DESPITE Prime Minister Mikuláš Dzurinda's appeal to members of parliament (MPs) to harness their emotions during debate on a parliamentary resolution on the controversial Law on Hungarians Living Abroad, strong words and insults echoed throughout the 12-hour discussion.
"Shut up, please, I'm speaking now," Hungarian Coalition MP Arpád Duka-Zólyomi shouted at a Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) MP Ján Cuper, who had been heckling Duka-Zólyomi as he explained the stance of his caucus towards the Hungarian status law.
HZDS MPs were the most vocal throughout the debate. They strongly criticised Dzurinda and the cabinet for their "servile policies" towards Hungary. HZDS MP Ivan Hudec even compared the PM to a "dwarf with complexes and an IQ of minus 12".
The goal of the discussion was to inform cabinet members of political parties' views on the Hungarian status law, and to discuss the text of a parliamentary resolution that was approved by the cabinet itself on February 5.
The government feared an emotional discussion could complicate its attempts to come to a deal with Hungary on the law.
Passed in summer last year, the Budapest edict gives financial and cultural advantages to Hungarians living on the territory of other states. Bratislava has interpreted the law as interference in its jurisdiction over the country's 500,000 ethnic Hungarian Slovak citizens.
The resolution states that the Slovak parliament was disturbed to see that "the Hungarian status law, approved by the Hungarian parliament on June 19, 2001, trespasses on the exclusive territorial and personal jurisdiction of the Slovak Republic and tries to create a precedent in the sphere of exclusive state sovereignty".
The resolution further states that Slovak MPs disagree with the application of the law on the Slovak territory.
If good neighbourly relations between Slovakia and Hungary are to be maintained and developed , the resolution continues, the Slovak parliament "appeals to the Hungarian Republic to bring the law into compliance with the basic principles of international law, as well as with European standards of protection for ethnic minorities, and that the law have force only on Hungarian territory".
Dzurinda said there were two ways to solve the problem - either to hold diplomatic talks, or for the Slovak government to take unilateral counter-measures. He promised parliament that the Slovak government was "ready to act promptly if the danger of discrimination of Slovak citizens emerges".
"It's in our interest to maintain and improve good neighbourly relations with Hungary," Dzurinda said, adding that it was, however, "questionable whether it is in the power of Hungary to reach an agreement before Hungary's elections." The elections are scheduled for April 7.
János Martonyi, Hungarian Foreign Minister, said on February 5 that Hungary had replied to the proposal which Slovakia delivered to Budapest on January 30. Martonyi said that Hungary had suggested some changes to the text, and that provided these were incorporated into the declaration, Hungary was prepared to sign the common document.
Back in parliament, SMK leader Béla Bugár warned that discussing the resolution could "complicate negotiations" and said both sides should agree by the end of February.
Štefan Zelník, MP for the Real Slovak National Party (SNS) suggested that cabinet withdraw from a 1995 treaty on good relations between Slovakia and Hungary.
HZDS MP Jozef Kálman accused Dzurinda's cabinet of failing to represent the country's interests and said "the cabinet should pack its luggage and leave the political scene".
"Since January 1 a foreign law has been in force on Slovak territory. Whether we want to admit it or not, Slovakia has lost its sovereignty," Kálman added.
Dzurinda accused the opposition of behaving irresponsibly and said its behaviour was "damaging Slovakia's integration interests as it has in the past" during the 1999 Kosovo crisis.
Miklós Duray of the SMK maintained that the law was "not a problem". He said: "It's only a problem for those who say it's a problem."