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UNIVERSITY OF BUCHAREST

FACULTY OF POLITICAL SCIENCE


MASTER IN COMPARATIVE POLITICS

COMPARATIVE STUDY OF THE HUNGARIAN


MINORITY POLITICAL REPRESENTATION IN
ROMANIA AND SLOVAKIA

BUCHAREST
2010
CONTENTS

I. Introduction. Minority Political Representation and Political


Parties. The Hungarian Minority in Europe

II. Romanian Minority Rights and the Hungarian Minority


A)Legal Framework for Minority Rights in Romania
B) The Hungarian Minority in Romania. Political representation
and policies

III. Minority Rights in Slovakia and the Hungarian Minority


A)Legal Framework for Minority Rights in Slovakia
B) The Hungarian Minority in Slovakia. Political representation
and policies

IV. Conclusions

V. References
I. Introduction. Minority Political Representation and Political
Parties. The Hungarian Minority in Europe

Political participation of minorities within ethnically based parties represents the


meeting point between minority rights and social attitudes1 and it is the most visible and most
durable manifestation of political activism2 of these minorities.
Minority rights have passed a long evolution that joined with the evolution from the
perception of the national state inhabited by a nation and assimilating the different within its core,
imposing a universal citizenship and therefore general rights not prone to positive or negative
discrimination, towards the understanding of a multinational state, where the differences between
some populations historically inhabiting the state are admitted and therefore special rights are
granted, rights that are supposed to recognize the differences that pertain to the very nature and
tradition of a specific population within the state and under the
“chapeau” of citizenship, differences that have resulted from the historical evolution of the state
borders of European states along the modern and contemporary periods.
The threshold between national state towards the multinational state has been crossed
rather recently in terms of the evolution of the perception of the very sovereignty of the state, given
that ever since the French Revolution and the beginning of the modern period, the king as
representative of the people was no longer the sovereign summing up all the traits of the people and
therefore representing the image of its subjects, but rather the modern sovereign is the people, a
people that historically inhabited a territory and conserved its traditions, customs and language.
It is the acceptance of this very sovereign that made it possible for the emergence of
minority rights and therefore of political representation, since in the constitutional theory the
sovereign being the people, the people has to be represented in order for its rights to be
acknowledged, and this representation of the people means insuring the representation of minorities,
historical minorities that are citizens of the same state and have shared the same background while
conserving their own traditions, customs and languages.
Given the last evolutions in terms of sovereignty, it being, in Europe, granted in part
to a multinational organization of integration, integration that is nowadays concentrated more on the
leveling of the differences between the states, the issue of conserving diversity and the
enhancement of minority rights have been paid more attention.
European states have concentrated on granting rights to the minorities, sometimes

1 BIEBER Florian, Minority Participation and Political Parties in Political Parties and Minority Participation,
Friedrich Stiftung Office Macedonia, Skopje, 2008
2 FRIEDMAN Eben, Minority Political Parties in Eastern Europe: Albanian and Magyar Diaspora Parties
Compared, in “Ethnic Mobilization In New Europe” Seminar, Brussels, 21-22 April 2009
even reaching the point of positive discrimination, since ethnic minorities are part of the political
reality and have been since the dismantlement of the empires and the shaping of the modern states,
given that in Europe, the status quo has been modified along history, resulting in non-homogeneous
state populations.
However, on the international level, minority rights as well as a clear definition of
the very minority have not been provided3, nor has a general manner of action has been imposed,
reason for which, across Europe, the states have implemented different polices in relation to
minority rights and the political representation of ethnic minorities.
Moreover, the policies implemented by the states in regard to minorities pertain to
the cultural and educational domains, the issue of political participation and political parties being
sometimes left aside, either without it being possible, such in Bulgaria, or being left to
interpretation, such as in Romania, where the lack of a law in these terms, or the lack of a
constitutional article mentioning it, may be interpreted according to the legal principle: “Where the
law does not dispose, nor should we do so”, meaning either a positive or negative interpretation of
the lack of mention by the legislator being possible.
On an international level, progress has been made towards the enhancement of
political participation of minorities, and here may be stated the Lund Recommendations on the
Effective Participation of National Minorities in Public Life drafted under the authority of the
OSCE High Commission on National Minorities.
Going further, as to provide a framework, the idea o political participation of
minorities, as a necessity enounced by the rather recent developments in the practice of the states
and international organizations, may be understood from two different perspectives, mainly the
perspective of minority rights and that of an argument for democratic stability4.
While approaching the issue from the perspective of minority rights, it may be
argued that the only possible manner to fully ensure the respect of the minority rights and therefore
prevent abuses or discrimination, would be through the direct participation of minorities in the
decision making process, within ethnic minority parties5.
On the other hand, the demand of democratic stability as a factor for the ethnic
minority political representation and participation would result from the “risk” of minorities to be
excluded from the political system, should they not be protected, protection that may be granted

3 POTIER Tim, Regionally non dominant titular peoples: the next phase in minority rights?, Journal on
Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe, July, 2001
4 BIEBER Florian, Minority Participation and Political Parties in Political Parties and Minority Participation,
Friedrich Stiftung Office Macedonia, Skopje, 2008
5 BIEBER Florian, Minority Participation and Political Parties in Political Parties and Minority Participation,
Friedrich Stiftung Office Macedonia, Skopje, 2008
only by their direct involvement in the decision making process6.
However, the two arguments issued as to the necessity of the existence of political
participation of minorities and its very efficient functioning does not always superpose and this may
be argued by the very fact that in lack of a homogeneous legislation across the different states of
Europe, minority issues may be differently approached and therefore, their political participation
may appear at times only formal, a presence in the public sphere being guaranteed by constitutions,
but not fully explained and thus enhanced or their influence guaranteed.
Moreover, the variable pertaining to the very size of the ethnic minority in one
European state may play an important role in the weight this minority has in the influence of public
decision-making, since the size may allow a specific minority to function on the public sphere as a
political party capable of passing the election threshold for Parliament and representing an
important actor in the shaping of alliances for the government, such as in the Romanian case.
As thus, the definition of the ethnically based party as delivered by Daniel Horrowitz
may be retained, an ethnically based party being a political party which “derives its support
overwhelmingly from an identifiable ethnic group (or cluster of ethnic groups) and serves the
interest of that group”.7
The purpose of this paper is to analyze the political representation of the most
important minority both in Romania and in Slovakia, mainly that of the Hungarian minority present
in these two countries.
The analysis of the Hungarian minority political representation and its influence in
the public sphere both in Romania and Slovakia shall be delivered from the point of view of the
legal framework that made its existence possible, correlated with the size of the minority and then
analyzing the public policies and program of the party.
The choice of the approach of the analysis of the Hungarian Political Parties both in
Romania and in Slovakia may be justified by the fact that in both countries the Hungarian minority
is the most important one, and this is due to the fact that Slovakia, as well as Transylvania have
been integrant parts of the Habsburg Empire and thus, with its dissolution and shaping of the new
states of Romania and Czechoslovakia, an important part of the Hungarian population that used to
live within the same statal framework has found itself divided among several states, even if its
numbers were considerable.
Moreover, the approach of the Hungarian issue in relation to political representation
may be also justified by the fact that “from a socio-cultural point of view, the Hungarians are

6 BIEBER Florian, Minority Participation and Political Parties in Political Parties and Minority Participation,
Friedrich Stiftung Office Macedonia, Skopje, 2008
7 Daniel Horrowitz's definition of ethnic political party quoted in FRIEDMAN Eben, Minority Political Parties in
Eastern Europe> Albanian and Magyar Diaspora Parties Compared, in “Ethnic Mobilization In New Europe”
Seminar, Brussels, 21-22 April 2009
broadly speaking attractive to those people in the West who are acting as role models and perhaps
more importantly as sources of funds for minority parties, movements, foundations and so on. They
are not illiterate heroin dealers, like some leaders of the Iraqi Kurds, or gun-toting revolutionaries
like the Provisional IRA, but lucid and civilized Europeans, advancing a reasonable political
position in a calm and rational manner”8.

II. Romanian Minority Rights and the Hungarian Minority

In 1990's when Romania applied for the membership of the Council of Europe, just
three months after the Revolution, the committee in charge with the review of its application
considered that Romania “starts from the lowest possible base in the denial of human rights”
(Council of Europe, 1994)9 and was rated among the worst countries in the world in terms of civil
and political rights, being the least promising for democratic consolidation. Moreover, concerning
minorities rights, the approach of the communist regime was that of an assimilation and denying of
minority rights.
As thus, the starting point for the development and consolidation of minority rights
in Romania has not been a very advanced one, the dismantlement of the old practices and
mentalities being thus necessary as for the provision of a new political approach towards minorities,
and in regards to this aspect, the current situation of minorities has to be approached.
The period following the Revolution was not characterized by immediate progress in
minority rights enhancement but rather by ethnic conflicts in Transylvania region which escaladated
in march 1990 in Targu Mures between Romanians and Hungarians, making Romania the first place
in post-communist Europe where inter-ethnic differences led to deadly conflict (Gallagher 1995)10
Table 13.1 Key indicators for Romania
Total population (millions)a 21.5 (2006)
Urban population (% of total)a 53.9 (2006)
GDP per capita, PPP (US$)a 10,091 (2006)
Unemployment rate (%)b 7.2 (2005)
Ethnic composition (2002 census)c Romanians: 89.5%
Hungarians: 6.6%
Roma: 2.5%
Germans: 0.3%
Ukrainians: 0.3%
Russian-Lipovans: 0.2%

8 Christopher Lord quotation in FRIEDMAN Eben, Minority Political Parties in Eastern Europe> Albanian and
Magyar Diaspora Parties Compared, in “Ethnic Mobilization In New Europe” Seminar, Brussels, 21-22 April
2009
9 RAM Melania H., Romania. From laggard to leader? in Minority Rights in Central and Eastern Europe edited
by Rachel BERND, BASEES/ Routledge series on Russian and East European Studies, 2009, pages 180-
194
10 RAM Melania H., Romania. From laggard to leader? in Minority Rights in Central and Eastern Europe edited
by Rachel BERND, BASEES/ Routledge series on Russian and East European Studies, 2009, pages 180-
194
Turks: 0.2%
Other: 2.9%

Sources: a World Bank 2007; b UNICEF 2007; c Institutul National de Statistica 2002.

According to the census in 2002, the Hungarians represent the largest ethnic minority
in Romania, representing a total of 6.6% of the population of Romania and presently the center of
the discussions concerning minority rights and talks of autonomy

A)Legal Framework for Minority Rights in Romania

The development of minority rights in Romania represents a process that went on in


parallel with the process of transition towards a democratic society based on the capitalist principles
and as such it was gradual and it still lacks the definitive touch.
As such, the first measure as to the recognition and guarantee of the minority rights
was taken through the 1991 constitution which instituted a constitutional guarantee of a
parliamentary seat for each representative of the recognized national minorities of Romania,
nowadays, following the 2008 elections, this number being of 18 minority representatives,
mentioning that, however, they do not have to be members of an ethnic party, this entity not being
mentioned by the Constitution.
In addition, the Constitution of 1991, reviewed in 2003 states to the freedom of
association of the representatives of the minority groups, however, without mentioning the
ethnically based parties.
However, the solution for this void in the legislation resides in the lack of a negative
disposition, the interpretation as to the possibility of the existence of such an entity being thus
allowed since it has not been prohibited.
A further measure as to the attention paid by the state to Romanian minorities was
the creation, in 1993 of the Council for National Minorities as an advisory body to the government
consisting of representatives of ethnic minority organizations, mandated to follow up the problems
of minorities in exercising their rights. In addition, since no legal definition of the national minority
has been issued in Romania, the definition is that of the minorities represented in the Council of
National Minorities.
Going further, according to the Romanian electoral laws (Electoral Law Nr. 68 from
1992), non-governmental organizations may participate in elections, the result of this disposition
being the creation at the end of 1989 of the Democratic Alliance of the Hungarians in Romania.
According to the Electoral Law nr. 68/1992, non governmental organizations,
constituted as organizations of citizens belonging to national minorities can participate in the
national elections with candidates and, according to Article 59 of the Romanian Constitution, they
have the right to a single Deputy seat if they have at least obtained in the entire country a number of
votes equal to at least 5% of the average number of votes necessary at national level for the election
of a Deputy. Should the several organizations entering in the elections with candidates not pass the
threshold, the organization with the highest number of votes gets the seat in Parliament.
However, the possibility for the organizations of minorities to enter into the elections
with candidates has influenced the development towards their political representation through
ethnically based parties since it diminished, one one hand, the advantages of setting up minorities
political parties due to the fact that the organizations were perfectly able to function and meet the
“job description” of these.
Moreover, constitutional guaranteed seat in the Chamber of Deputies and the
financial system related to the Council of Minorities has led to the assumption that the minority
issues are the exclusive responsibility of the minority organizations, heaving thus a monopoly on
the minority issue11. To this, it may also be added the low visibility of organizations of minorities in
relation to topics concerning the ethnic dimension.
Thus, minority parties in Romania are not given a legal framework or encouraged,
even if solutions to the participation of the minorities in the public sphere has been found through
the possibility of the minority organizations to participate in elections.
A constitutional revision as for the creation and guarantee of the existence of
ethnically based parties would be, however, difficult to implement, just as a constitutional revision
for granting autonomy to the Romanian areas inhabited in majority by Hungarians would be
impossible to achieve, and this is due to the fact that a constitutional revision supposes a
referendum that has to pass with a 50% participation of the Romanian population and a majoritarian
positive answer, both rather difficult to achieve, given that the communist impregnated ideology of
an important number of the Romanian elderly population would definitely influence the result of
the referendum towards a negative answer, even though the participation threshold may be
achieved.
It remains, thus, for the electoral laws to extend the possibility of the participation in
elections, and for extensive interpretations of the law in order for there entities for the
representation of minorities to exist and function.

11 CALUSER Monica, Minority Participation at Local and National Level in Romania in Political Parties and
Minority Participation, Friedrich Stiftung Office Macedonia, Skopje, 2008
B) The Hungarian Minority in Romania. Political representation
and policies

According to the census of 2002, the Hungarian population in Romania represents a


total of 6.6% of the general population and is the Romania's largest minority according to the
National Institute of Statistics in 2005 and is concentrated in the historical province of
Transylvania, where it accounts for 16.9% of the population as a whole.
The Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania has been founded in 1989 and
has participated in governing coalitions from 1996-2000, 2004-2008 and 2009-present and reunites
in its discourse, multiple political platforms, having an important impact on the evolution of
minority rights in Romania.
Being the largest minority in Romanian, the Hungarians manage to surpass the 5%
threshold necessary for the seats in Parliament from the position of a national ethnic party, and by
their cohesion, manage to do so on each election. As such, UDMR has occupied a number of 30
seats at the parliamentary elections of 2008 and is currently forming a governing coalition in the
Boc Government set into place in December 2009.
The program of UDMR enounces the goals of the organization such as “the
recognition of national minorities as constituent element of the state based on the constitutional
principle of equality and non-discrimination, the development of social conditions, which allow
each citizen to freely assume, preserve and nurture his/her ethnic identity, the consolidation of the
rule of law grounded on the separation of powers, the increase in the autonomy of local public
administrations and local communities based on the principle of self-government and devolution of
power, the consolidation of the legal framework determining the functioning of market economy,
the return in integrum of illegally confiscated church and community properties, the restitution of
private properties that were nationalized, expropriated or confiscated for political reasons, either
through the return of property or equitable financial compensation, the codification of the legal
status of national minorities based on positive European practices, including the implementation of
different forms of autonomy” to which the party program adds the importance of the enactment of a
law on the Romanian national minorities ensuring: “that national minorities freely use their mother
tongues in private and public life, as well as in the administration of justice; the development and
operation of an independent native-language school system, controlled by minorities,
encompassing all levels and all types of instruction; the establishment of an independent system of
cultural institutions; the establishment and maintenance of unimpeded contacts across frontiers
with their mother nations and the development of complex inter-ethnic relations based on mutual
appreciation and respect between the Romanian majority and the national minorities.”12
Having thrown a glance over the main issues advanced by the program of UDMR, it
may be stated that, as it has been mentioned before, it covers a wide range of problems, not
pertaining to a single party ideology.
In fact, as an ethnic party should, it is not the very political ideology of the classical
parties that UDMR bears in mind while advancing its program, but rather the well-being of the
minority it represents, basically its direct interests. The issues advanced pertain to a social-democrat
with touches of liberal argumentation, reason for which, the very purpose of an ethnic party may be
understood differently than that of a political party, since those represented by an ethnic party or
organization are not drawn together by the ideology they share, but rather by an element that is
older and more unifying than the ideology, mainly belonging to the same ethnic group, sharing the
same language, customs, traditions and history.
Going further, by the participation of the Hungarian minority in the governments and
being capable and willing to negotiate terms in order to enter coalitions for the governance, UDMR
has met the first reason of existence of any political party or in Romania's ethnic case organization-
as stated by the Romanian constitution, the purpose of the organization of the citizens in a political
party is to participate in the elections as to gain seats and take part in the public decision making
process in representing the interests of the whole, in the manifestation of the people's sovereignty.
Moreover, the participation of UDMR in the governance had a tremendous impact of
the further evolution of minority rights and legislation since it advanced the claims mentioned
above, as pertaining to the use of minority languages in schools, in public administration, the law on
the restitution of church properties, the language provisions of the Law on the Status of Policemen.
However, the pending and yet to be accomplished task to pass a Minority Law has
not been achieved due to different sensitive reasons pertaining to the approach the Romanian
representatives still conserve in regards to the minorities. To this it may be added that the strive for
the territorial autonomy of the two departments inhabited in majority by Hungarians, Harghita,
Covasna is unlikely to show any results in the near future, since the legal framework and the
Romanian constitution do not allow such changes, changes that must, due to their provisions, to be
made through a constitutional revision, as unlikely to take place, as it was detailed in the beginning
of this chapter.
In what regards the reaction of the Hungarian population towards the minority
political parties, it may be mentioned that UDMR is not the single entity representing the minority,
a Hungarian Civic Alliance having proved capable of gaining some mayor seats at the local

12 http://www.rmdsz.ro/aboutus.php
elections, proving thus that the unity is not to the extent of consensus. On the other hand, at the
legislative elections, the Hungarian minority has always proven high rates of participation and
voting with UDMR, meeting thus the 5% threshold necessary in order to gain more that 1
guaranteed seat in the Romanian parliament. It has thus proven to be disciplined and consequent in
its voting behavior, discipline that may only be characteristic to the voters of an ethnic party.

To draw up some conclusions as to the statute of the Romanian minorities and more
precisely, the Hungarian one, it may be stated that the Romanian statute of minorities has come a
long way in its evolution and changes are yet to be implemented, given that there is no legal
definition of ethnic minority and thus only the historical minorities are taken into consideration,
while on the basis of the evolution due to the changes involved by the integration in the European
Union and the liberty of circulation, new minority issues may be encountered and needed to be dealt
with according to the respect of the Human rights.
Moreover, the results of today, given the status of minorities and the extended rights
they have concerning the conservation of their identity and possibility of education in their own
language, are also due to the active participation of UDMR in the decision-making process, proving
an ethnic organization capable of fully representing the interests of the people it represents, capable
of negotiation in order to participate in the governance and thus have direct access to the possibility
of influencing the decisions concerning the Romanian minorities, and this may also be due to the
disciplined voters it has.

III. Minority Rights in Slovakia and the Hungarian Minority

The independent Slovak Republic was created on the 1st of January 1993 and is
presented in literature as the “culmination of centuries-long struggle for independence, directed first
against the Hungarians, and later against the Czechs”13, adding to this also the manner of
introducing Slovakia as a “young state, but an old nation”.
Throwing a glance upon the struggles after the collapse of communism and within
Czechoslovakia the failure to find a common standing upon the constitutional order of the elites
after 1989 it may also be observed the fact that the resulting nation state did not have a positive
attitude towards ethnic minorities, as was the case of other former communist states in the region.
As such, Slovakia did not start off being an “ethnic democracy”, but the status of
political minorities in Slovakia was rather subjected to an evolution, which, be it positive, was due
13 AUER Stefan, Slovakia. From marginalization of ethnic minorities to political participation (and back?) in
Minority Rights in Central and Eastern Europe edited by Rachel BERND, BASEES/ Routledge series on
Russian and East European Studies, 2009, pages 195-209
to a great extent to the influence of the European Union.
The position of the ethnic minorities in Slovakia has also been affected by what it is
called “the ethnocentric historiography”14 imposed by the Slovak educational system and the
symbols of the state and those are considered due to the “history wars”15 that have influenced the
perception of the nowadays minorities.
The solution to this approach was that of some intellectuals supporting liberal
nationalism by adhering to the universal liberal values . Moreover, the EU influence has also
encouraged the liberal argumentations.
On the other hand, the coalition between the Social Democracy Party led by Rovert
Fico and the ultra nationalist internationally discredited People's Party- Movement for a Democratic
Slovakia, has triggered a lot of critiques and even the suspension of the Social Democracy Party
from the Socialist Group of the European Parliament.
Moreover, further controversy in 2009 was due to the New Minority Law which sets
out to encourage the use of Slovak in official business in minority areas. Slovak must be used in all
official contacts, including the police, armed forces, fire brigade, postal services and local
government, with a number of exceptions for minority languages like Hungarian. Moreover, some
of the most controversial clauses set fines of up to 5,000 euros (£4,300) for those who continue to
infringe its provisions, after a written warning.16

A. Legal Framework for Minority Rights in Slovakia

The Constitution of the Slovak Republic is the supreme legal act in Slovakia’s body
of laws and comprised in it, the most important provisions in what concerns national minorities are
those in the Constitution’s second chapter, which deals with fundamental rights and freedoms, and
those governing the relationship between Slovak and international law.
Even though the constitution does not issue a clear definition of national minority
and Article 12, Paragraph 3 states that “every person has the right to freely decide which national
group he/she belongs to”. In addition to this, it also bears a Preamble that begins as “We, the Slovak
people...” which was the reason for much controversy, the Hungarian minority demanding the
change to “We, the Slovak citizens...”.

14 AUER Stefan, Slovakia. From marginalization of ethnic minorities to political participation (and back?) in
Minority Rights in Central and Eastern Europe edited by Rachel BERND, BASEES/ Routledge series on
Russian and East European Studies, 2009, pages 195-209
15 AUER Stefan, Slovakia. From marginalization of ethnic minorities to political participation (and back?) in
Minority Rights in Central and Eastern Europe edited by Rachel BERND, BASEES/ Routledge series on
Russian and East European Studies, 2009, pages 195-209
16 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/8232878.stm
On the other hand, the constitution enunciates that all ratified agreements pertaining to
human rights shall be superior to the constitutional provisions, should they secure a broader range
of rights and freedoms.
Going further, there is an ambivalence comprised in the constitutional provisions
concerning the status of national minorities- on one hand they are granted equality while on the
other they are guaranteed special rights and freedoms.
The relevant articles stating to this ambivalence is one one hand article 12 on
Equality, emphasizing also the equality principle in relation to other rights as well, such as the right
to own property (Art. 20, Paragraph 1), the right to vote (Art. 30, Paragraph 3), and the equal
rights of children born to married parents and those born out of wedlock (Art. 41, Paragraph 3).
On the special rights conferred to the members of national minorities, Article 34 and
35 state rights that apply exclusively to national minorities, such as the right to master the state
language, the right to establish and maintain their own educational and cultural institutions, the
right to receive information in their native language, the right to use that language in official
contacts with state administration authorities, and the right to participate in administering issues
concerning national and ethnic minorities.
Supplementary guarantees are also stated in Law nr. 350/ 1991 which ennounces the
equal right to have access to elementary and secondary education in Slovak and native language, in
this manner fulfilling what is considered “their national development”.
Also the Law on the Use of Language of Ethnic Minorities from 1999 and the
Regulation nr. 221 issues a list of 656 villages that are to implement education in the native tongue
for the minorities that exceed more than 20% of the total population.
According to the Article 11 of the Constitution of the Slovak Republic human rights
agreements ratified by the Slovak Republic have priority over national law, if they secure broader
range of basic rights and freedoms. However, the European Charter on Regional and Minority
Languages is cultural, not a human rights document. In this respect, there are several international
agreements that bear influence over the rights of the Slovak national minorities such as: The
Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities has been ratified bySlovakia on
September 14, 1995. The Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental
Freedoms from 1950 has been used as a building stone for all European international and internal
norms; The Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (1995) is historically
the first document that is primarily focused on the protection of ethnic and national minorities; The
European Charter on Regional and Minority Languages has been signed by Slovak government at
the beginning of the 2001.
Table 14.1 Key indicators for Slovakia
Total population (millions)a 5.4 (2006)
Urban population (% of total)a 56.3 (2006)
GDP per capita, PPP (US$)a 17,827 (2006)
Unemployment rate (%)b 10.4 (2006)
Ethnic composition (2001 census)c Slovak: 85.8%
Hungarian: 9.7%
Roma: 1.7%
Czech: 0.8%
Ruthenian/Ukrainian: 0.7%
Other:: 1.3%
Sources: a World Bank 2007; b Economist Intelligence Unit 2007; c Institute for Public Affairs 2007.

B. The Hungarian Minority in Slovakia. Political representation and


policies

Slovakia has a population of 5,463,046 out of which 22% is represented by the


national minorities, counting 9.7% Hungarians, which are concentrated in a contiguous strip of land
along the border with Hungary, constituting a majority in many of the municipalities located within
the region.
Culturally and linguistically distinct from the dominant Slovak population,
the ethnic Hungarians are what remains of the Hungarians who politically and culturally
dominated Slovakia until the dismantlement of the Austro-Hungarian Empire until 1918, when
Czechoslovakia was created and the general Slovak approach towards them is negative and that is
due to what the majority perceives as their of the lack of integration within the general Slovak
population.
Politically, the Hungarians in Slovakia are represented since 1998 by the
Magyar Coalition Party, party that resulted from the merger of three Magyar political parties that
collaborated in various combinations since 1990: the Hungarian Christian Democratic Movement,
the Co-existence Party, and the Hungarian Civic Party. The party has approximately 12.000
members.
MKP functioned thus as the Slovaks Magyar population's main political party,
participating in the governments formed in 1998 and 2002.
Going further, even if the MKP is clearly an ethnic party, the three entities
that enter its composition had different discourses, pertaining to different political ideologies and
also in their radicalism in the discourse in favor of the Hungarian minority rights.
Currently the MKP has 15 members in the National Council of the Slovak
Republic.
The party is neoliberal in doctrine and even though in its program has approached
some general issues, its discourse remains mainly ethnic.
The program of the party focuses on cultural and political issues such as: the
right to use Hungarian names and the Hungarian language in the institutional space, the right to
bilingual signs, the right to education in the mother-tongue, compensation for the Beneš decrees of
1945 that put a collective anathema on the Germans and the Hungarian, whose properties were
confiscated being branded as traitors and enemies of the state. Also, among the priorities of the
party is regional development since the region where the Hungarian minority is settled is
underdeveloped..
The party also has a discourse in relation to the Roma minority, stating that
“we are in favor of equal opportunities for minorities” and it promotes “the equalization of the
rights of the Roma, in every area. We try for the preparation of such programs, which are based on
the equal participation of the Roma.”17
As such, the Hungarians in Slovakia have a political party representing them
and theoretically arguing for their rights, and with extension to the rights of the minorities in
general, but what can be observed is that the general framework of the state and its functioning
work against this trend, given that the very paradoxical nature of the dispositions of laws, together
with the reticence of the majority population towards the minorities and especially the Hungarians
prevent from passing minority favorable rights.

To conclude, the position of ethnic minorities in Slovakia was repeatedly


influenced by the rise of nationalist and populist tendencies and the fact that Slovakia joined the
EU in 2004 did not change the influence of the EU over these internal policies, being even possible
to affirm the fact that, its influence even lowered since there was no direct measure of constraint.
Moreover, the situation seems somehow paradoxical, given the last evolutions
with the Minority Language Law which was approved on the 30th of June 2009 and which is not
favorable to minorities. Instead of having a more tolerant space, more open to the diversity that the
European Union encompasses, Slovakia is taking measures as to enhance its nationalistic traits.

17 FRIEDMAN Eben, Minority Political Parties in Eastern Europe: Albanian and Magyar Diaspora Parties
Compared, in “Ethnic Mobilization In New Europe” Seminar, Brussels, 21-22 April 2009
IV. Conclusions

On a general overview of the attitudes of the two countries, Romania and Slovakia,
towards a common minority, mainly the Hungarian one, some conclusions may be draw.
To begin with, the historical background, even if not exactly the same, given that
Romania had only Transylvania under Austro-Hungarian rule, while the entire Slovak territory was
included, influences the general attitude of the majority population in respect to this population, as
to the extent that radicalism may be present in manifestations.
Going further, even though the premises for political representation in the two
countries differ- in Romania ethnically based parties not being legiferated, while in Slovakia they
exist, the Hungarian minority has organized politically and participated in elections and used its
advantage in numbers in order to influence the process of decision-making, in the process of
obtaining extensive rights, for example in Romania, making a difference also for the other
minorities which are lower in number.
In addition, the political entities representing the Hungarian minority in the two
countries have ethnical based programs, arguing for extensive rights for the minority it represents,
rights that are also argued for in front of the European Union.
On the other hand, opposition is still met by the Hungarians in both countries, in
regards to what is considered to infringe upon the sovereignty of the national state, claims such as
territorial autonomy being yet far to be achieved in Romania, while in Slovakia there are still and
recent problems pertaining to the issue of the usage of minority languages,
It is valid, however, for both countries the fact that there is still room for further
evolutions and it is only to be expected that, within the durable structure of the European Union,
with the extension and development of the European identity and citizenship, the way will open for
more extensive rights and possibilities for the national minorities of these countries and that the
reasonable claims of the political entities that represent them shall be met.
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