Slovakia on edge as Hungary passes new Constitution

Hungary continues to stir things up with its neighbours, most notably with Slovakia and Romania, after its parliament passed a revised constitution that many feel infringes the sovereignty of other countries. The new draft Hungarian Constitution was drawn up by PM Viktor Orban’s party Fidesz, which pushed it through parliament yesterday without the endorsement of the opposition.

Slovakia's parliament will have to react (c) Tibor Macak, The Daily

Now all political parties in Slovakia are starting to take a stronger stance to the issue, with the possibility of Slovakia changing its own constitution to combat the effects of Orban’s actions. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that Slovakia would oppose any other country’s infringement of the Slovak Constitution, its sovereignty or the rights of its citizens.

The revised Hungarian Constitution, which looks set to take effect on 1 January 2012, affords certain rights to ethnic Hungarians abroad, like the right to dual citizenship and the right to vote, and critics fear that the move has expansive and nationalist objectives. Slovakia already expressed its stance to the issue, saying it expected Hungary to behave responsibly in respect of its international commitments and relations, and even UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, said while visiting Budapest that Hungary should consult its new constitution with international institutions.

The Slovak nationalist party SNS, headed by Jan Slota, thinks that the revised Hungarian Constitution is a direct attack on the Treaty of Trianon in an effort to restore the territory of pre-war Hungary, as the new rules do not differentiate between Hungarian nationals and ethnic Hungarians abroad. The SNS party has prepared a draft resolution that it wants to put forward to the next parliamentary session, which demands that the Slovak Parliament take a clear stance to Slovak-Hungarian relations.

Coalition party Most-Hid, supported by the large majority of ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia, is still cautious about making accusations or preconceptions until the final wording of Hungary’s new constitution is known. Party head Bela Bugar said that Slovakia should act as a confident and sovereign country and not react to the laws of its southern neighbour, as “it is their constitution, and not ours”. He did say, though, that a close eye should be kept on the issue of voting rights for ethnic Hungarians abroad.

Christian democratic coalition party KDH is more concerned, especially about how the Hungarian law takes on responsibility for ethnic Hungarians abroad, while also giving them basic constitutional rights in Hungary. KDH chairman, Jan Figel, pointed out that his party would protect the interests of Slovakia and its citizens, and would refuse to acknowledge any law of another country that violates Slovakia’s sovereignty. He says the situation raises controversial issues and should be dealt with by the Slovak government and then parliament once Hungary endorses its new constitution (expected on 25 April after the Hungarian president endorses it).

Main opposition party Smer-SD says it does not rule out trying to change the Slovak Constitution to counteract the revised Hungarian Constitution, but this would necessitate the full agreement of all parliamentary parties.  Party head Robert Fico said it was about time that the coalition parties showed that they care about Slovakia and so take appropriate steps. Fico’s party fears that certain provisions of the revised Hungarian Constitution show signs of territorial revisionism. The party is critical of the inactivity of the Slovak government regarding the issue, also as the party’s call for an extraordinary session on the issue was previously rejected by the government.

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