||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (April 2013)|
Hungary–Slovakia relations are the foreign relations between Hungary and the Slovak Republic, two neighbouring countries in Central Europe. There are two major periods of official relations between Slovakia and Hungary in the contemporary history. First period included relations between Hungarian Kingdom and the Slovak republic in 1939-1945. The second period has started in 1993, when the countries again established diplomatic relations, the year when Slovakia became independent of Czechoslovakia. Hungary has an embassy in Bratislava, and Slovakia has an embassy in Budapest and a general consulate in Békéscsaba.
After the first break-up of Czechoslovakia in March 1939, Hungary was the first state, which officially recognized the independent Slovakia. Subsequently, Hungary and Slovakia established embassies in Bratislava and Budapest and kept diplomatic relations during the World War Two. Despite a formal alliance inside the Berlin pact (1940) and a common war against the Anti-Hitler coalition, Slovak-Hungarian political relations maintained on the brink of war due to the frontier dispute and the oppression of Slovak minority in Hungary and Magyar minority in Slovakia . The restoration of Czechoslovakia and the liquidation of the independent Slovakia in 1945 led to the end of the first period of Hungary-Slovakia's relations.
Nowadays, both countries are full members of NATO and of the European Union. They share 676 kilometres (420 mi) of common borders. There are approximately 520,0001 persons of Hungarian descent living in Slovakia (about 9.7% of its population) and around 39,266 persons of Slovak descent living in Hungary (about 0.38% of its population).note 1 There have been frequent minor diplomatic conflicts between the two countries.
- 1 History
- 2 Gabčíkovo – Nagymaros Dams
- 3 1993 - 1998
- 4 The Malina controversy
- 5 Confirmation of the Beneš decrees
- 6 Slovak riot police beating of Hungarian football fans
- 7 Claims of Hungarian irredentism in Viktor Orbán speech
- 8 Language laws
- 9 Komárno incident
- 10 Attack on the Slovak Embassy
- 11 Political statements by a leading member of the Slovak governing coalition
- 12 Historical revisionism
- 13 Hungarian nationality law reform and bill of the day of national unity
- 14 János Esterházy controversy
- 15 See also
- 16 Notes
- 17 References
- 18 External links
Slavs arrived to the Western Carpathians in the 6th century. In the early 9th century most of the Western Carpathians belonged to Great Moravia. By 896, Hungarian Tribes established Hungary with the entire Carpathian Mountain range as its borders 2 and included the Pannonian Basin, including the western portions of Great Moravia.
The Czech National Revival in the neighboring Austrian lands significantly affected Slovak national sentiment, and use of the Slovak language which was being encroached upon by nationally sanctioned dominance of Hungarian. Following World War I, areas designated by the Allied states (predominantly France, in defiance of Woodrow Wilson's Fourteen Points) which called for plebiscites, Northern Hungary was ceded to the newly established Czechoslovakia, according to the Treaty of Trianon (1920). The arrangement left a sizable Hungarian population residing on the territory of Slovakia and a much smaller Slovak minority in Hungary. The Hungarian Soviet Republic subsequently attempted to retake Hungarian portions of Czechoslovakia, but was defeated by a Czechoslovak-Romanian coalition.
Immediately after its foundation, strong anti-Hungarian sentiment manifested in Czechoslovakia. The Elisabeth Science University was disbanded, and many historical monuments representing the Austro-Hungarian Empire destroyed.345
Hungarians (and other minorities, e.g., Germans and Rusyns) were thus not present in the constituent assembly and had no influence on the new Czechoslovak constitution. It nevertheless, on paper at least, guaranteed minority rights and the use of minority languages in educational system and local representation. In practice, however, this egalitarianism was never realized as thousands of Hungarians and Germans were forced off their lands, imprisoned, or their property confiscated 6
Due to gerrymandering the Hungarians had a diminished level of representation in the National Assembly and their influence on the politics of Czechoslovakia remained limited. The same factors also limited the Slovak intelligentsia's political power.7
During the World War II era, Hungary regained Hungarian-populated areas of Slovakia under the First Vienna Award of 1938. These territories were returned to Czechoslovakia when Hungary was defeated at the conclusion of World War II Treaty of Paris (with the exception of Carpathian Ruthenia which was annexed to the Soviet Union).
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The "Budapest Treaty" of 1977, between Hungary and Czechoslovakia, was a plan to tame the Danube and increase its navigability with levees, dams, locks, overflow channels, and designated flood plains, and to generate hydroelectricity. The joint project was intended to cover the entire 150 km stretch of the Danube as it forms the border between Slovakia and Hungary, from the upstream, western, end at Čunovo, Slovakia, to Nagymaros, Hungary, in the east. Construction started when the Soviet Union broke up in 1991, but only on the Slovak side. In 1989, Hungary had suspended its participation and in 1992 backed out of the treaty altogether citing environmental concerns. This caused a still unresolved international dispute between Slovakia and Hungary. Both parties turned to the International Court at The Hague for a ruling.
The relations were strained from the very beginning of Slovakia's existence as an independent state in 1993 due to Hungary's refusal to sign the treaty declaring inviolability of the mutual boundaries and also because Hungary declared its intent to interfere into Slovak internal affairs with the objective of Hungarian minority protection, which was perceived as unacceptable in Slovakia.8
In 1995 the Slovak language law came into force, which demanded that civil servants speak it and imposed fines on the use of foreign languages on public documents or in broadcasting without a translation into the state language. National minorities were exempt from several of its provisions.9 The sections about the fines were later deemed unconstitutional by the Slovak constitutional court and henceforth abolished in 1999. In 2009, the Slovak Language Law made the use of the minority language in official communication punishable in towns and villages where the ethnic community now made up less than 20 percent of the total population. All documentation of minority schools should be duplicated in the state language. The law stipulates that the names of streets and buildings anywhere in Slovakia must be stated in the Slovak language [despite 1100-year-old tradition] and it also introduces sanctions of up to €5,000 ($7,000) on those who break rules promoting the use of Slovak in public and for municipalities and public offices for not using the Slovak language "properly."10unreliable source?
Since both Slovakia and Hungary were aspiring for EU membership at the time, in 1995 Hungarian prime minister Gyula Horn along with his Slovak counterpart Vladimír Mečiar were pressured into signing a bilateral treaty. This treaty included measures for guaranteeing the minority rights for both countries and also a pledge not to consider the treatment of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia as an internal affair and vice versacitation needed. This last provision has been subsequently ignored by Vladimír Mečiar's and Robert Fico's administration as well.citation needed Mečiar even suggested a complete population exchange at a bilateral negotiation with Horn in 1997.11unreliable source?
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Hedvig Malina, a Hungarian student from Horné Mýto, Slovakia, made claims of being physically assaulted in a hate crime incident.12 Malina claims she was severely beaten and robbed on 25 August 2006 in Nitra after speaking Hungarian in public.121314 She claims her attackers wrote "SK [abbreviation for Slovakia] without parasites" (Slovak: SK bez parazitov), and "Hungarians to the other side of the Danube" (Slovak: Maďari za Dunaj) on her clothes. Upon investigation of the incident by Slovak Police, Malina was accused of making misleading statements to the police and has been charged with perjury.15 In December 2007, Slovak police released a video tape of the initial hearing to Malina's lawyers, who are now claiming irregularities in the way the interview had been conducted.161718 Malina has taken her case to the European Court of Human Rights, challenging what she terms the "inhumane and humiliating" conduct of Slovak officials.13
In the summer of 2007, Party of the Hungarian Coalition has proposed a law that would grant compensation by "moral and financial means" for Hungarians harmed by the Beneš decrees of former Czechoslovakia.19 This compensation was to consist of a fund that would be available to the Hungarian community is Slovakia by various means.citation needed A similar fund exists to compensate the Germans and the Jews for the wrongdoings of 1939-47.citation needed Despite the historic record, Slovaks argue Hungarians were never expelled (as were the Germans), nor exterminated in death camps (as were the Jews). All ethnically Slovak members voted to confirm the decrees; Hungarian leaders voted against them.20 The then Hungarian President László Sólyom said the decision was unacceptable and that it would put a strain on Hungarian-Slovak relations.21
A November 1, 2008 soccer match between FC Dunajska Streda and Slovan Bratislava was disrupted by Slovak riot police after only 15 minutes injuring more than 60 people, many of whom lost consciousness or suffered injuries including concussion and broken jaws.22 Local policemen stormed Hungarian nationals, who were at the game to support the home team and to protest the burning of a Hungarian flag at an earlier game.22 flags with Árpád stripes, favoured by the extreme right in Hungary, were being waved and the home crowd sang the Hungarian national anthem before kickoff.22
Press reports from the scene said that the police failed to act against Bratislava supporters who were throwing smoke bombs, noise grenades and other missiles on the pitch.22 Based on videos posted on the internet showing the incident from various angles the supporters were not doing anything that would warrant such an intervention by police.22 Five days after the game the Slovak police presented a photo as evidence, showing one of the supporters raising his fist to throw a punch, but police officers can not be seen on the image.22 Spontaneous demonstrations were held in Budapest at the embassy and the consulate of Slovakia on the night of the incident.22 Protesters lit candles to honor the victims and burned a Slovak flag.22
Hungarian opposition leader, chairman of Fidesz, Viktor Orbán delivered a campaign speech in Esztergom, Hungary on May 23, 2009, two weeks before the 2009 European elections, in which he wondered how many MEPs will represent the Hungarians from the Carpathian Basin.note 223 (This geographical region, the traditional area of the Kingdom of Hungary, includes areas of Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine, Croatia and Austria.) The governing coalition of Slovakia condemned the move.24
In 2009 the Slovak parliament passed a language law, mandating preferential use of the state language – Slovak.25 Use of a non-state language in state institutions (local government, hospital, police) by citizens interacting with it could carry a financial penalty. The law does not interfere with private use of minority languages.26
Gordon Bajnai, the Hungarian Prime Minister, has charged Slovakia of scapegoating Hungarian speakers.27 According to the Hungarian standpoint, depriving a local government from its right to ensure making any minority language use at windows possible if ratio of that minority on the settlement was under 10% was unacceptable, only relieving them from an obligation to ensure that would be acceptable by European standards under any percentage. Prohibiting to use it in hospitals, or making it illegal for a postman to hand over a monthly pension if the pensioner can only acknowledge in Hungarian that she is currently receiving her monthly pension was considered endangering basic human rights.The Government of Hungary turned to the EU institutions to request the law from Slovakia in, analyze it according to the requirements of EU treaties and conventions and nullify any points they find contradicting them.
The leaders of EU stated that national legislation is under the authority of member nation states, and while EU was founded in order to avert conflicts and solve it in it, bilateral relations doesn't have to take place in the European Parliament. Yet according to request the procedure of checking the conformity of the law the EU institutions naturally start.
Some members of the Government of Hungary during interviews expressed their expectation from older members states to make their presence felt not only when their economic expansion can be achieved, but when there are problems, and try to investigate problems and get informed about marginally known territory when that is necessary.
After the EU handed over the list it found in breach with regulation accepted by Slovakia by being a member the Government told the press it will keep its attention on the process of the modifications and will report again if the result after deadline it considers unsatisfactory.
Hungarian foreign minister Péter Balázs compared the creation of the language law to the politics of the Nicolae Ceauşescu regime on the use of language.282930 The dual standards for Czech language usage in Slovakia has been questioned with Slovak authorities even considering a ban,31 however this charge ignores the mutual intelligibility between Czech and Slovak,32 which render them compatible in business and law.
Opponents have described the law as one that "criminalises the use of Hungarian",33 According to Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe High Commissioner on National Minorities Knut Vollebæk the language law complies with international law and Slovakia's international obligations.34 The Party of the Hungarian Coalition (MKP) asked the Slovak Government to release communication exchanged between them and Vollebæk35 so that the opinion of Vollebæk regarding the law could not be misrepresented or distorted. According to the Slovak Ministry of Foreign Affairs the report was released unchanged and in full. Spokesman Peter Stano stated: "It is obvious that the Party of the Hungarian Coalition was unable to question the reliability of Vollebæk report, that law is following the legitimate goal and it's in accordance with all international norms." 36 Vollebaek will monitor the situation until the law on minority language use will reach the level of the state language law.37
The American Hungarian Federation (AHF), the largest Hungarian-American umbrella organization in the United States, has repeatedly called attention to what it calls an "unacceptable" law that is "inconsistent with Slovakia’s freely assumed obligations, Western values, democratic principles and the international norms to which Slovakia as a member of the OSCE has committed itself." AHF sees a discriminatory and ill-advised language law as the latest manifestation of the intolerance toward the Hungarian minority by certain segments of Slovakia’s political elite now in office. It notes additional human and minority rights issues such as the gerrymandering of the administrative division of Slovakia so that Hungarians are in the minority in the administrative regions; adopting a resolution proposed by extremist Jan Slota ratifying and confirming the Benes decrees (which imposed collective guilt on Hungarians and continue to adversely affect them); and refusing to rehabilitate Janos Esterhazy, who as leader of the Hungarian Party in Tiso’s Fascist Slovakia was the only Member of Parliament to vote against the deportation of Jews in 1942, yet who died in a Czechoslovak prison after the war.
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Hungary states any national-cultural identification that is compatible with western human right values is equal and as long as they are not in breach with them allows free cultural activity. At the request of minorities names of settlements can be written at their border in their language also, this has been done to many settlements. In practice this means German and Slavic names. Minority local governments operate. Because of the general homogenous state of the country and because of the economic limits of building greater networks in a country with such size presence of minorities can only be found if searched for. Employees speaking foreign languages may find it necessary to go to offices specialized for them. English and German forms of documents are mostly available.
Minorities lacked national treatment during the communist times. Marxism defined nationalism, mythic symbology, irrational allocation of resources for artistic reasons and language as enemies of the masses. Mythic, middle-ages symbology and labour-allocation for details on swords etc. was described as producing opium, sold by the feudal lords. Different languages constituted barriers among people and nationalism was used to make people think the feudal lords were defending them from conquest and national assimilation, a death in spirit. According to Marx in reality they defended the form of exploitation, 'nation', by presenting exploiters as defenders. Territorial changes were just replacing exploiter feudal lords. The savior-picture of nobles defending peasants from armies of enemy nobles and the language barriers prevented people from recognizing and uniting against their common oppressor. Russian language and Soviet culture was promoted, even from Hungarian history only peasant-rebels, folk-poets and Republican revolutionaries were promoted. No national cultural life was supported. This resulted in remaining Slovaks feeling themselves deprived from their national identity.
According to Slovak historian Ladislav Deák, during communist rule in Hungary, most of the Slovak minority who did not emigrate were stripped of their Slovak identity.3839 Jenő Kaltenbach, Hungarian ex-ombudsman for national minorities and president of the German Minority Self-Government in Hungary, said that "minorities in Hungary, without exception, are on edge of abyss of their identity", "the national minorities were practically assimilated and action programs for them are just an illusion". He also said that the Hungarian minority language law is "nice to hear, but full of unrealised law norms".4041
In August 2009 the Hungarian president, László Sólyom, planned a visit to the Slovak city of Révkomárom/Komárno to unveil a statue commemorating Saint Stephen of Hungary. The day of the visit, August 21 coincided with the date of the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia, of which Hungary was a participant, and it is one day after the national celebration of the foundation of the Hungarian state (August 20). The Slovak government labelled the timing deliberate provocation, and questioned the president's refusal to meet with Slovak delegates.42 The Slovak government issued a one-day travel ban in response,43 and manned the bridge with policemen to prevent rioting.44 Sólyom did not enter Slovakia.44 The government of Hungary called the ban "unfounded" and "unacceptable".45 Hungary plans to lodge a complaint with the EU,46 however, according to der Standard, the European Commission does not want to concern itself with the case.47 The Advocate-General in charge of the case at the Court of Justice of the EU supported the legality of the ban.4849
On August 26, 2009, a few days after the Komárno incident, two Molotov cocktails were thrown at the Slovak embassy in Budapest, causing no casualties as the flammable fluids did not ignite or detonate.50 Authorities condemned the attack.51 The foreign ministry of Slovakia stated they view the incident with great concern, but at the same time "it is seen as an isolated criminal offence".52
On August 27, 2009, one day following the armed attack on the embassy, a Hungarian driver attempted to run the diplomatic car of Peter Weiss off the road while driving in the Budapest traffic. Though the diplomatic vehicle remained on the road, the driver begun to verbally assault its occupants. The driver and his accomplices were stopped and it is now being investigated whether the outburst was connected to the Embassy attack. The Slovak government did not condemn the attack as a good-will gesture towards Hungary.5354
Following the Slovak parliamentary elections of 2006 the far-right Slovak National Party (SNS) became a small part of the governing coalition. Ján Slota, chairman of SNS is known for anti-Hungarian sentiment. Der Spiegel and various international media outlets have reported Slota as saying “The Hungarians are a tumor in the body of the Slovak nation.” 55565758 He also threatened to send tanks to "flatten Budapest" should Slovakia's Hungarian minority, once the ruling class and still about 10 percent of the country's population today, attempt to teach the Slovaks "the Lord's Prayer in Hungarian" once again.59 Slota also called Hungarians the descendants of "ugly, bow-legged, Mongoloid characters on disgusting horses".59
It has been alleged that Deputy PM Robert Fico has been engaging in historical revisionism in the government's update of the national curriculum.6061 Slovak political scientist Miroslav Kusý claims that by adopting such scientifically questionable rhetoric Fico aims to "strengthen national consciousness by the falsification of history".62 It is not known whether this issue has affected relations between the states.
On May 26, 2010, the Fidesz-dominated newly elected Hungarian Parliament voted to give the ethnic Hungarians living in other countries the right to claim Hungarian citizenship 64 without requiring them to live in Hungary.65 The only requirements are a Hungarian ancestry and a command of Hungarian.66 The purpose of the government MEPs was reunification of the nation according to their own evaluation of who is in need of being granted simplified process of citizenship. The requirements were eased as address in Hungary was not required anymore.
Slovak political force condemned the move and initiated a law that makes a person lose their Slovak citizenship if they take up another in order to discourage them from doing that. The Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico called the proposed reforms a threat to national security.6667 In response to the passage of the Hungarian nationality law reform Slovakia altered its own citizenship law, stripping Slovak citizenship from any Slovak citizen who applies for another citizenship (not applicable if naturalisation procedure is initiated by another states' authorities); in effect highly restricting its recognition of dual citizenship.6566 Radical Slovak politician Jan Slota stated that as many Hungarians live on both side of the Danube, the next step by them after getting their citizenship can be the demand of being annexed back to Hungary. For this reason he considered his and others' fears justified, and told the press he obviously doesn't accuse Slovaks living in Australia to have the intention of annexing it to Australia, but with Hungary they believe their fear has rational bases.
On 31 May 2010 the Hungarian Parliament declared June 4, the day on which Hungary signed the Treaty of Trianon in 1920, the day of national unity. The bill was criticized by opposition members, former Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány wrote in his blog 'The law wants to heal the injuries of Trianon but only makes new ones.' The bill was voted by 302 representatives (55 rejected, 12 abstained) and it states that: "Every member and community of the Hungarians,who are forced to live under several foreign authorities, is a part of the unified Hungarian nation, whom unity above all state borders is a reality, moreover it is an important element of the individual and universal self-identity of every Hungarian."68
'For Slovakia the Treaty of Trianon bears a historical importance', Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic reacted on the new bill. 'It is a valid document, which was accepted by every signatory's own will. It must be obeyed, its purposes and consequences must not be questioned!' Gasparovic expressed fears that the new Hungarian government and Parliament wants to make a change in foreign policy and wants a revision of the treaty.
The second Orbán administration didn't announce such change which would have been a deviation of the long-term political strategy accepted in the early 1990s, which was the former Orbán administration's strategy also. Hungary has also expressed several timeswhen? - and suggested it in this very bill69 – that it does not seek any territorial revision. Seeking it would endanger peace and would most probably end its membership in EU and NATOcitation needed.
According to an opinion piece by Slovak7071note 3 journalist Martin M. Šimečka the law resembles the Russian policy of granting citizenship to the inhabitants of the Georgian region of South Ossetia prior to the war of 2008, in which the Russian forces claimed to be protecting new Russian citizens on the Georgian territory.72 (Note: both Hungary and Slovakia are European Union and NATO members.)
The Hungarian step triggered tensions between the two countries,67 and sparked an angry response from Slovakia.66 Slovakia strongly opposes the plan.67 Slovakia itself allowed dual citizenship at the time,66 and allowed a limited right of return for ethnic Slovaks (see Slovak nationality law). Of Hungary's neighbours, only Slovakia has objected to the move.66 As of December 2011, there are at least four ethnic Hungarians who were stripped of their Slovak citizenship after gaining Hungarian citizenship, and were ordered to hand in their Slovak identity documents at a police station.73
In an August 23, 2011 statement President of Slovakia Ivan Gašparovič opposed erecting a sculpture in János Esterházy’s memory in Kosice, saying that the one-time deputy had been a follower of Adolf Hitler and fascism. He also opposed Ferdinand Ďurčanský's sculpture in that case. The president said the Hungarian ethnic politician and martyr was a supporter of Nazism.74 In fact Esterházy had been the only member of the Slovak parliament to vote against anti-Jewish laws in 1942. The one-time deputy had always rejected both fascism and communism, suffered in the Gulag and died in a Moravian prison in 1957.75
Hungary’s Foreign Ministry the next day rejected Slovak President Ivan Gasparovic’s statement and said that the ideology reflected in the statement did not contribute to the development of bilateral relations. The ministry “notes with regret and incomprehension” that issues surrounding the martyred count are in the focus of daily Slovak politics, the ministry said. The achievements of Esterházy are recognised in many countries including Israel, the statement noted. Marek Trubac, the Slovak president’s spokesman, told MTI that Esterházy is considered a war criminal in Slovakia, “for supporting fascist ideology”. Though Esterházy did vote against the anti-Jewish bills, he also welcomed (former Hungarian regent) Miklós Horthy’s “fascist troops” that occupied Kosice, the spokesman added.
Hungarian Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén said he was appalled by Gasparovic’s statement. He said that Esterházy “heroically exercised the virtues” and was all along committed to the teachings of the Catholic Church, so it is not by chance that his beatification is under way. Semjén called the attack on Esterházy’s memory an insult to the Hungarian nation and the Catholic Church and a violation of universal human rights.74
Hungarian President Pál Schmitt said "it is unacceptable that János Esterházy, this true democrat and humanist, still qualifies as a war criminal in Slovakia". The president noted that the Hungarian government and his predecessors had repeatedly initiated Esterházy’s rehabilitation. Schmitt closed the letter with the hope that his forthcoming meeting with Gašparovič in Budapest would focus on the two countries’ common values.75
- Foreign relations of Hungary
- Foreign relations of Slovakia
- Ethnic minorities in Czechoslovakia
- Hungarians in Slovakia
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