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The Hungarian dual citizenship

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Right after getting to power Fidesz-KDNP voted the new law about Hungarian dual citizenship. The measure was supported not only by the governing parties but also by the major part of the opposition. However, the left wing is still concerned about its effects.
Source: flickr

The only hope

K. B. | translated by: K. B. | 2011. December 20. 03:28

Granting dual citizenship to Hungarians living beyond the borders is a long-standing debate in Hungarian politics.The debate used for domestic political purposes worsens the relationship between the right and left wing.

Granting dual citizenship to Hungarians living beyond the borders is a long-standing debate in Hungarian politics. The 2004 referendum organized by a civil organization called World Association of Hungarians was not valid. The debate preceding the referendum, which was used for domestic political purposes, worsened the relationship between the right and left wing with regards to their take on the question.

*The background of the debate

The right wing was in favor of granting the citizenship. The goal was to restore national unity. People living in parts of the country that had been detached after the Treaty of Trianon, speaking Hungarian but not holding Hungarian citizenship, must be allowed to be reunited with the motherland. The idea of territorial unification, popular with far-rightists, is ruled out by the current state of international politics. Relocating all of the Hungarians living abroad to Hungary is not possible for several reasons and would cause concerns in many respects, leaving us with the institution of dual citizenship as the main opportunity to reunite the nation.

*Delusions about dual citizenship

The 2004 referendum was unsuccessful and a lot of voters abstained because of the inflamed debate. The socialists, completely misinterpreting the question, envisioned the inflow of 23 million Romanian immigrant workers. This goes to show that the basic assumptions of the Hungarian right and left wing concerning the question are completely different. There are approximately 5 million Hungarians living outside of Hungary today: old people, who won’t migrate to Hungary after they receive their documents and „take other people’s jobs”, make up a big majority; on the other hand, Hungarians (and non-Hungarians) from various neighbouring countries with EU membership could just as easily immigrate to Hungary and take other people’s jobs. In 2010, one of the first decrees of the second Orbán-government was to grant Hungarian citizenship to Hungarians living abroad. This, of course, did not mean that, say, Márosvásárhely (Târgu Mureș) woke up one day for everyone to find a Hungarian passport in their mailbox. This act simply makes naturalization of Hungarians living abroad easier and also makes it possible for those who have no Hungarian address. The procedure of naturalization, a part of which requires the applicant to prove they have Hungarian ancestry, remained in place but was simplified. That is, however, not always easy and not everyone is eager to go down this road. We can therefore say that the socialist fears were unjustified.

Based on the above statements, some might ask: “What’s the point of dual citizeship then?” Besides symbolic national reunification it also provides protection.The new citizenship gives protection against the nationality policies of surrounding countries that, allowing for exceptions, are not always tolerant. But won’t this cause new conflicts with certain countries? The answer is yes, but looking at the region, we’ll see that a better time to declare the right to Hungarian citizenship of Hungarians living beyond our borders could hardly have been found. Most of the countries had tolerant governments in power at the time; Romania follows a similar policy in Moldavia; and the toughest nut to crack, Slovakia, is always going to oppose similar steps on the part of the Hungarian government, regardless of what we do.

*To vote or not to vote?

One of the questions that came up after dual citizenship was granted to Hungarians living abroad, turning them into new potential Hungarian citizens, was suffrage. Social consensus was probably stronger when it came to dual citizenship than in the matter of suffrage. It is a fact, nevertheless, that if the „new” Hungarian citizens are granted no right to vote, they could become second-class citizens. This issue is not entirely resolved as of yet, but the concept of the new voting system, which was made public over the past few weeks, would allow Hungarian citizens living abroad with no Hungarian address to cast a vote for a party list. I find this to be a reasonable decision; a couple tens of thousands of Hungarians living outside our borders but holding Hungarian citizenship will not necessarily determine the outcome of elections, they might not even all go to the polls and I don’t agree with the stereotypical assumption that they will all support the right wing or the far-right.

The final and also the only realistic step to restoring national unity is the recognition of the right of Hungarians living abroad to Hungarian citizenship. After the catastrophe of Trianon, the cause of Hungarians outside our borders was accompanied by irredentism and then later silenced throughout the communist era. The system of dual citizenship remains the most efficient way to heal the wounds of the Hungarian nation.

 

The concern of the left wing

Fürjész Judit | translated by: Simon Dániel | 2011. December 20. 03:28

All that glitters is not gold. The new form of double citizenship instituted in 2011 provides no solution to the problems faced by Hungarians living beyond our borders, it only creates more tension both abroad and within our borders.

All that glitters is not gold. The new form of double citizenship instituted in 2011 provides no solution to the problems faced by Hungarians living beyond our borders, it only creates more tension both abroad and within our borders.

Dual citizenship is a status in which a person is concurrently regarded as a citizen under the laws of two different states, which can either be granted based on origin (by being related to a citizen of the nation [note: jus sanguinis] or by being born in the territory of the related state [note: jus soli]) or obtained through naturalization. The latter procedure is regulated by each country’s own laws. In Hungary’s case, naturalization is based on being a resident, with three, five and eight years of permanent residency required respectively. These rules regarding naturalization changed, however, in accordance with a decree enacted on the 20th of August, 2010, implemented in all procedures initiated after the 11th of January, 2011: „regardless of the length of their stay, any person declaring themselves of Hungarian nationality and having ancestry that held Hungarian citizenship, or any person demanding renaturalization [is eligible]”. This decree was obviously first and foremost directed at Hungarian minorities living abroad, mainly in adjacent countries, to thus help and embrace them, for fear of having them labeled „disloyal traiters”. But what are the real consequences it entails?

*Is it really the will of the people?

Following the debates about granting dual citizenship to Hungarians living abroad, a referendum was held on the question on the 5th of December, 2004. The referendum was unsuccessful, because neither the „yes” nor the „no” votes reached the 25 per cent necessary for the the referendum to be considered as valid. Only 1.521.271 of the 8.048.739 citizens eligible to vote at the time voted yes on this very important constitutional question, which represents 51,57 per cent of all votes. To sum up, the results of the referendum show that 19 per cent of eligible voters voted yes, with the remainder of the voters rejecting it or refraining from voting, that is abstaining. This is the so frequently referenced „will of the people”.

The Fidesz decided, nevertheless, to bring up the question rejected by the majority of the population on the 5th of December, 2004, and its first act as leader of the country following the first parliamentary session after the elections was to put forward and adopt the bill about the grant of dual citizenship.

*Legal concerns

Dual citizenship also raises a few legal questions. Citizenship entails not only rights but also obligations. Problems regarding suffrage might arise, since it usually requires the constituent to hold local citizenship and residency at the same time. Many people have wondered whether or not recently naturalized Hungarian citizens living, working and paying taxes in another country have the right to participate in Hungarian political issues, and how efficiently they could do so. On the other hand, how much is Hungarian legislation going to affect their life? I don’t think it really will. That is up to the legislation of the country they live in. This decree could therefore have backfired. First, instead of bringing Hungarians within and beyond our borders closer to each other though this common citizenship, it just increases the tension between them, since this new form creates two citizenships with different statuses, entailing a difference between rights and obligations. Then, instead of helping Hungarians living abroad, we’re just going to fall into disfavor with neighbouring countries. It is in fact, not unlikely for a concerned country to have a foreign policy that doesn’t give citizens the choice of having two citizenships; they can come vote in Hungary, but by doing so they agree to be deprived of this right „back home”. Lastly, the necessity of remaining in one’s homeland was heavily promoted in relative unison by Hungarian political parties after the end of communism, which is also why they supported the autonomy claims of Hungarian minorities. Dual citizenship, however, is not compatible with the idea of autonomy: no state can grant extensive autonomy to a community of citizens of another state concentrated within a single area, given that it would understandably be the first and nearly irreversible step towards a split.

*Going against the international trend

The number of people with multiple citizenship in the world is constantly increasing due to globalization, open borders and the possibility of migration. As a consequence, citizenship and nationality are no longer one and the same. This inevitably calls for a radical reinterpretation of the idea of citizenship and its meaning could later on go through a shift, referring to geographical areas instead. Considering both this and the fact that the European Union has given us the opportunity to once again be part of a single group and have the same rights, not being able to accept and come to terms with this fact is beyond understanding. But what’s even worse is not letting people come to terms with it, serving our own selfish interests, as the Fidesz has always done, playing their „Hungarians abroad” trump card to achieve their personal agenda in current politics.

 

This article convinced me.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

This article convinced me.

This article deliberately presents only one of the many existing points of views of this contorversial subject. Its content is not necessarily representative of its author's personal opinion. Please have a look at Duel Amical's philosophy.

The state of votes

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The only hope

K. B.|translated by: K. B.

The concern of the left wing

Fürjész Judit| translated by: Simon Dániel

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