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EDITORIAL

Emotional politicians lead to bad debate on Beneš Decrees

INTERNATIONAL affairs are one of the few relationships that can do very well without being spiced up by emotions. Slovak-Hungarian relations are again getting far too emotional, which has never really benefited either side - except for the nationalist forces feeding on the tense atmosphere in both countries.

INTERNATIONAL affairs are one of the few relationships that can do very well without being spiced up by emotions. Slovak-Hungarian relations are again getting far too emotional, which has never really benefited either side - except for the nationalist forces feeding on the tense atmosphere in both countries.

This time the emotions have been whipped up by a Slovak declaration on the inalterability of the Beneš Decrees, a product of a post-Second World War arrangement that applied the collective guilt principle and deported thousands of ethnic Germans and Hungarians from the former Czechoslovakia for their alleged co-operation with Nazi regimes.

The declaration that the Slovak parliament passed in mid-September riled up the easily-irritable Slovak-Hungarian relations. These have been especially petulant since the nationalistic Slovak National Party (SNS) marched into the ruling coalition, helping Prime Minister Robert Fico shape the government.

Speaker of the Slovak Parliament Pavol Paška argued that the new declaration was a response to a provocation by the chairman of the Hungarian Coalition Party, Pál Csáky, who has added "revocation of the Beneš Decrees" to his political vocabulary. The declaration also says that the parliament rejects the collective guilt principle, a move Paška defended.

Just like the rather laughable law glorifying Andrej Hlinka, the priest who served as chairman of the Slovak People's Party between 1918 and 1938, the declaration on the Beneš Decrees does not really belong to parliament of a modern European state.

According to French political scientist Jacques Rupnik, the Beneš Decrees have two dimensions: a legal one and a political one. On a legal level, it seems fruitless to return to the decrees after 60 years, he told the Pravda daily.

On a political level, it would require extraordinary power of imagination to picture SNS boss Ján Slota in a dignified discussion about any historically or politically sensitive issue, let alone the Beneš Decrees.

Slota, among others, contributed to the debate by saying that Csáky was an offspring of the fascist regime of Horthy Miklós in Hungary and calling him "vomit".

In return, Csáky said that Slota is a disgrace to the Slovak nation.

Reopening the debate could hardly lead to any understanding or reveal any historical truth, other than the fact that issues like the Beneš Decrees are far too vulnerable to allow heated and emotional politicians to pass resolutions on it.

It is indeed irresponsible to open up such a serious issue in a blame-game atmosphere, with statements that deepen the schism between nations instead of seeking any reconciliation. Besides, reconciliation with Hungary is the last thing the SNS wants, since it would kill the flame in the party's political lamp that sheds light only on truths that fit the nationalist agenda.

Historians like Katarína Zavacká explain that other countries of post-war Europe have adopted laws similar to Beneš Decrees.

However, declarations like the recent one adopted by the Slovak parliament are rare.

Slovakia has also lacked a serious discussion about what happened in the heart of Central Europe over the past 60 years and circumstances of the Second World War, far too often due to the sensitive nature of the existence of the wartime Slovak State, a puppet of the Nazi Germany but at the same time, for many, the first independent Slovak state.

This discussion should involve historians, rather than irresponsible politicians who are far too hasty in manufacturing declarations and laws.

Still, the recent blame game in fact does not come as a surprise. The presence of the SNS in the ruling coalition has been overall unhealthy for Slovakia's relations with Hungary.

In fact, the discourse is not as much about the actual decrees or their actual impact. It is about the SNS having more influence in parliament than it would deserve to have in a modern European parliament.

It also comes as a surprise how promptly parliament adopted the resolution.

It was certainly faster than some Slovak politicians have taken to make up their minds and distance themselves from the heritage of the war-time Slovak state.

And if the resolution was a reaction to statements from Csáky, aren't parliamentary resolutions reserved for serious state decisions?

Will parliaments end up adopting dozens of laws on fathers of nations and other declarations based on whipped-up political tempers?

If yes, it is rather bad news for the political business, which has been losing its merit in Slovakia anyway.


By Beata Balogová

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