Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajčák has expressed his disappointment that not one of Slovakia’s 13 MEPs attended a meeting of the European Parliament’s committee on petitions dedicated to the so-called Beneš Decrees (issued by the then president of Czechoslovakia Edvard Beneš after the end of World War II).

“I'm very disappointed at how our MEPs approached the issue, regardless of which political party they are from,” Lajčák said, as quoted by the SITA newswire on Wednesday, October 3. “For me, it raises the question of whether they realise whom they represent in the European Parliament,” he added, adding that the only person to speak in Slovakia’s defence at the committee meeting was a Romanian MEP.

The EP committee discussed the Beneš Decrees on September 20. Slovakia is not represented on the committee, but Slovak MEPs were able to take part. As they chose to stay away, a report from the committee meeting noted that “Slovak MEPs did not take part in the discussion”. The EP is discussing the topic at the initiative of Hungarian MEPs. Slovakia is being asked to explain the circumstances under which its parliament adopted a declaration in 2007 on the irrevocability of the Beneš Decrees. The 2007 resolution declared the Beneš Decrees – which after World War II limited the civil and property rights of the Hungarian and German minorities in Czechoslovakia – inviolable. It was adopted with the support of all members of the ruling coalition and the opposition, with the exception of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK). In it, the Slovak Parliament rejected all attempts to dispute the post-war decrees and declared inviolable the legal and ownership relationships stemming from them.

The Beneš Decrees cannot be changed and Slovakia and Hungary should focus on their economic problems instead, Prime Minister Robert Fico said in an interview for Hungarian TV channel Duna following a meeting with his Hungarian counterpart Viktor Orban in Pilisszentkereszt (known in Slovak as Mlynky), Hungary, on Tuesday, October 2. According to Fico, Slovakia maintains that the controversial decrees are not legally changeable and that historians and mixed specialist committees should instead be in charge of dealing with the documents. "For me it's more crucial to tackle economic questions that affect people's lives," Fico said. With regard to issues related to Slovak-Hungarian co-operation, bilateral relations and the situation of ethnic Slovaks in Hungary and the Hungarian minority in Slovakia, Fico said that the two countries have been leading a constructive dialogue. As for ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia, Fico said that Slovakia respects and honours the rights of that community. He added that, for example, the Hungarian language can be used – unofficially – even in those towns where the 20-percent population threshold needed for a foreign language to be officially spoken under the law is not achieved.

Sources: SITA, TASR

Compiled by Zuzana Vilikovská from press reports
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