas parrots the line of Brzezinski that it's 1938 and Hitler's technique of dismembering Czechoslovakia. When Romania tries the same in Moldova and resucitates Antonsecu its omitted and unmentionable.

As only Russia is essentially Evil and Sinister. Not least after it rejected being ruled by a bunch of rapacious oligarchs who took advantage of the Young Reformers shock therapy reforms to sell on oil and gas assets by buying them cheap and selling them high.

That Hungary is offering passports to ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia is just glided over as a funny old pointless spat. The idea that Greater Romanian nationalists have done the same in Moldova is a fact that is conveniently omitted.

As is the fact that the heroic and thrusting democrats of the Twitter Revolution of April 2009 like Oleg Brega were part of the same network of visceral anti-semitic far-right wing nationalists who call themselves "Liberal Democrats" so that those like Lucas will peddle their cause to advance US geostrategical aims against Russia.