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Hungary's speaker sparks outrage

COMMENTS by the speaker of the Hungarian Parliament, László Kövér, have prompted an angry backlash in Slovakia.

COMMENTS by the speaker of the Hungarian Parliament, László Kövér, have prompted an angry backlash in Slovakia.

Kövér, in an interview published by the Czech Hospodářské Noviny daily during his visit to the Czech Republic in early June, said that Hungarians in Slovakia need not respect the 1919 Paris Peace Treaty that ended World War I. He also stated that Slovakia had moved its border with Hungary when building the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros dam and that Hungary could have legitimately responded with military force.

Kövér said as well that all Slovak politicians have a piece of nationalist Ján Slota inside them and that they could use a little bit more self-consciousness.

The Hungarian official’s statements outraged the opposition Smer party, with its leaders and MPs immediately calling on the government to react with a démarche and to take immediate steps toward designing a strategy for the defence of Slovak national interests in relation to Hungary.

Smer’s Marek Maďarič, the former culture minister, said the statements dishonour Slovakia, ignore the verdict of an international court (a reference to the International Court of Justice’s ruling in Slovakia’s favour in the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros dam case 14 years ago), and imply that the use of military force against Slovakia is justified. He blamed the current Slovak government’s foreign policy.

“It's quite clear that Hungary interprets our silence not as empathy but as weakness,” Maďarič said, as quoted by the TASR newswire.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry rejected the criticism and on June 8 Richard Sulík, the Slovak Speaker of Parliament, held a press briefing to condemn the statements made by his Hungarian counterpart. He said Kövér was lying and had dishonoured Slovak citizens. Sulík especially criticised Kövér’s statements about the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros dam.

“This statement is outrageous,” Sulík said, as quoted by the SITA newswire. “Threatening military intervention or even mentioning it in light of the friendly relations between the two countries is something that has no place in the vocabulary of good neighbours.”

Sulík said he understands Kövér’s statements as an attempt to distract attention from what he called the international isolation of Hungary and the country’s unfortunate economic situation.

Sulík added, however, that although he found it necessary to react to the statements, which he believes are lies, he does not believe that the Slovak government should act in response to Kövér’s statements and the best solution would be to pay them no more attention.

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