Thursday

21st Feb 2019

Pressure mounts on Slovakia over anti-Hungarian incidents

Slovakia is facing harsh criticism from its southern neighbour, as the country shows new signs of anti-Hungarian sentiment.

The criticism has been triggered by Friday's (25 August) attack on a 23-year-old ethnic-Hungarian woman, who was robbed, beaten up and whose T-shirt was marked with the nationalist slogan "Hungarians, return to behind the Danube."

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  • Komarno in Slovakia: several anti-Hungarian incidents have sparked tensions across the Slovak-Hungarian border (Photo: European Commission)

The next day, police arrested three men bringing an 11-metre long banner with "death to the Hungarians!" written on it to a soccer game.

The Hungarian foreign ministry summoned the Slovak Ambassador to Budapest to explain the incidents at a meeting today (28 August).

Prime minister Ferenc Gyurcsany condemned what he called "atrocities and increasing hatred against foreigners" and demanded his Slovak counterpart, Robert Fico, do the same.

"The policy of silence must be ended immediately", Mr Gyurcsany told journalists, adding that there is "a direct link between the nationalists being part of the Slovak coalition and rising extremism."

War of words

Mr Fico denounced "all acts of extremism," promising that both government and police will act immediately if necessary.

However, he added that it is not up to Hungary to decide when and how Slovakia should respond to incidents.

"I will not allow anybody, including prime minister Gyurcsany, to dictate the pace of the Slovak government".

At the same time, Mr Fico rejected a proposal from the opposition Hungarian Coalition Party (SMK) to adopt a joint parliamentary declaration to address the issue.

He instead accused ethnic-Hungarian politicians of fostering nationalistic feelings and trying to capitalize on recent incidents.

"After having failed to perform in the social area, they look for a different topic", the Slovak leader said.

Approximately half a million ethnic Hungarians live in Slovakia.

Fico's friends

The tension started to mount after Mr Fico's social democrats (Smer-SD) in July formed a government with the far-right National Party (SNS) of Jan Slota, known for his anti-Hungarian and anti-Roma views.

Since then, there have been a series of incidents on both sides of the border, including damage to the Slovak embassy in Budapest and a banner at football match saying "Jan Slota must die", referring to the SNS leader.

The Party of European socialists have also reacted with dismay to Slovakia's post-election developments and are planning to freeze Mr Fico's membership in the group.

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