TOUTED as a matter of national pride, 42 people have had their Slovak citizenship revoked after they opted to acquire a Hungarian passport, and just a few hundred people in total have been affected by the ban on dual citizenship implemented by the first government of Prime Minister Robert Fico in 2010 – a law critics are calling both “discriminatory” and “silly”.
The revision to the Slovak Citizenship Act was passed as a response to the Hungarian Dual Citizenship Act, which cleared the path for ethnic Hungarians living abroad to gain citizenship, with Fico claiming “we have to defend ourselves”. To some, the Hungarian law targeted nearby countries like Slovakia and Romania, which have a significant Hungarian minority.
It calls for Slovak citizens that acquire citizenship of another state “by an act of will” to lose Slovak citizenship. More recently Fico has backtracked on the law, and said in April 2012 that his current government needs to modify Slovakia’s citizenship law once again. But the prime minister added that “of course, this law must continue to apply in relation to Hungary, because their law is still in force, to which we responded with this [Slovak] legislation”, as quoted by the SITA newswire. Since then, no shift in policy has been mentioned, the Sme daily reported.
The Slovak Citizenship Act has been in effect since July 17, 2010. Since then, a total of 641 people have lost Slovak citizenship under the act as of October 4, 2013, with 275 of them being men and 366 women, according to the Interior Ministry.
Those affected most often received Czech citizenship (274 cases), followed by German (122); Austrian (79); British (55); Hungarian (42); American (14); Dutch (12); Norwegian (10); Irish (6); French, Italian, Canadian, Swiss (4 each); Australian (3); Belgian, Icelandic (both 2); and Chinese, Ukrainian, Russian and Danish (1 each), the TASR newswire reported.
This legislation is “silly” since it punishes citizens simply for their decision to live somewhere else, Jiří Výborný, the vice chairman of the Czech Association in Bratislava, told The Slovak Spectator.
“Therefore, their home country will excommunicate them,” he said.
“Official statistics showing who has been affected by this legislation during past years proves that it has not achieved its goal,” Výborný said. “On the other hand, it confirms [the fact] that this is just a marginal issue for society which affects just a few hundred people.”
The legislation is also being examined by the Constitutional Court. This process was initiated by Most-Híd party MP Gábor Gál, who believes the law is unconstitutional. Most-Híd primarily draws votes from Slovakia’s Hungarian minority.
However, The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on June 4 unanimously rejected a complaint filed by two former Slovak citizens who were stripped of their Slovak citizenship after acquiring Hungarian citizenship, the TASR newswire wrote on June 6, 2013.
“The ECHR ruled that the plaintiffs decided for Hungarian citizenship voluntarily at a time at which the relevant legislative measures on state citizenship were in effect,” the Foreign Affairs Ministry wrote in a statement. According to the court’s ruling, both citizens knew at the time that,
according to valid legislation, they would lose their Slovak citizenship if they took Hungarian citizenship.
“We do not understand the ECHR’s decision,” Františka Dušíková, spokesperson for Most-Híd, told The Slovak Spectator.
It is clear that Hungarians in Slovakia are not interested in pursuing Hungarian citizenship, Dušíková said.
While they want to feel at home in Slovakia, they see no reason to give up their ties with Hungary, Jarmila Lajčáková from the Centre for the Research of Ethnicity and Culture (CVEK) NGO, stated in CVEK’s quarterly magazine published in October 2012.
“That is why they are often portrayed as disloyal to this country,” Lajčáková wrote, “which often gets reflected not only in the rhetoric of most political leaders in Slovakia, but also in the diction of the Slovak Constitution and even certain regular laws.”
In fact, the Hungarian minority in Slovakia does not seem to believe the cct will be of any benefit to them. The Hospodárske Noviny daily did a survey in the Slovak villages of Báč and Horný Bar, which are largely populated by members of the Hungarian minority. When asked most said they were not interested in Hungarian citizenship. Similar results emerged from interviews with the Hungarian elites, including former Slovak Ambassador to Hungary Kálmán Petőcz and politician Béla Bugár.
The articles included in the “Reporting on Diversity” supplement were created by authors enrolled in the “Reporting on Diversity” programme organised by The Slovak Spectator in cooperation with the Journalism Department at Comenius University and with the support of the U.S. Embassy in Bratislava. The programme seeks to train young journalists and journalism students for covering ethnicity, gender, race and religious issues, as well as other phenomena related to various communities and the challenges they face in Slovakia. The articles were prepared in line with strict journalistic ethical and reporting standards.
Roman Cuprik contributed to this report
28. Oct 2013 at 0:00 | Michaela Džomeková