IN RESPONSE to recent comments that Slovakia's ruling Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) officials made regarding the issue of possible Hungarian autonomy in the mixed Slovak Hungarian area, the Slovak National Party (SNS) is calling for the SMK to be banned.
At the end of July, Zsolt Németh, a member of Hungary's opposition party Fidezs, told the Hungarian press that one of the main goals of the Slovak SMK party was to achieve autonomy in the south of Slovakia where the majority of the country's Hungarian minority live. In Slovakia around 10 percent of the population are of Hungarian nationality.
SMK officials denied Fidezs' allegations that their party was interested in achieving autonomy in the south, but SMK chairman, Béla Bugár, admitted that his party was interested in securing "cultural and educational self-administration" for the Hungarian minority in Slovakia. Bugár pointed to the newly created Hungarian Selye János University in the southern Slovak town of Komárno as an example of such goals.
However, one of his party colleagues, Árpád Duka-Zólyomi, angered the nationalist SNS by declaring that the SMK "does not rule out any type of autonomy".
"Territorial autonomy is one possible solution, but that must be a subject of negotiations," Zólyomi said on July 30.
According to the SNS the statement is evidence that the SMK officially supports efforts to achieve autonomy in Slovakia's south and confirms that the SMK, which is a ruling party, cooperates with the Hungarian party Fidesz.
The SNS has therefore decided to organise a petition to hold a referendum against any type of autonomy in the south of Slovakia. It also wants to outlaw the SMK unless the party distances itself from these statements and officially rejects the goal of autonomy.
"If this does not happen, the SNS will try to ensure that the SMK is outlawed in Slovakia," said Anna Malíková from the SNS.
Bugár later told the Národná Obroda daily, that the SMK would only consider demanding autonomy if the SNS became a cabinet party.
"We had a very bad experience with the SNS because they tried to take away our basic minority rights," Bugár said.
The SNS was a former coalition partner of Vladimír Mečiar's Movement for a Democratic Slovakia that ruled Slovakia between 1994 and 1998.
According to the SMK, the SNS is simply adopting the typical nationalist policy of playing the Hungarian card.
"A petition can only be directed against some existing law or matter, but so far the autonomy of the Slovak south does not come into consideration at all and there are no clear efforts to achieve it either," stated Zsolt Komlósy, head of the SMK's top party body, the Republican Council, on August 1.
Criticism of the cabinet policy towards Hungarian issues also came from Slovakia's opposition party Smer. The party chairman, Robert Fico, said recently that the Slovak cabinet is "enabling the SMK to gradually assimilate the Slovaks living in southern Slovakia".
According to Fico, the cabinet has effectively given up control over southern Slovakia leaving it in the hands of the national minority.
Fico also accused the SMK of cooperating with Fidezs in these efforts.
"These two parties are very similar. Fidezs is an extreme nationalist political party which spreads the idea of a Greater Hungary," Fico said at a press conference on July 28.
At a recent festival in Romania, Hungarian ex-PM Viktor Orbán, who is working on a report on Romania and is an aspiring EU candidate for the European People's Party (EPP), called for greater autonomy for those Romanian regions where the majority of the country's Hungarian population lived.
According to The Budapest Sun, Orbán was criticised in the Hungarian press for his comments.
Granting autonomy to minorities is not a condition for EU candidates and representatives of Slovakia's ruling Slovak Democratic and Christian Union, who are also a member of the EPP, have already stated that they would vote against such a proposal if Orbán raised it.
But according to Fico, the SMK is trying to gain control over the south of Slovakia.
In an official statement Fico said that Smer "will not tolerate systematic steps which endanger Slovak identity and integrity".
Bugár, maintained, however, that only minorities should decide for themselves on the issue of minority culture and education.
"Any minority [in Slovakia] should have the right to decide on all the issues that relate to the culture and education of that given minority," Bugár said.
It remains unclear how the SMK will achieve that goal. SMK's ruling partners also said that they it was unclear as to what the party was talking about exactly.
"Municipalities elect their representatives [in town governments] and they decide on whether a school is to be shut down, or merged, as well as on personnel issues at schools. I cannot imagine that this should change," Pavol Abrahan of the ruling Christian Democratic Party told Pravda daily on July 31.
9. Aug 2004 at 0:00 | Martina Jurinová