JÁN Slota has been nourishing a rather weird legislative dream. There is a law that has been haunting his Slovak National Party (SNS) for more than a decade. To be precise, it's the lack of this law that's has been giving Slota heartache. It is a law that, if it finally materialised, would represent everything Slota has ever stood for. It is the Law on the Protection of the Slovak Republic, through which the "enemies of the nation" could be prosecuted.
Slota got quite close to seeing his dream come true in 1996, when ruling with the notorious boss of the Movement for a Democratic Slovakia, Vladimír Mečiar, and the leader of the Association of Workers of Slovakia, Ján Ľupták.
Back in 1996, when the Mečiar government pushed the country to the edge of international isolation, the parliament passed a law that was supposed to protect the healthy core of the Slovak nation from people who were reportedly harming the image of Slovakia abroad.
It was Mečiar's major opponent, former president Michal Kováč, who finally spoiled Slota's dream by vetoing the law, which in fact was a law characteristic of oppressive regimes. At times it evoked fiery protests from European institutions such as the European Council.
When the public service Slovak Television asked Slota back in 1997 about his failure to push the law through, it was clear he had not forgotten. "It is such a pity it failed," he said. "If it was passed, the Hungarians would have shut up."
Slota poured fresh fuel on the fire as recently as late July this year.
"If we all fall asleep here in Slovakia, when we finally wake up we will all be speaking Hungarian," Slota said, leaving no doubt as to what enemies he had in mind when drafting the law.
This is actually Slota's fifth try at getting such a law passed. This time, Slota said he was responding to the Southern Council, a few dozen Hungarians who are calling for the autonomy of the southern part of Slovakia, and to statements made by Pál Csáky, the chairman of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK). The SMK boss said he would seek reimbursements for people who suffered injustice as a consequence of the Beneš Decrees, which were drawn up after the Second World War and named after the exiled Czechoslovak president Eduard Beneš.
Slota, who wants to discuss the law with his ruling coalition partners this month and send his dream legislation to parliament in September, hopes that the law will go through this time. He hopes that this time, he will manage to produce a means of prosecuting anyone who dares question the Beneš Decrees or post-WWI territorial arrangement of Central Europe, based on the Treaty of Trianon, which stripped Hungary of two-thirds of its former territory, including the part that is now Slovakia.
In the former Czechoslovakia there were two laws that sought to protect the republic; both were highly restrictive, with the law from the late 1940s supporting the political persecution of the enemies of the communist regime, the Sme daily wrote.
Political scientists have been quick to point out that the whole discussion over re-opening the issue of the Beneš Decrees is more of a ploy for the nationalist vote than a real political concern.
Besides, politicians who push the nationalist agenda tend to make fairly poor historians.
Although it is no surprise that the SNS is pushing such an agenda, what is a bit disconcerting is the fact that the party can now push for it as part of the ruling coalition.
The SNS was formed in 1991 to pursue the independence of Slovakia, and the party's fathers have always used the time-tested methods of nationalism to reach this goal. The party's official rhetoric has always evolved around the need to "save" Slovaks in southern Slovakia from "Magyarization" and preserve the "full-blooded euphony of the Slovak language" from hostile foreign influences. Ever since the party was established, Slota's verbal attacks on various minority groups have constantly been variations on this one theme. In fact, when one tries to recall the meaningful things that Slota has said about the coexistence of nationalities, one realises that he hasn't said anything at all.
Slota is someone who can only inspire a subculture of people who still collect relics from Slovakia's fascist wartime state and nourish some kind of historical melancholy for Slovaks' first taste of independence.
By Beata Balogová
20. Aug 2007 at 0:00