It seems that there is always someone who tries to utilise, misuse or cash-in on just about everything in Slovakia, and the population census planned for May this year is no exception.
Not only are we hearing about cash enticements for Roma citizens if they declare Hungarian nationality, but the Church has also launched a campaign to get its followers to openly declare their faith, while planning to use also billboards to this end.
This week the SNS party pointed the finger to the two ethnic Hungarian parties SMK and Most-Hid, saying they were trying to pump up the number of ethnic Hungarians registered in the census, as this would give them certain benefits when lobbying their position, both in Slovakia and abroad.
According to Hospodarske Noviny today, the ‘going rate’ in the highly Roma-populated areas of Rimavska Sobota and Kralovsky Chlmec is EUR 7 per ‘Hungarian’ head. There is allegedly even a commission system in place, where EUR 2 would go to the mediator and EUR 5 to the individual who suddenly becomes Hungarian.
This is not a speculative claim as it comes from head of the Roma Union party (SRU), Frantisek Tanko. He would not specify which two parties were doing the canvassing, but he did say that the matter was being handed over to the police, with the Roma organisations compiling evidence at the moment.
The church on the other hand is trying to get believers to shout out proud about their religious faith. Spokesman for the Slovak Conference of Bishops, Jozef Kovacik, says that the church is making the campaign on moral grounds as people should openly express their religious faith. Some would question the motives, however.
State funding of the Roman Catholic church is currently being threatened, as an expert group has been set up to discuss and deal with the issue. This could see funding for the RC church, and others, drop substantially, because one proposal wants to make the amount that the church receives dependent on the number of followers (at present around 68% of the Slovak population claim to be of Roman Catholic faith). The data from the census would then be used to set the amount of free money handed out.
The system that determines which religion receives what from the state was put together by the communists back in 1949 and still applies today. It will be interesting to see what direction discussions will take, but with the Christian democrats of KDH in the government coalition, some compromise will definitely be made.
The issue poses the question of whether the state should fund religious communities at all, and there are even calls for sport and culture to be excluded from the list of recipients from the state coffers. Whatever the outcome, we can be sure that everyone will be contributing something to things that they would prefer not to pay for, but I guess that is all part of social solidarity or democracy.
Maybe the government should set up the system so that people can allocate a certain amount of their income tax to whoever or whatever they want, as this would surely be the most representative system. Even that would be subject to misuse, though, as organisations take advantage of the less fortunate groups in society, offering them a ‘financial reward’ for their tax allocation. The money would probably then go to the highest bidder as it seems that principles and scruples are all too often overpowered by the lure of money.