Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Another outdated national squabble the EU was going to put an end to

It always seemed to me that the EU was storing up a great deal of trouble on taking in both Hungary and Romania. Do these people not know any history? Well, of course, the reply to that was that the European Union was going to abolish history and everything would become sweetness and light in that part of Europe as well.

Well, the two countries have not actually gone to war and are not likely to do so in the foreseeable future but neither were they likely to before joining the glorious EU. However, spats continue on a semi-official level.

EurActiv reports that
Romania's Ministry of Foreign Affairs has strongly condemned a recent statement made by the leader of the Hungarian radical nationalist party, Jobbik, claiming that Hungary should seek autonomy for the Hungarian-populated Székely Land in Romania.

According to the Hungarian agency MTI, Gábor Vona, leader of the Hungarian radical nationalist party Jobbik, accused the government of Viktor Orbán of failing to raise issues regarding the peace treaty of Trianon on the autonomy of the so-called Székely Land - or Szecklerland - with international fora.
Jobbik is a very unpleasant party and its relative popularity is the outcome of the last socialist government's venality and incompetence. However, it is not, as the Hungarian government pointed out, part of it, so Mr Vona speaks for himself and his party.

Nevertheless, the Treaty of Trianon remains something of a political issue for politicians at least if not necessarily for the people of Hungary. Two years ago voting rights were granted to Hungarians who live outside the country's borders and whose "exile" was created by that treaty but who were also considered to be natural Fidesz voters.

Public opinion in the country did not take too kindly to the idea (a very dodgy one politically) and that has not changed much in the intervening period as this analysis shows.
In May 2010 19% of Fidesz voters disapproved of granting both citizenship and voting rights to Hungarians in the neighboring countries and only 30% approved of both. The rest, 46%, supported dual citizenship but without voting rights. So, 65% of Fidesz voters surveyed were against granting voting rights to Hungarians outside the borders. 62% of MSZP voters opposed both citizenship and voting rights and only 5% approved of the Fidesz plan. Jobbik voters were split on the issue: 35% of them wouldn’t grant outsiders anything but 35% of them were happy with Fidesz’s plan. Those without party preference also overwhelmingly opposed voting rights. Only 13% supported the government’s plan. All in all, 71% of the adult population were against granting voting rights and 33% even opposed granting citizenship. Only 23% supported the proposed law that included both.

The July 2012 poll inquired about other aspects of Hungary’s relations with the neighboring countries, especially the Hungarian government’s involvement with party politics in countries in the Carpathian Basin. As soon as Fidesz won the elections the government unabashedly supported certain Hungarian minority parties and ignored or actively worked against others. This particular poll concentrated on Romanian-Hungarian affairs and specifically the Hungarian government’s support of small parties that are politically closer to Fidesz than the largest Hungarian Party, Romániai Magyar Demokrata Szövetség (RMDSZ) or in Romanian Uniunea Democrată Maghiară din România (UDMR). Medián wanted to know what Hungarians think of direct Hungarian involvement in political campaigns outside of Hungary’s borders. In addition, Medián inquired about people’s opinion of the government’s support of insignificant political groups in Romania as opposed to the largest Hungarian party, RMDSZ. And while Medián was at it, they included a question testing whether their May 2010 findings about Hungarians’ opinion on the voting rights of people of foreign domicile had changed at all.

The overwhelming majority (78%) disapproved of the government’s involvement in the politics of its neighbors. As for Fidesz’s support of smaller Romanian-Hungarian parties that are closer to the Fidesz leadership’s heart, even Fidesz voters were split on the issue, with 50% supporting the Fidesz strategy but 37% disapproving. In the population as a whole only 24% thought that supporting small political groupings was a capital idea while 52% thought such a strategy was self-defeating. A rather large number of those surveyed (24%) had no opinion.

As to the issue of citizenship and voting rights, more than two years went by and nothing really changed. In May 2010 71% disapproved and only 23% approved, in July 2012 70% still disliked the idea but the supporters went up a bit, from 23% to 26%. Not really significant.

In November 2012 Medián conducted another poll. The overwhelming majority of MSZP, LMP, DK, MSZP, Együtt 2014, and undecided voters rejected that section of the electoral law that grants voting rights to dual citizens. Although a relative majority of Fidesz (55%) and Jobbik (53%) voters supported it, in the population as a whole those who opposed it were still slightly over 70%.
Nevertheless, the Romanian government bristles when the leader of a Hungarian minority party makes some provocative comments.
Bucharest states that the statements made “blatantly” go “against the contemporary European spirit and realities, against the principles of the international law, the Basic Political Treaty [between Hungary and Romania, concluded in 1996], as well as those of the Bilateral Strategic Partnership”.

“Such positions are completely anachronistic and must be condemned in all firmness by all responsible stakeholders of Romania, Hungary and Europe in general,” the foreign ministry states, calling on the Hungarian authorities to disassociate themselves from the Jobbik statements.
The Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it had nothing to do with them and Mr Vona accused the Romanian government of hysteria. Hmm. Wars have been fought over lesser insults than that.

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