By Stefan J. Bos, Worthy News Europe Bureau Chief reporting from Budapest
BUDAPEST, HUNGARY (Worthy News)-- Hungary's new parliament has adopted a controversial law that will grant citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring nations nearly nine decades after the country lost two-thirds of its territory. The law came Wednesday, May 26, despite a major diplomatic row with neighboring Slovakia immediately retaliated with legislation banning double citizenship.
The Hungarian new law will potentially allow millions of ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries to apply for Hungarian citizenship. The only conditions are that they have to prove they are of Hungarian origin and speak the language. Among them are expected to be many Reformed and Catholic Christians who faced persecution during Communism in those nations.
The vote came almost 90 years after Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory under the peace Treaty of Trianon which followed World War I. About three million ethnic Hungarians live in those lost areas, which are now part of neighboring nations such as Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine and Romania.
The citizenship bill was an old pledge of the center-right Fidesz party which won elections in April and now holds a powerful two-thirds majority in parliament. A Fidesz-government is to be sworn in on Saturday, May 31.
Slovakia's parliament reacted immediately Wednesday, May 26, with legislation which will strip ethnic Hungarians of their Slovakian citizenship if they take advantage of Hungary's offer.
The Prime Minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico, has also condemned Hungary's citizenship law, which will come into force in January. He says granting Hungarian citizenship to Slovakia's half a million ethnic Hungarians amounts to a serious security threat for his nation.
Fico said it is "egotistic and arrogant" that the legislaton is introduced without consultation with his government. He says the un-friendly policy will harm bilateral relations.
But the man who will be Foreign Minister in the new Hungarian government, Janos Martonyi, has described the Slovakian prime minister's reaction as part of a campaign for the Slovakian general elections in June.
"The Hungarian legislation in no way affects Slovakian interests or its territorial integrity," he said. He described Slovakia's reaction as "political hysteria ahead of the parliamentary elections."
Several Hungarian legislators have also criticized the law as discriminatory because, while it grants citizenship, it does not grant voting rights to the ethnic Hungarians. Dozens of parliamentarians abstained from voting on the law, which was approved by 344 of the 386 Hungarian deputies.
Hungary's outgoing Foreign Minister Peter Balazs is concerned about the possible negative impact of the legislation on Slovakia's Hungarian minority. "Hungary should not rush the legislation ahead of Slovakia's elections", which are expected to be won by Prime Minister Fico, he said. He added that it can only harm the prospects of ethnic Hungarian politicians joining the next Slovak government.
The mounting tensions between Slovakia and Hungary are being closely monitored by the international community.
The two nations are part of the European Union and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, which are both interested in stability in this often volatile region. (Parts of this Worthy News story also airs via the Voice of America and Deutsche Welle networks).