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RISING SLOVAK-HUNGARIAN TENSIONS TOP THE AGENDA

Gyurcsány & Fico meeting

POLITICIANS and political observers in Hungary and Slovakia have welcomed a decision by the prime minister of Hungary and Slovakia to meet on November 15 (after The Slovak Spectator went to press). Ferenc Gyurcsány and Robert Fico were due to hold their meeting in the Slovak-Hungarian border town of Komárno/Komárom.

POLITICIANS and political observers in Hungary and Slovakia have welcomed a decision by the prime minister of Hungary and Slovakia to meet on November 15 (after The Slovak Spectator went to press). Ferenc Gyurcsány and Robert Fico were due to hold their meeting in the Slovak-Hungarian border town of Komárno/Komárom.

The meeting comes after members of both countries’s parliaments spoke out against an escalation in tension between the two countries over recent days.

At the meeting, Fico and Gyurcsány will aim to address these tensions, according to a Hungarian government spokesman, Dávid Daróczi.

Speaking to the Slovak media, he stressed that the agenda for the meeting would include all issues affecting relations between both countries.

Slovak-Hungarian relations have deteriorated since a football match in Dunajská Streda on November 1 at which Slovak police confronted hooligans in the crowd, most of whom had travelled from Hungary. While Hungarian political representatives described the police action, in which several people were injured and dozens arrested, as inappropriate, the Slovak authorities have insisted that the measures taken were justified.

After the match, extremist groups held demonstrations near the Slovak Embassy in Budapest; during one a Slovak flag was burned. On November 10, members of the right-wing Hungarian party Jobbik and the Hungarian Guard, a right-wing organisation whose members dress in military uniforms, tried to partially block Slovak-Hungarian border crossings.

Relations had taken a turn for the worse after an incident in eastern Slovakia on November 8. Twenty-eight Hungarian citizens dressed in Guard uniforms who had marched through Kráľovský Chlmec, a majority-Hungarian speaking town near the border, were arrested by Slovak police as they tried to leave.

PM Fico called the incident a provocation. “The quality and dynamics of bilateral relations between Slovakia and Hungary cannot be formed by extremists or radicals,” he told the public-service broadcaster STV.

Hungarian Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány also condemned the march. “If we are not alert, nationalists will destroy us. They will keep stretching the string until it breaks,” Gyurcsány told STV.

On November 11, according to the ČTK newswire, about 75 mayors and village heads from the mixed Slovak-Hungarian territory in the southern part of Slovakia comprising the Gemer, Malohont and Novohrad regions announced in a joint statement that they wanted to see good relations between the Slovak and Hungarian Republics and between Slovaks and Hungarians. “We therefore condemn all forms of intolerance, nationalism, and extremism,” they said, according to ČTK. Their call, which was addressed to both governments and political parties, was signed by the heads of the local administrations and also handed to the Hungarian consul in Slovakia, Géza Farkas.

On the same day in Komárno Iveta Radičová, a Slovak MP and presidential candidate for the opposition Slovak Democratic and Christian Union (SDKÚ), and Gábor Fodor, a Hungarian MP and leader of the Hungarian Liberal party, called for a dialogue between Slovakia and Hungary. On the border bridge, they both read a statement rejecting violence and any increase in intolerance. “Our nations suffered the results of oppression and hatred in the 20th century. The 21st century gives us the opportunity to become members of one community within the European Union,” the statement read.

Fodor conceded that Hungary had problems with nationalist groups and associations, but said these were non-parliamentary. “Every government that cooperates with extremists will feel their pressure and their policy will be influenced by them,” Fodor said, as quoted by the SITA newswire.

The following day, on November 12, the parliamentary committees for European issues from Hungary and Slovakia met in Komárom. The chairman of the Hungarian parliamentary committee, Mátyás Eörsi, said that if someone in Hungary fantasises about Slovakia being considered a part of Hungary again, as it used to be until 1918, he is a fool, a villain or both. Nobody in Hungary would think of violating Slovakia’s integrity, Eörsi stressed, according to SITA.

According to Eörsi, Slovak and Hungarian democrats should be connected. He said he was convinced that an absurd situation had emerged in which Hungarian nationalists used Slovak nationalists, and vice versa.

According to the chairman of the Slovak parliament’s committee for European issues, Milan Urbáni, the reason for the escalation of the situation is a lack of communication.

The European Socialists probably contributed to setting up the meeting of both leaders, the Sme daily reported. The vice-president of the Party of European Socialists, Austrian MEP Hannes Swoboda, confirmed to Sme that his grouping had tried since early November to arrange a Gyurcsány-Fico meeting.

Reconciliation desired

But according to political analysts, Slovak-Hungarian relations began worsening before November, following anti-Hungarian statements by the chairman of the Slovak National Party (SNS), Ján Slota, and after he had repeatedly disparaged Hungarian Foreign Affairs Minister Kinga Göncz.

László Öllős, a Hungarian-Slovak political analyst, does not rule out the possibility that a meeting of both leaders might bring some relief to the tense relations. But on the other hand, he said, the opposite might happen.

“If they don’t solve the core of the conflict, then this meeting will be counted among the unsuccessful ones. And later, the conflicts will continue,” Öllős told The Slovak Spectator.
Political analyst Miroslav Kusý told The Slovak Spectator that although he did not expect the conflict to be solved by this meeting, it represents a crucial symbol. Kusý said that he believed the Slovak side was more to blame for the current escalation. In Slovakia, the nationalist SNS is a member of the ruling coalition.

“One thing is a scattering of hooligans, who do some damage; and another thing is the ruling coalition,” Kusý stressed. Hooligans can be pacified by police – unlike members of the ruling coalition, he added.

Péter Hunčík, the head of the Forum Institute, a non-governmental think-tank said that lying behind the conflict are not only the stupid provocations of the Hungarian hooligans at the football stadium, or the even more stupid provocation of Hungarian semi-fascist groupings. “Beneath these conflicts, unsolved things have been hidden: underlying Slovak-Hungarian conflicts that were not solved during the communist era,” Hunčík said.

Hunčík pointed out that Slovak-Hungarian relations have been problematic since the 1850s when, in Greater Hungary, Slovaks faced a sometimes violent process of magyarisation.

“These unsolved conflicts play a role, and sometimes are generalised to the point of hatred,” Hunčík stressed. “Some kind of release is necessary because of that,” Hunčík added.

According to him, such a release was made possible when the nationalist SNS became a member of the ruling coalition after Slovak parliamentary elections in 2006. “And then, an avalanche was set in motion,” Hunčík added.

Currently, Slovak-Hungarian conflict can be solved, according to Hunčík, only according to European norms. “That means on the basis of civic society.”

Hungarian politicians should accept that members of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia are citizens of the Slovak Republic, according Hunčík.

And on the other hand, Slovak politicians should recognise that the Hungarian minority is loyal to Slovakia, but by its culture, traditions, and language belongs to the Hungarian nation.”
“And both Prime Ministers should stop searching for a winner and a loser,” Hunčík added. “This does not help one bit to solve our relations.”

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