"Autonomy is a regular term commonly used in international documents. In Slovakia, it is a demonized taboo, mostly due to political reasons."
In a democratic state with the rule of law, it is unthinkable to have a certain group of the population as second-class citizens. Representatives of the dominant nation cannot have privileges over representatives of national minorities.
If we really want to establish the rule of law, if it's our real need, not just a declaration, we must respect the principle of equality. The current government's declared program, the laws that have been passed, and the day-to-day practices prove that nationalism is a higher priority than civic relations. Instead of a civic state with the rule of law, we are building a nationalist state, where minority members are not equal citizens.
Through their legitimate representatives in parliament, the largest minority has tried several times to clarify the legal status of minorities by introducing bills that would clearly and unambiguously set the rules for both the majority and the minorities, to prevent deliberate legal explanation by state bureaucrats. But instead of serious dialogue and discussion, we have witnessed a lack of political will and a condescending attitude. In this current confrontational atmosphere, many political representatives see autonomy as something evil, negative, or even dangerous, jeopardizing the territorial integrity of the Slovak Republic. Nonsense.
Autonomy, or self-administration, is a legal framework enabling a citizen, or several citizens to decide about their own matters. There are financial means as well as a defined control mechanism. Attempts to establish autonomy is the opposite of attempts to establish a centralized system. It has nothing to do with national minorities. Autonomy is a regular term, commonly used in international documents. In Slovakia, it is a demonized taboo, mostly due to political reasons.
Some people claim that autonomy, or self-administration, is a tool to join the territory of southern Slovakia to Hungary. This is a lie. We are not questioning the borders, be do not want to join anyone. We only want decisions about us not to be made without us. In theory according to the Constitution, we have the right to participate when matters concerning national minorities and ethnic groups are being decided. But in practice, there are no laws and regulations that would guarantee us effective participation in the decision-making and control process.
We are citizens of the Slovak Republic. Our ancestors lived here, and we want our children to live here too. In a normal, legal and democratic way - through Parliament - we want to sort out the legal status of minorities, so that we can feel at home in our native country. We want to be equal, not second-class citizens.
We do not want to increase tensions. We do not want to take away anybody's rights, but we will not give up ours. We are convinced that with political will, those questions can be settled so that minority representatives are satisfied. It would be a significant step towards building democracy and the rule of law.
Gyula Bárdos is a MP for the Hungarian Christian Democratic Movement (MKDH).