WHENEVER the public begins to forget about Ján Slota, the chairman of Slovak National Party (SNS), he reaffirms his dismal political presence by making one or two scandalous statements which, apart from appalling everyone with any sense of decency, tend to add fuel to nationalist fires.
This is how he has managed to linger so long on Slovakia’s political stage – though his party came tantalisingly close at the last general election to falling below the 5-percent threshold needed to win seats in parliament.
Slota’s strategy demonstrates that crass statements or clumsy political acts can temporarily lend more political importance to failing political figures than they actually have or deserve, attracting the spotlight if only for a day or two.
More often than not, those on the road to being forgotten by the public, but still driven by a desire to make it back into the game, barely consider the consequences of their actions.
The leader of the Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK), József Berényi, attracted media attention at the very beginning of the year by announcing that as chairman of the only Hungarian party in Slovakia, it was his “dog’s duty” to apply for Hungarian citizenship, something made possible by a piece of legislation cooked up by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and his government.
The law allows ethnic Hungarians living in countries bordering Hungary to acquire Hungarian citizenship, if they chose to, with relative ease.
Yet due to a counter-measure passed by the previous Slovak government, led by Robert Fico, anyone who deliberately applies and thereby acquires the citizenship of another country can be stripped of their Slovak passport. It is hard to say which of these two laws was more poorly timed or did a greater disservice to those it claimed to protect or represent.
The Slovak law is still valid, which is bad enough in itself.
One explanation Berényi offered for his action was to suggest that the new government should not have allowed 2011 to arrive without repealing the Fico-drafted legislation.
But it is highly doubtful that his Hungarian citizenship application will increase in any way the likelihood of this happening.
All it does is give Slota and his ilk oxygen for their sole agenda: nationalism. In early January Berényi commented that unfortunately there are still people in this country who look at the Hungarian minority as a threat to Slovakia.
He has certainly not reduced this number with his contribution to the discourse.
What Berényi seems to forget is that Hungarians in Slovakia rejected the radicalisation of the political scene when they turned away from the SMK at the last election, denying it any seats in parliament.
In fact, even former prime minister and Smer leader Robert Fico, who could hardly be described as a minority-friendly politician and whose government only fuelled tensions with Slovakia’s southern neighbour, suggested that Slovak politicians have slightly underestimated the loyalty of Slovak Hungarians to Slovakia.
Perhaps so did Berényi and his SMK.
Undoubtedly, Slota’s presence in the previous government and the amended State Language Act contributed little to the comfort of Hungarians who live in Slovakia – on the land where their grandparents lived, and where they hope their own grandchildren will continue to understand and speak Hungarian.
However, Berényi’s act opens up a more serious question than just the citizenship of the SMK boss: it is the political representation of ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia, and whether politicians who currently address their agenda are able to abandon their petty political fights for the sake of what they claim to represent: better conditions for the Hungarians in Slovakia to nourish their mother tongue and culture and use it without restriction or fear of penalty.
10. Jan 2011 at 0:00 | Beata Balogová