Friday, October 05, 2012

Historic discrimination prevails

According to the Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico, the post-WWII Beneš decrees cannot be changed. The Beneš decrees were passed right after the end of the Second World War. The decrees were a discriminatory set of laws that deprived Czechoslovakia’s ethnic Germans and Hungarians of their citizenship and property on the basis of collective guilt. It is estimated that around 100,000 ethnic Hungarians were deported or sent to labour camps as punishment.

In recent years, the Hungarian government has called for the decrees to be rescinded but the Slovaks have refused. This is an extremely touchy topic as relations between Slovakia and Hungary have been frosty at best. There is a large Hungarian minority that lives in southern Slovakia and is estimated to be around 8.5% to 9.5% of the total population. A separate Slovak state existed briefly during the Second World War but it wasn't until 1993 that Slovakia became an independent state after the peaceful dissolution of Czechoslovakia. 

Hungarians in Slovakia (census 2001)
       50-100%       10-50%   0-10%

Ethnic Hungarians have been discriminated against over the decades in Slovakia. Some Hungarians have even been harassed and physically assaulted by Slovak nationalists. They resent Hungarians for the centuries of rule they claim was unjust and unfair.  Only a few years ago, the Slovak government has passed language laws that only the Slovak language must be used in all official contacts, which includes the police, armed forces, fire services, postal and local government services. This greatly upset the minority Hungarian community in Slovakia and there were some public demonstrations against the language laws.

Currently, the relations between the Hungary and Slovakia are slightly improving. The recent meeting of Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban showed some signs of progress. PM Fico said that both Slovakia and Hungary have a need for success and he also said that he saw a trend of “constructive dialogue”. Fico said that the Beneš decrees would not be changed and that both countries should focus on the economic problems that effect daily life.

The recent meeting between the two shows that the Slovaks are unwilling to change the historic discrimination that they had inflicted on the German and Hungarian minority communities after the Second World War. It is clear that Hungarians will not see any justice in this matter any time soon.

For more on Slovak language laws: click here

For more on the Hungarian minority in Slovakia: click here