Hungary’s Socialist Prime Minister, Ferenc Gyurcsány, was undoubtedly disappointed earlier today to discover that Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico decided to reject all six suggestions raised by his Hungarian counterpart. These ideas were aimed at improving the two country’s troubled relationship and ensuring the rights of minorities in both states. Gyurcsány, who leads a centre-left minority government, has consistently avoided the use of inflammatory nationalist language and has been cautious when addressing the prickly issue of Hungarian minorities in neighbouring countries. As such, Gyurcsány’s six suggestions for Fico and his leftist-nationalist Slovak coalition reflected this moderation. Gyurcsány recommended that minority schools in both countries be permitted to use textbooks published abroad, noted that both Hungary and Slovakia should launch inquiries whenever there is a possibility that the rights of minority groups have been compromised, suggested the creation of an ombudsman for ethnic minorities in Slovakia and a liberalization of current laws in Slovakia which prohibit the display of most Hungarian national symbols.
Fico’s response to Gyurcsány’s request was swift and uncompromising. The Slovak prime minister said that his Hungarian counterpart’s recommendations were “unacceptable” and claimed that the rights of Slovakia’s Hungarian minority are guaranteed. “A range of laws protect the rights of minorities in Slovakia and our system is one of the best in Europe. As such, it is unwarranted to modify these laws or give ethnic Hungarians more of an advantage that what they already enjoy,” Fico said.
Gyurcsány has been critical of the nationalism which increasingly characterizes the Slovak government and this became especially evident after Slovak police officers brutally attacked reportedly peaceful Hungarian fans at a soccer game in the town of Dunaszerdahely (Dunajska Streda) last month. The attack sparked angry protests in front of the Slovak embassy in Budapest, which led to the burning of Slovakia’s national flag by radical demonstrators. Hungary’s Socialist government has strongly condemned this protest.
Yet one of the major points of controversy is the fact that Fico entered into a coalition agreement with a far-right, ultra-nationalist and deeply xenophobic political party led by Ján Slota. The Slovak National Party’s president has made a string of anti-Hungarian, anti-Roma and homophobic statements. Several years ago, Slota reportedly threatened that Slovakia “will sit in our tanks and destroy Budapest.” Slota has also referred to Slovakia’s Hungarian minority–which forms roughly 9 percent of the country’s population–as “a cancer in the body of the Slovak nation.”
Canadian Hungarian Journal