Minorities Issues in the New Europe

Yesterday (5 december 2009), about five hundred persons met near Hungarian Parliament to remember failed referendum held on 5 december 2004 on dual citizenship. This meeting counted on the participation of MVSZ (Magyarok Világszövetség – World Federation of Hungarians) and Jobbik (Jobbik Magyarországért Mozgalom – Movement for a Better Hungary), politician party which has obtained 14,77 % of votes and 3 seats in the last European Parliament election held this year.

Csanád Szegedi, European Parliament Member of Jobbik, stated that if his party ruled the country would grant dual citizenship to all Hungarians living in neighbouring countries, even though this proposal was rejected in referendum of 2004, and would start a diplomatic offensive to set up autonomic bodies in areas inhabited by ethnic Hungarians.

Regardless of the effect of these statements, the right to grant dual citizenship based upon ethnic links without effective residence in the grantor State must be studied carefully by European Commission. Although this right is under the sovereignty of each State, the indiscriminate granting of this one could affect all European System because a lot of non EU citizens could gain access to EU via dual citizenship. In 2004, this matter could happen with about 2.5 million ethnic Hungarians living in Romania. This risk of EU distortion disappeared once Romania accessed EU in 2007, but this possibility still persists in other areas of Europe, like Romania in relation to Moldavians of Romanian ethnicity, or Hungary in connection with ethnic Hungarians living in Serb or Ukraine. This circumstance could mean the existence of a back door of entrance into EU for several million Europeans whose countries do not accomplish the accession requeriments yet, and therefore a fraud of Law, insofar as these countries would be accessing EU “de facto” even though their natural accession might take place in many years’ time.

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  1. An interesting post, but I have some questions for you:
    What would happen in the case of dual citizens in countries which cannot/would never be part of EU? eg. ethnic French living in former colonies or ethnic Spaniards/Portuguese in South American nations? Would they equally lose the “back door” entry to the EU that so many have traditionally used?

    You say that citizenship is the sovereign right of the state to grant, but you also say that wrongly granted citizenship would affect the whole EU system. So what legal powers does EU have in this area?

  2. I really think that irresponsible granting of citizenship could cause serious distortions in the EU, especially because obtaining the citizenship of a member country affects all Member States. For example, if Spain gave massively citizenship to all citizens of Hispanic culture (from South American countries) would produce a distortion in the EU, since all these new citizens would have citizenship of the Union and could work, settle and move freely throughout the Union. The same is true of other countries that have had imperial projection in America or Africa (such as France or UK.)

    There is no EU legislation on nationality, just on immigration, visas, etc..

    The case of Hungary (which was only a project, without ever becoming law) or the case of Romania regarding Moldovan citizens, are very different from Spain’s one for two reasons:

    1. Because Spain has no regulations regarding dual citizenship with regard to ethnic Spanish but regarding South Americans, Portugueses, etc. That is, a Bolivian, albeit he or she is not ethnic Spanish, as it happens with most of them, could access the dual citizenship. The same can be said for an Argentine of Italian or German descent.

    2. Another fundamental difference is that Spain does not grant dual citizenship just for being citizens of these countries, but the applicant must have resided legally in Spanish at least two years, which is difficult because immigration rules are very strict. The Romanian case on Romanian ethnic Moldovans are very different, since such people could access dual citizenship without ever having lived in Romania. The same would have happened if the Hungarian referendum of 2004 had succeeded. Many Romanians, Serbs, and Ukrainians of Hungarian origin could have been able to claim dual nationality without having ever set foot in Hungary.

  3. Interesting post. I, myself, am an ethnic Hungarian born in what we call Serbia today, but I have lived almost all my life in Australia. Firstly, the issue of “ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring countries” is different to the South American/French colonies scenarios mentioned previous. The 1920 Treaty of Trianon saw Hungary lose 60% of its population to Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine. At this time “The Kingdom of Yugoslavia” was also formed. We all know what became of the latter. Political decisions made in the early 20th century have had serious ramifications throughout Eastern Europe, which are still felt today.

    Looking in from the outside, one can see the serious dangers of fervent nationalism in Europe. Initially, I would have loved to have been able to gain Hungarian Citizenship, i.e., EU Citizenship. To most “ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring countries” the referendum was seen as a chance to jump the queue for EU citizenship while their respective countries slowly fulfil the requirements for EU membership. Saying this, I think the dual citizenship issue should be forgotten and people (ethnic Hungarians) realise that ethnicity can (and should) be separated from nationality and the colour of one’s passport.

    As countries such as Romania and tentatively, Serbia, et al. become member states in the EU, the EU, and its members, have the responsibility of ensuring said member states address human rights issues of ethnic minorities. While at the same time addressing their own xenophobia. A phobia which is not uncommon in Australia.

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