MOST-HÍD, the self-declared party of cross-community co-operation and the smallest party in the current four-party ruling coalition, has used the summer months to open the topic of state citizenship. This became a neuralgic point in Slovak-Hungarian relations in the run-up to last year’s Slovak parliamentary elections, after Hungary made it easier for ethnic Hungarians living outside Hungary to acquire Hungarian citizenship. The Slovak government, which at the time included the nationalist Slovak National Party (SNS), reacted by passing a law that allows any Slovak who seeks to acquire the citizenship of another state to be stripped of their Slovak citizenship.
Most-Híd leaders now say that this provision contradicts the Slovak Constitution, which in article 5 states that “Nobody can be stripped of the state citizenship of the Slovak Republic against his or her own will”. They have prepared a motion to this effect to present to the Constitutional Court.
“We are convinced that no ruling power should act unconstitutionally and strip its citizens of their state citizenship against their will on the basis of a law which, aside from political populism, makes no sense,” Most-Híd chairman Béla Bugár told a press conference on August 8.
The controversy over dual citizenship began when Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, in almost his first act after entering office in 2010, moved to amend Hungary’s citizenship legislation to enable ethnic Hungarians living in other countries, including Slovakia, to acquire Hungarian citizenship with relative ease. Around 10 percent of Slovakia’s population speaks Hungarian as a first language.
The Slovak government, then led by Robert Fico, responded by passing an amendment to Slovakia’s State Citizenship Act specifying that any Slovak citizen who sought to obtain the citizenship of another country would be required to report the fact to the Slovak authorities, who would then automatically strip that person of their Slovak citizenship. Slovak citizens who could show what was termed a “real link” to another country, such as permanent residence or close family relations, were later excluded from losing their Slovak citizenship if they acquired the citizenship of another country.
The Slovak law came into effect on July 17, 2010, and by mid-June 2011 80 people had lost their Slovak citizenship, only five of whom had received Hungarian citizenship, the Interior Ministry told The Slovak Spectator.
Bugár: number now tops 100
Less than two months later, however, Most-Híd quoted a figure of 109 people who had lost their Slovak citizenship after having received the citizenship of another country. Bugár said that the state acted unconstitutionally, and added that even though the law currently in force deprives people of their Slovak citizenship these people continue to live and work, and pay social and health insurance, in Slovakia.
“But they cannot be elected, they cannot be members of a political party in Slovakia, apart from [regional] elections they cannot vote, and they cannot get specific jobs,” Bugár said.
Coalition support unclear
Most-Híd thus intends to file a motion at the Constitutional Court. Such a motion, however, needs to be signed by 30 MPs, whereas Most-Híd only has 14 seats in parliament. While members of the other three ruling coalition parties have not entirely dismissed the idea, none of them has wholeheartedly backed the motion.
In fact, the leader of the Christian Democratic Movement (KDH), Ján Figeľ, opined that amending the law would be more appropriate than complaining about it to the Constitutional Court.
“The way this law was handled by the previous government was a response to the politics of Budapest rather than an internal state need,” Figeľ said, as quoted by the TASR newswire. KDH was the only member of the current ruling coalition that supported the amendment presented by the Fico government in late May 2010.
Figeľ said Slovakia needs a law that will allow dual or multiple citizenship, but on the basis of internationally accepted standards, TASR wrote. He also said KDH is not likely to sign Most-Híd’s motion.
15. Aug 2011 at 0:00 | Michaela Terenzani