Robert Fico and his acolytes in the Slovak nationalist party are barking and browbeating. But let’s just keep our cool, cross our t’s and dot our i’s. The new Hungarian national assembly intends to pass a law granting dual citizenship – in a fast-track procedure – to every ethnic Hungarian living abroad who applies for it [the law is to take effect on 20 August, the Hungarian national holiday]. So the existing legislation will be amended on the Romanian model. But we should note that this issue is handled the same way in Slovakia, Serbia and several other European countries. Because the ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania, Slovakia, Vojvodina and Ukraine have mandated their legitimate representatives to request dual nationality for them, the Hungarian government has a moral obligation to grant their request.

Magyar-baiting is not in the Slovakia's interests

Bratislava’s lone opposition is not a trivial detail. Bucharest and Belgrade have welcomed the measure with a show of sympathy, and Kiev has given its tacit assent. In view of the policies pursued by Robert Fico and his [far-right Slovak National Party] coalition partner, this whole circus came as no surprise, though their allegations of a threat to Slovak national security are insane. The Hungarian citizenship law doesn’t harm anyone, unlike the law on the Slovak language [requiring the use of Slovak in local government, except in municipalities where ethnic Hungarians make up over 20% of the population]. Many have grasped its message. And even with the general election campaign going full tilt, the centre-left opposition has not rallied to Fico’s side on the matter.

It might not be long till the majority of Slovak voters realise that Fico’s rowdy baiting of Hungarians is not in the interests of Slovakia, but of those who delight in Central European squabbles. After all, let’s not kid ourselves: an East-West divide still runs right through the European Union. The Western leaders’ smiles mask their condescension toward “those post-Communist nations”. These see this post-Communist region chiefly as an excellent market, and that approach precludes any solidarity. The major Western powers that are running the EU and the continent according to their economic interests would be crestfallen at the sight of a strong, united front forming up in Central Europe around common interests.

An Eastern counterweight to Western Europe

Last autumn, the French president railed with wounded pride against the Visegrad Four [Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary] for holding a meeting ahead of the European summit. Sarkozy advised them not to make a practice of such prior consultations. Actually, France’s anxiety ought to egg us on. Along the north-south axis running from Poland to Slovenia via Romania, these countries could form an Eastern counterweight to Western Europe by developing infrastructures and dovetailing energy policies, by tapping neighbouring markets and providing common representation for agricultural interests, a counterweight that would do the whole Union some good.

How many more years will it take for the politicians in our region to realise that by ensnaring themselves in futile quarrels, they are passing up an opportunity to champion our true national interests? After all, Fico the Magyarophobe and the backward-looking Hungarian nationalists are not promoting the interests of their nation, but of those with an interest in keeping this region from ever uniting and attaining the standing it deserves in a common Europe.