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Hungarians upset by the opinion of the European Court

March 8th, 2012

Commentators from across the political spectrum are upset by the opinion of the Advocate General of the European Court who has suggested that Slovakia did not violate EU law by banning László Sólyom, the President of Hungary from entering Slovakia in 2009.

Hungarian President László Sólyom cancelled a planned visit to Slovakia on August 21, 2009. He had planned to unveil a statue of Saint Stephen, Hungary’s founding king, in Komarno, a border city with more than 60 percent ethnic Hungarian residents. Top Slovak officials announced publicly that Sólyom was not welcome, and called his visit a provocation, since it would have coincided with the anniversary of the Warsaw Pact invasion of the former Czechoslovakia on August 21, 1968. Hungary took the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union, claiming that Slovakia violated the EU principle of free movement. On March 6, 2012, Yves Bot, Advocate General of the Court issued his opinion stating that Slovakia did not violate EU laws, since President Sólyom was not planning to visit the country as a private citizen, but as the president of Hungary, and such official visits depend on the consent of the host state. The Advocate General’s opinion is not binding on the Court.

Just imagine what would happen if Angela Merkel was denied the right to visit Paris, or if Nicolas Sarkozy could not cross through the Brandenburg gate. That would doubtless cause a massive scandal,” writes Attila Csákó in Magyar Hírlap.

Csákó believes that the Slovak government reacted in what he calls a paranoid way. He finds it even more problematic however, that the European Union is seen once again to apply double standards against Hungary. While the EU threatens Hungary with suspending billions in development aid (see BudaPost February 27), it has not criticized Slovakia for depriving ethnic Hungarians who take up Hungarian citizenship of their Slovak citizenship (see BudaPost February 18). The EU also stopped short of demanding that Slovakia revokes the Benes Decrees and compensate those Germans and Hungarians who were deported from the former Czechoslovakia after World War II, as an act of  collective punishment.

In a front page editorial, Népszabadság also finds it unimaginable that such an opinion would be applied to any of the older member states of the EU. The left-wing daily adds, however, that Hungary should have been more careful in organizing such diplomatic events abroad, in order to avoid unnecessary diplomatic clashes and such awkward court cases.

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