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No Resolution for the Legal Status of National Minorities in Slovakia

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A megjelenés dátuma

Szlovákiai kissebségi kérdések / National minorities issue in Slovakia
A cikk meghallgatása

Commitment was made, the draft law is ready, and the aim is to continue the traditions of cooperation with minorities, yet there will be no minority law in Slovakia. The Slovak majority should settle a decades-long debt, but there is no one left to enforce it. Since the adoption of the Slovak Constitution in 1992, it has promised that the details of minority rights will be regulated by a separate law, but as of today, this law has not been enacted. It seems that it cannot be expected in the next four years.

The Government Program should be taken seriously

The Slovak Constitution gives newly appointed governments 30 days to submit their program to parliament. The acceptance of the document is essentially a vote of confidence, as this act legitimizes the government’s power.

In the post-factual world, words have less weight in Slovakia, but the government program is still taken seriously by political actors. While the authors generally try to phrase it in a way that is not easily held against them, the government program serves as a reference point, letting the public know the direction the country is heading.

In the program of the fourth Fico government, there are specifics, such as the separation of public television and radio, changes in the classification of nature conservation areas, or planned changes related to pension pillars, but discussions about national minorities are only briefly mentioned.

It twice refers to the period when the current coalition parties governed with representatives of national minorities (aka: the Bridge party) between 2016 and 2020. Drawing on the experiences of this period and the framework established then, they aim to ensure the preservation of the identity of minorities.

There is a basis to build upon

In 2016, Fico appointed László Bukovszky as the government commissioner responsible for national minorities, a position he held even after Pellegrini in 2018, Matovič in 2020, Heger in 2021, and Ódor in 2023 took office. However, the fourth Fico government removed him at its first session.

Although the creation of a law on the legal status of minorities was not included in the government program between 2016 and 2020, Bukovszky managed to extract resolutions from the government that allowed him to start preparations. Bukovszky summarized the need for the law in four points:

  • The Slovak Constitution assumes a comprehensive legal provision that will detail the minority rights formulated in the basic law.
  • The dispersion and lack of transparency of the minority rights affected by the Slovak legal system make it difficult to navigate them and enforce them
  • The preparation of the law provides an opportunity to expand existing minority rights.
  • The Council of Europe has raised objections in the past due to the lack of a minority law.

By the summer of 2019, a declaration of intent for the comprehensive minority law was prepared. Therefore, when the Matovič government took office in 2020, it did not take a big risk when it committed to passing the law in its program, even though a Hungarian party was not part of the legislature at that time.

The global pandemic somewhat slowed down the process, but the draft law with paragraphs was completed. Since many laws partially or entirely deal with rights affecting minorities, it was necessary to clarify conceptual questions, such as whether the law should cover all areas or be satisfied with references to existing laws.

It was also considered whether it should be adopted as a constitutional law, requiring a constitutional majority for modification, or as a simple majority law.

Two ministries, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, raised objections to the final text, questioning the legitimacy of the law itself.

The government found itself in a minority position along the way, so their smaller problems became more significant than dealing with this issue. In response to the situation, the government office led by the strongest government party, OĽaNO, took action by involving the party’s representative, György Gyimesi, in the process.

Accepting the objections of the two ministries, Gyimesi stated that the original proposal was to be discarded. Gyimesi later left the party and the parliament, running on the Alliance’s list in the elections.

Regarding national minorities, without national minorities

As known, none of the Hungarian parties succeeded in the elections on September 30, 2023.

Hoping in the relationship between Fico and Orbán, the Alliance could expect to partially assert their ideas on minority issues.

This was supported by Péter Szijjártó, the Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs, during his visit to Bratislava in November, where he met with representatives of the Slovak government parties, the new patriotic coalition, and the Alliance.

Szijjártó Péter - jó szokásához híven - ellátogatott a Szövetséghez is, legalábbis így fogalmazott Forró Krisztián

Péter Szijjártó – true to his good habit – also visited the Alliance, at least that’s how Krisztián Forró put it (Source: Facebook, Péter Szijjártó

Regarding the minority government commissioner position, he stated that this was also discussed in the negotiations with the government parties, but he is not the one who should make the announcements.

It is still unknown who will be the minority government commissioner, but during the compilation of the government program, the Alliance’s opinion was not sought, despite the party offering its assistance.

Similarly, the Fico government did not seek the opinion of the minority government commissioner’s office. Despite Bukovszky outlining the tasks and trying to convey them to the new government representatives, he was dismissed by the time the government was officially appointed.

The office left without a leader did not receive inquiries during the formulation of the government program.

Quarries

The position of the government commissioner is likely to be more representative, as there is no political power behind it. During the second Fico government in 2012, minority affairs were moved from the deputy prime ministerial level to the government commissioner level, and as a gesture, they were handed over to the Bridge party with parliamentary representation.

László A. Nagy the minority government commissioner, resigned due to the lack of bilingualization of railway signs, which also had political weight, but it did not strain the relationship between the two parties so much that they would not form a coalition in 2016.

The Alliance does not have a similar blackmail potential now.

The legal status of minorities is expected to remain unchanged, perhaps only increasing the amount of the Minority Cultural Fund, which may seem like a more attractive option to Hungarian politicians than the minority government commissioner position, where there would be more work, and it is not guaranteed that the invested work will pay off.

Of course, if one does not have such ambitions, the government commissioner’s seat can be considered comfortable, which can be kept warm for four years.

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