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Hungary, Slovakia tap into old animosities

The plan has angered Slovakia, currently in the final stretch of a general election campaign, where 10 per cent of the 5.4 million population is ethnic Hungarian.

  • AFP
  • Published: 00:00 June 6, 2010
  • Gulf News

Budapest: Forget about tackling the economic crisis, Hungarian and Slovak leaders have been busy tapping into old animosities in the heart of the continent that belies talk of a united Europe.

Tensions between the central European neighbours, both members of the EU, have been rising towards the boiling point since the conservative Fidesz party swept Hungary's elections in April and immediately moved to give citizenship to Hungarians living abroad.

The plan has angered Slovakia, currently in the final stretch of a general election campaign, where 10 per cent of the 5.4 million population is ethnic Hungarian.

In his latest swipe at Hungary on Friday, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico denounced his southern neighbour as an "extremist country that exports its brown plague", in a reference to Second World War Hungarian fascists.

Fico — currently in the lead in next weekend's election — has denounced Hungary's move as a "security threat", and Bratislava has decided to strip ethnic Hungarians of Slovak citizenship if they adopt Hungarian citizenship.

The Hungarian plan has laid bare again animosities which have plagued relations for decades.

Ruling coalition

The Treaty of Trianon, one of the peace treaties concluded 90 years ago at the end of First World War that redrew the map of Europe, deprived Hungary of two-thirds of its territories, including Slovakia, and half of its population.

Some Hungarians remain bitter that many of their ethnic compatriots ended up outside of their homeland, but any Hungarian statements or moves that undermine the treaty which led to the creation of their country inflame Slovaks.

Relations took a new turn for the worse following Slovakia's last elections in 2006 when the nationalist far-right SNS party became the junior member of the ruling coalition.

SNS leader Jan Slota has made a number of derogatory statements against Hungary, and the government has undertaken a number of anti-Hungarian measures, including prohibiting use of the language in public offices against a fine of up to 5,000 euros (Dh22,191).

Fifty people were hurt in a clash between fans of ethnic-Hungarian and Slovak football teams in 2008, and Slovakia refused to admit Hungarian President Laszlo Solyom into the country last year.

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