The Hungarian President László Sólyom made an appearance in Berlin following serious controversies between Budapest and Bratislava on Hungary's repeated claim of representing the interests of Hungarian speaking minorities in neighboring countries. Hungarian is the mother language of approximately 500.000 Slovaks, 1.4 million Romanians, 300.000 Serbs, 150.000 Ukrainians and several thousand Croatians, Slovenians and Austrians. "On various occasions in history, it has happened that Hungary lived outside the Hungarian state borders," Sólyom told the German press at the beginning of September. Today, one can find "a lingual and mental unity in eight countries, with Hungary included." And the Hungarian president insisted in Berlin, that "Hungarians abroad" must to be allowed to preserve "their language and cultural traditions", but above all "their historical unity."
Sólyoms most recent attempt to strengthen the "mental unity" between the "Hungarians abroad" and the mother country ended last August in a diplomatic éclat. On August 21, the Hungarian president sought to travel to Komárno, a town in southern Slovakia and a stronghold of the Hungarian speaking minority of Slovakia. He had intended to unveil a statue of St. Stephan, the founder of the Hungarian state. Celebrated as a saint in Hungary, he symbolizes "Greater Hungary" including all regions where Hungarian speaking minorities live. The unveiling of the statue took place right after the Hungarian national holiday (August 20). Bratislava protested against this provocation and prevented Sólyom, who refused to alter his plans, from entering the country. The controversy between the two states has been escalating since.
Source of Tension
According to Sólyom, "the situation of national minorities has to be treated at the European level." Controversies, such as with Slovakia's Hungarian speaking minority, represent a "source of tension" that "could endanger the integration process." The EU must immediately "create legal and institutional guarantees for its national minorities," demanded Sólyom last week in a speech at the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP) in Berlin. He demanded not only "accords regulating the situation of national minorities," but even institutional guarantees. Sólyom called for appointing a member of the EU commission "to be particularly in charge of national minorities affairs". As an example, he mentioned a "coherent cultural unity" that needs to be preserved in the case of Hungary and "Magyars abroad".
Close Ties to Germany
Slovak politicians are accusing Hungary of driving a wedge between the populations in Slovakia with this "unity" between the Hungarians and the "Magyars abroad". Slovak President Ivan Gašparovič recently confirmed that relations between Slovak and the Hungarian speaking Slovak citizens in the South of the country are clearly deteriorating, due to Hungary's "minorities" offensive. Yet, Berlin supports the Hungarian president's ethnic policy, because it is itself pushing for closer ties to German speaking minorities (german-foreign-policy.com reported ). Sólyom moreover, personally has close ties to Germany. In the 1980s, he came repeatedly to the Federal Republic of Germany for studies as a fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation. As a jurist, he maintains contact to prominent German constitutional jurists. Following the collapse of the socialist system, he became the founding president of the Hungarian constitutional court. According to the German press, he "not only reads rulings of the German Constitutional Court in the original language", he "also transmits them to his colleagues" in Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Sólyom, an honorary doctorate of the University of Cologne and a laureate of the Great Federal Cross of Merit with Star, the West German Medal of Honor, had particularly been in cooperation with the late Georg Brunner, a professor of "Eastern European Law." This is noteworthy because Brunner, born in 1936 in Budapest and a West German resident since his flight from Hungary in 1956, had been thoroughly studying Hungary, his and Sólyom's mother country. During the '90s, when he was working with Sólyom, Brunner was deliberating the question whether the various Hungarian speaking residential enclaves in other countries ("parts of southern Slovakia, the Carpathian region in the Ukraine (...) as well as Serbia's northern Vojvodina") should secede from those neighboring countries, because they comprise "compact Hungarian settled areas" with ethnically pure "Hungariandom." Officially, Sólyom denies today having been in favor of secession at the time.
But the "Forum of Hungarian Parliamentarians in the Carpathian Basin", founded in March 2008 is an example of how Hungarian influence can be enhanced at the expense of the neighboring countries. The Forum was officially initiated at the decision of the Hungarian parliament and unites parliamentarians from Hungary and from the regions of "Hungarians abroad". Last Friday, it provoked discord in neighboring countries, when Slovak parliamentarians of the Hungarian speaking minority traveled to Budapest, where the "Forum of Hungarian Parliamentarians in the Carpathian Basin" was in session, rather than attend the session of the Slovak parliament in Bratislava. Hungarian government measures in favor of "Magyars abroad" were also on the agenda in Budapest. The Slovak parliamentarians' choice clearly demonstrates that, even without a revision of the borders, in a conflict of dates etc., they are loyal to their ethnic mother country Hungary rather than to Slovakia.