September 30, 2008
Contrary to public belief in Slovakia and Hungary, the members of the Hungarian minority in Slovakia are proud citizens of their country. A survey conducted within the European Values Survey found that 71% of the ethnic Hungarians are ‘proud’ to be citizens of Slovakia. Members of the majority Slovakians are 87% proud of their newish republic. It looks that the people are fed up with ethnic rivalry within their country.
Nationalists have been long accusing the native Hungarian minority to be more loyal to Hungary than Slovakia, and the fear of Hungarian secession from Southern Slovakia can always mobilize a part of the majority electorate. On the other hand, ethnic Hungarian politicians had a very stable voter base for their parliamentary party, which was supposed to be the warranty of the minority. It looks that much of the tension has settled down. The Hungarian party has been one of the most stable parties in Slovakian politics, and it had spent two parliamentary cycles in government, holding the majority within Slovakia. The involvement of Hungarians in Slovakian politics, plus the freedoms brought by both countries accession to the EU seem to have boosted their citizen loyalty to their country, too.
Slovakia had been a part of the Hungarian Kingdom until 1919 and Slovakians had to fight for their rights against in former Hungary. Later, when they had the upper hands, the Hungarians lost many things that they took granted: schools and churches, and the freedom to travel to and from Hungary. During the Communist years travelling was restricted not only between East and West, but also within the East bloc, so in the new democracies the life of minorities changed significantly. In the new Slovakian Republic, that seceeded from Czechoslovakia in 1993, there were fears that the Hungarians will try to further seceed and join Hungary. The well-politicized Hungarian minority has always demanded an autonomy similar to the German-speaking South-Tirol in Italy.
The results are shocking for politicians interested in ethnic rivalry, especially in the context of another recent poll conducted among the members of the Hungarian minority, which found that 90% of the Hungarian voters reject their party’s demand for autonomy. The concept of autonomy is rather vague in their minds: although they would demand a say in cultural and educations issues, which they would like to keep in their linguistic community, they reject the ‘autonomy plan’ of their politicians, because it upsets the majority. It looks that they still have unsettled demand but also prefer conformity with the majority. Add the freedom to travel, work or study in Hungary, and you can make a claim that the EU works fine for a multi-ethnic region. And probably a few nationalist politicians on both sides will have took look for a new job, too.