Central Europe Activ

Douglas Muir calls Stratfor’s article on the new Hungarian citizenship law – republished on Serbia’s B92 – as the dumbest Stratfor article ever. Certainly not a very intelligent analysis, however, the Muir post on afoe is confusing because it has so little reference to the actual bill or the political context. Hungary’s Schengen-proof passports will not be Russian-styled documents posted to internationally recognized Georgian territory.This bill is not motivated by nationalist expansion but immigration, a rather different force.

Fidesz tries to position itself as the party of true, red-blooded patriotism (in contrast to the cosmopolitan, vaguely internationalist center-left). This proposal is red meat for the party’s base. It’s also an effort to expand that base, since Hungarian passport holders will of course be able to vote in Hungarian elections — and (Fidesz assumes) will tend to vote for the nationalist party that gave them dual citizenship. And finally, it’s a flanking move against Hungary’s other right-wing party, the ultra-nationalist, xenophobic, openly racist Jobbik. The Socialists and Greens got smashed so badly in the last election that they’re not a serious threat to Fidesz; Jobbik, on the other hand, competes directly for many of the same rural voters. So a nice high-profile “patriotic” initiative like this is an excellent way for Fidesz to burnish its nationalist credentials. These — not strategic concerns — are the motivating factors behind the proposal.

But this is nonsense. Fidesz and its tiny Christian Democratic ally has just won a supermajority in the Hungarian parliament that allows it to change the constitution or any law, or to replace the president. The Greens are not smashed – they are overjoyed that they made it into the Parliament for the first time and they will have 16 MPs. There is hardly any competition with Jobbik: Fidesz won 174 directly awarded seats, the Socialists 2, and besides an independent expelled from Fidesz Jobbik got nil. After the proportionally allocated compensations seats Fidesz still commands 68% of the seats – its really difficult what is the real party base for such a popular party, and certainly there is not much left to outflank.

It’s also an effort to expand that base, since Hungarian passport holders will of course be able to vote in Hungarian elections — and (Fidesz assumes) will tend to vote for the nationalist party that gave them dual citizenship. … Second,the writer manages to miss the fact that this exact same proposal was put to a national referendum in Hungary in 2004. (It failed.)

As far as I know, on the contrary to the afoe post, Hungary will not send passports to neighboring countries, and ethnic Hungarians living in Romania will not be entitled to vote in Hungary (or receive pension from Hungary). The new Hungarian parliamentary majority claims that it will introduce a new bill (which is not yet available for ordinary Hungarian readers who want a more precise source than afoe) on citizenship to the new parliament (which is elected but not yet sitting). According to the MP who will introduce the bill, on the contrary to afoe’s post, it will not follow the proposition that was put on an unsuccessful referendum in 2004. (Which did not fall. The proposition got a majority in a referendum where turnout was not high enough to overrule a parliamentary decision).

As the premises are false, the conclusion can be either true or false.I think it is false, because I believe that the new bill will make Hungary stronger, although certainly not in a way Stratfor thinks. I do not think that the bill has much to do with creating a buffer zone for Hungary. Like most citizenship laws in a country with diminishing birth rates, this is a bill that is motivated by immigration and the economic and political factors behind migration.

Hungary has a very poor demography, and has been just above the 10 million population threshold for two decades. The poor mortality and the low birth rate would not justify this: Hungary had a positive net influx of immigrants in all years between 1989 and 2007.The reason why Hungary has no riots and anti-immigration parties is that the immigrants happen to be native speakers of Hungarian and tend to have very close family relations in the immigration country – they happen to be Hungarians.

Central European nationalism followed Western Europe with a century’s time-lag, so Hungary, Romania or Slovakia had not time to sort out ethnic minorities in the way that France had after the Revolution. A significant number of Central Europeans happens to speak a different language from the official language of her birthplace, and has a certain belonging to other people who speak the same native language. Ethnic Hungarians are a native minority in Slovakia, and tend to have families in Hungary. Native ethnic Slovak people in Hungary tend to have families in Slovakia. Not suprisingly, Hungarians who have no good job prospects in a foreign-language country, or families who want better schools often pack up and move to Hungary which has much more Hungarian language jobs and schools than Romania or Slovakia. As Serbia fights two wars in a decade on average, it is not surprising that Hungarian-Serbs prefer to move to Hungary which has given up on fighting in 1944.

Such is life that after the WWI the multi-ethnic Austro-Hungarian Monarchy has split to a number of countries, and Hungary, the legal successor of the Hungarian Kingdom is one third of that polity in territory and it shelters only about two thirds of ethnic Hungarians. The other third happens to be related by many family ties to the citizens of Hungary, prefers to read a morning paper in his native language and send her children to a school where tuition goes in the mother tongue. Most Hungarian-speaking immigrants have chosen Hungary in the past decades for better job prospects and for better schooling (as nationalist majorities in Romania and Slovakia close down their schools), or they were fleeing from a war zone where they did not want to be conscripted into Serbia’s nationalist army. But this is not nationalist expansion: this is implosion.

The problem facing Hungarian politics, similar to many European countries is that however well these Hungarians integrate into Hungary, they are immigrants. The new citizenship bill wants to mend this problem. From now on an immigrant, whose mother tongue happens to be Hungarian, whose grandparents were Hungarian citizens, and who has a job in Hungary and has been living there for a year will not have to wait for eight years to be eligible for citizenship. A similar right is entitled to Romanian- or Slovak speaking people born outside the boundaries of those countries. This is the way Central Europe tries to deal with its complex ethnic patterns.

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