Hungary And The Magyar Minority In Slovakia


In a departure from Duly Noted’s usual format, this installment is devoted to the affairs of a single region and it will essentially examine only one single issue.
The problems of central and east central Europe were significant  among the causes of the last two world wars. (“The last two” is a deliberate  phrasing.) This rendition is unlikely to conform to what you have been taught in  school. The West's awareness, and the publications there, try to avoid  “complicated” presentations. Therefore, France’s “revanche”, the compensatory  drives of the “Kaiser”, and then Germany’s frustration for having lost too much,  as well as Mussolini’s annoyance because Italy had not gained enough, finally French-British appeasement of insatiable aggressors, stand in the foreground. Admittedly, only a fool would question the importance of these factors. The complaint is that by ignoring further fitting components, the historical picture presented becomes skewed. So are, accordingly, some of the contemporary analyses of the “Asia” (implying “unimportant” and “primitive”) that, according to an old phrase, begins at the eastern city limits of Vienna.
Regardless of the  full merits of the above point, eastern-central Europe’s unresolved issues  complicate regional affairs. Therefore, the stability of a preferably ignored  zone that is inserted between great powers is ignored. Consequently, dealing  with that region demands an ability to tolerate frustration. Non-coverage is one  of the reasons. The other one is that the news presented to the global public  are often distorted. In this case, ignorance finds its ally in prejudice.  Finally, the news, if presented, are frequently bad and of little interest to  the ultimately affected outside world. Keeping silent in the face of disinterest  is, therefore, often the annoying lot of the commentator.
Regarding that  disinterest and bias, the narrative should be broken to illustrate the point.  Take this case. A major American daily prints a long piece by a politically  engaged native of a country in central Europe. He does so under the label of an  impartial scholar. That status is exploited to make allegations that are, at  best, debatable. A corrective response is contemplated. The endeavor is  hopeless. One episode of the discussion about “what is to be done” stands out.  The person is a professor, and has also been one at a famous American  university. In addition, the man is a parliamentarian. Furthermore, he has  served a term as his country’s Foreign Minister. After that, he has been an  ambassador –in Washington. You would conclude that, at least for the sake of  curiosity, a measured note from his pen would be honored by inclusion into the  letters-to-the-editor section of the paper. As in the case of other instances  with other leading publications, there has not even been a notice of thanks and  a brief rejection claiming lack of space. Regardless of the official dogmas of the opinion-making  establishment, in recent weeks, several positive regional developments have taken place. In  part, these are the upshot of elections. The events, if there is a follow up,  point to a trend. They suggest the smoothing of old enmities that distract from  attending to burning and soluble problems. Add to that the realm of the economy.
Attitudes are changing. From the strategies to attain welfare by extracting it from rich countries, the move is to creating wealth on ones own. Breaking with a temptation of the past, several countries of central Europe have decided to participate in the wealth-creating process rather than to draw benefits from the international welfare-system that the EU is not entirely reluctant to  operate.
Oddly, the  rapprochement of countries separated from each other by their common boundaries  and by their shared ethnic groups, begins to unfold against the prediction of  the pundits. Recently, in Slovakia and in Hungary nationally oriented democratic  conservatives have taken power. Cautious speculation might foresee that  Romania’s Basescu could continue to grow to fit the pattern fully.
Especially in the case of Hungary, the negatively conditioned foreign  press has predicted the worst. This forecast had its roots in the propaganda  needs of the well-connected Socialists and the gullibility of foreign  journalist. The latter like to rely on leftists as their informers, rather than  on the facts. Describing the new Premier Orbán as a “Fascist” ignores that his  two-thirds majority represents the disillusionment with the cleptocratic Left  which, ruling by the right of birth, resents its rejection. It also overlooks  that there is, alongside unrepentant Communist, a “wrong right”. With its  advocacy of a “Hungarists work-state” and the castration of undesirables, it has  now become the government’s most significant and loudest opposition. No wonder,  as this movement considers Orbán to be part of a “Zionist-KGB conspiracy” that must be “exterminated”. The story about a Nazi and anti-Semitic take-over through Orbán that the Socialists and their  “Liberal” allies propagate holds true in one case only: if one agrees that  anything that is not left of Joe Stalin is right-wing  extremism.
“Sound mind, warm heart, cold blood” is the policy to follow  advocates Orbán. Yes, the man is proud and sensitively independence minded.  Therefore, he sent the IMF home. The disagreement pertained not to the demand  for spending cuts. Even without the IMF, Hungary agrees that a tightening and a  cleaning up as well as a tax cut are necessary. A flat tax is in the political  pipeline. It was the IMF’s insistence that it determines the details of deficit  reduction that caused the disagreement. The PM claims that he is committed to  face the inherited mess and that he shall do so without cooking the books as had  been the case elsewhere. Fudging due to the bitterness of the medicine is also out under the promised economic policy. Sharing the underperformance with 22  other states is no excuse. Although it does not want more IMF money, Budapest is confident that it will reduce the red ink to 3.8% of GNP. At the same time, it is found to be notable that Romania is allowed to have a deficit of 6.8% GNP and gets much more IMF support than Hungary, had it not been punished, could have received.
Regardless of the  writer’s long-standing reservations regarding Hungary’s economic policies, the  above seems to be a step in the right direction.
There are other good, in this case even joyous, news. Overcoming the  spat with Slovakia’s new government regarding the citizenship the Magyar  minority seems to be in the making. The absurd language-use law of the  previously ruling Slovak ultras is discreetly steered toward oblivion. The fate  of a suit will be telling. A Magyar village’s amateur theater advertised a  Hungarian play to be performed in Hungarian. Doing so, the organizers failed to  carry on their flyer the required amount of information in Slovak. They were  fined and went to court.
Ms. Radicova’s government is a coalition. The Hungarian party  “Híd-Most” (the Magyar and Slovak  words for „Bridge“, is part of the government. The new governments appear to  inch toward cautious cooperation as fast as their peoples can be calmed to  accept it. Meanwhile, the politically like-minded governors find that they  assume comparable positions. Bratislava, like Budapest, has also asserted its  economic independence. It did so by refusing -in a vote of 69:2- to pay a large  contribution demanded by Brussels to bail out Greece. Even if the EU has a “no  bail-out rule”, Slovakia’s resistance is called a “lack of solidarity” by the  angered centralizers. Concurrently, Orbán and Romania’s Basescu seem to develop ties. Only  a short time ago this would have been unthinkable, but they have appeared  together at a free summer university in a Hungarian location but in  Transylvania, that is, on Romanian soil. Not only did they not clash, in private  they got along well. It would seem that Basescu might be moving as fast as his  own radicals will let him toward the kind of autonomy for ethnics that  correspond to western standards and practice. Therefore, the quality of the  relationship is better than in the last ninety  years. An appearance of Orban in a comparable setting in the Serbian  province Voivodina/Vajdaság has also gone over well.
Moderate nationalists are in power that do not share the seizures of  Germans that unthinkingly equate “national” and “patriotic” with ”national” as  in “National Socialism”. As a result, they appear to have a potential. It is  that besides the openly admitted commitment to and love for their kind, they are capable of assessing the national interest, which demands reconciliation based on the general boundaries of 1919. Meanwhile, not being addicted to collectivistic economic theories, free market policies can be pursed. Therefore, their strategy is to legitimize themselves domestically through earned economic success. If that works, there is no need to rely on the humiliation and domination of minorities and neighboring countries as a compensation for stagnation and poverty.
Lastly, making real peace is only possible if prejudices are overcome. Reconciliation involves concessions and these can make their architect suspect of “treason” and for “abandoning” the hallowed positions of “heroic ancestors”.  Governments that are openly  national are in a position to overcome such suspicions and to banish  rejectionist chauvinism to the nutty outer fringes of the political  landscape.