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Dueling Citizenships: Slovakia’s Gambit

Zalán Trajbár 2021.03.21.

Slovakia has been going through a series of political crises lately: the country was the first hit by the devastating third wave of Covid-19, the health minister just resigned to keep the governing coalition in power, and to top all of this off, Slovakia has once again poked the hornets’ nest of dual citizenship. Oh, and let’s not forget that the Slovak prime minister started a diplomatic row with Ukraine by making a joke about giving Ukrainian Zakarpattia to Russia in exchange for a shipment of Sputnik V vaccines.

Back to the question of dual citizenship, this is quite an important development, as the Slovak government is currently mulling over a citizenship law to address the 3000 or so cases in which Slovak citizenship was revoked from certain individuals who took up another citizenship. The majority of these individuals are citizens of the Czech Republic, but there are slightly over 100 people who lost their Slovak citizenship due to picking up a Hungarian one.

It goes without saying that this is a sensitive topic for Hungarians in Slovakia, as well as the Hungarian government. However, a State Secretary for Slovakia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Martin Klus, decided to further spice things up by suggesting that Hungarians living in Slovakia who take up Hungarian citizenship are a potential security risk for the country. A group of Slovakian Hungarian politicians, including government OĽaNO MP György Gyimesi, released a statement calling for Martin Klus to apologize for his statement. Klus did, in fact, apologize, albeit in a half-hearted and roundabout way.

FM Szijjártó in Slovakia: 'Dual Citizenship Should Not Be Feared'
FM Szijjártó in Slovakia: 'Dual Citizenship Should Not Be Feared'

Péter Szijjártó, Hungary’s foreign minister, expressed hope that the issue of dual citizenship would sometime in future be resolved in Slovakia, after talks in Révkomárom (Komarno) on Wednesday. Szijjártó held talks with Béla Keszegh, the local mayor and board member of the Party of the Hungarian Community in Slovakia, and György Gyimesi, member of the […]Continue reading

Why is dual citizenship such a sensitive issue for Slovaks and Hungarians? The story of dual citizenship is Slovakia is an interesting one, as from 1997 to 2010 the country allowed for, and even encouraged, Slovaks living as national minorities in other European countries to adopt Slovak citizenship. For example, Slovaks make up the second largest minority in the Vojvodina region of Serbia, after Hungarians. More than 30,000 Slovaks living outside Slovakia obtained citizenship in this way by 2010. Except this policy experienced a sudden reversal in 2010, when the Fico-led government rapidly ended the policy of dual citizenship in Slovakia. This coincided with the incoming Hungarian Fidesz government’s decision to allow Hungarians living abroad to apply for citizenship, with a clear emphasis on Hungarian national minorities in the surrounding countries. The Slovak government’s decision to end their policy of dual citizenship was undoubtedly in response to the Hungarian government’s decision to adopt dual citizenship.

So long as Slovakia was able to give citizenship to ethnic Slovaks, it was fine, but the moment Hungary did the same, dual citizenship became a “national security risk”.

This is an obvious show of hypocrisy on the part of Slovakia, and it demonstrates how the current Slovak citizenship law is purely the product of an ethno-exclusionary realpolitik, contrary to the reasoning claimed by the Slovak government.

Slovakia’s foreign minister, Ivan Korčok, declined to meet with Hungarian foreign minister Péter Szijjártó to discuss the issue of dual citizenship (among other topics), claiming that the citizenship law is an internal affair of Slovakia. However, Klus’s comment about the Hungarian minority in Slovakia being a “security risk” implies that the issue is a bilateral one between Hungary and Slovakia, otherwise there would be no perceived security risk.

The Slovak government must come to terms with the fact that it is unacceptable to treat its national minorities as second-class citizens and sweep its policies under the rug of “domestic issues”.

It is precisely due to issues such as these that it is of paramount importance for Hungarians in Slovakia to participate in the census that is currently underway. According to preliminary reports, many of the census areas with the lowest response rate are ethnically Hungarian, meaning that there is a possibility that the number of Hungarians living in Slovakia will be underreported. The consequences for minority rights in the country could potentially be catastrophic if the Hungarian community loses its voices on paper due to voter apathy.

Featured photo illustration by Zoltán Máthé/MTI