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Budapest declaration on autonomy rouses tornado of ire

A communiqué floated after a July 7 meeting in Budapest between Hungarian government and parliamentary officials and ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries supporting autonomy for Hungarians living abroad has whipped up a tornado of protests from Slovakia and other countries. The document read in part: "The establishment of local governments and autonomy - in line with current European practice and the spirit of international norms - is vital to preserving the identity of Hungarians beyond the borders." Slovak officials were quick to condemn the resolution. Foreign Minister Juraj Schenk called it "a step against the trend of positive development of mutual relations," marked by the creation of a basic treaty between Slovakia and Hungary last year.

A communiqué floated after a July 7 meeting in Budapest between Hungarian government and parliamentary officials and ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries supporting autonomy for Hungarians living abroad has whipped up a tornado of protests from Slovakia and other countries.

The document read in part: "The establishment of local governments and autonomy - in line with current European practice and the spirit of international norms - is vital to preserving the identity of Hungarians beyond the borders."

Slovak officials were quick to condemn the resolution. Foreign Minister Juraj Schenk called it "a step against the trend of positive development of mutual relations," marked by the creation of a basic treaty between Slovakia and Hungary last year. Picking apart the declaration's legality, Schenk added that the phrase "the spirit of international norms" is disingenuous because no international document codifies ethnic autonomy. The Romanian government also issued a statement expressing its anger with the resolution.

The blitzkrieg of condemnation put the Hungarian government in full retreat. The Foreign Ministry said on July 9 the summit's communiqué had no legal basis and was not intended to cause friction with neighboring countries.

But the country's foreign minister, László Kovács, said Budapest does support autonomy aspirations of ethnic Hungarians abroad, in accordance with western European norms. A day later, Prime Minister Vladimír Mečiar's Cabinet issued a response that was withering. In a statement, the Cabinet accused Budapest of violating the bilateral treaty and of trying to destabilize the region. It also dispatched Slovakia's ambassador to Hungary, Eva Mitrová, to meet with Hungarian Foreign Minister Kovacs and make the government protest official.

It was not only Budapest that got an earful from its Bratislava counterparts. A HZDS representative in Parliament, Dušan Slobodník, said the five ethnic Hungarian deputies who took part in penning the declaration violated Slovakia's Constitution, and he said the Mandate and Immunity Committee will take action against them.

Compiled from OMRI Daily Digest.

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