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On November 21. 2002 a N.A.T.O. summit will convene in Prague with the
purpose of inviting new members to join the alliance.  Among those states
under consideration are Slovakia and Romania, both of which have atrocious
Human Rights records.  An intensive lobbying effort has already been
initiated by various special interest groups to influence the course of those
events.  While it is the belief of the author that anyone who hears of what is
happening to the Hungarians in Slovakia will support their cause, your voice
must be heard, so contact your representative.

Although it is more effective to write your own personalized letter when you
contact your representative, feel free to use one of the following letters if you
choose.  If you have time, forward the reply to one of the Hungarian Human
Rights organizations listed on the main page.  It is also recommended that
you write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper and help inform your
community about this important decision.  Use this address to find your
Senator:   http://www.congress.org/
 

June 17, 2001

The Honorable Robert Torricelli
United States Senate
Committees on Foreign Relations, Joint Economic, Finance, Governmental Affairs,
Rules and Administration
113 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-3003
 

Dear Senator Torricelli,

I am writing to urge that you oppose Slovakia's candidacy to join the N.A.T.O.
Alliance.  The persecution of the Hungarian population in Slovakia is well
documented, and has encompassed the confiscation of both private and church
properties, the dismantlement of the Hungarian language educational system,
restricting the use of the Hungarian language in public, the disenfranchisement of
the Hungarian population, and the Slovak government's unwillingness to provide
restitution to the victims of these illegal acts.

Historically, the most well known Human Rights abuse occurred in 1945 with the
Benes Decrees.  The Benes Decrees of 1945 -a precursor to the infamous modern-
day practice of ethnic cleansing-- sought to create an ethnically pure nation-state,
among others, by summarily revoking the citizenship of all ethnic Hungarians,
confiscating all of their properties, closing their centuries-old schools and ordering
their en masse expulsion.

Far from being an unfortunate part of history, the effects of the Benes Decrees still
manifest themselves today.  Ethnic Hungarians in Slovakia are denied the rightful
claim to property restitution that ethnic Slovaks enjoy.  Thousands of acres of land
confiscated from ethnic Hungarians and given to ethnic Slovaks under the decrees
still remain in the latter's possession.  The assets of all Hungarian community
organizations confiscated between 1945 and 1948 have yet to be returned to their
rightful owners.  The 100,000-member Hungarian Reformed Church, which had
the majority of its buildings and schools confiscated, still has no legal recourse.
Nor is there any expressed intention to redress these legal inequities.  Most
recently, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda exclaimed "I take the liberty to declare
with certainty that the Benes Decrees need not be abolished and will not be
abolished"  (OMRI-Slovak Digest, March 11, 2002).  Can NATO embrace an
aspirant country that refuses to overcome this anachronism?

The use of one's native language has been universally recognized as a Human
Right.  Under the previous government of ultra-nationalist Premier Vladimir
Meciar (who remains a viable candidate for the next election), laws were enacted
restricting the use of the Hungarian language, including the removal of Hungarian
language signs from historic cities, towns and villages.  In addition,  Meciar
ordered that state run television ban those place names from being mentioned.
Another Meciar era law also stated that all public documents, including birth
certificates, must be written in the Slovak language.  The deliberate intent of this
was to try to force the Hungarians  to give their children Slovak names.  Also
mandatory was the use of a Slovak ending on all female last names.

The Minority Language Law passed after the government of Mikulas Dzurinda
came to power, has fallen short and needs to be amended to bring it into full
compliance with the European Charter on Regional or Minority Languages, which
Slovakia ratified in June 2001, the last country with a Hungarian minority to do so.
The Hungarian Coalition Party voted against the Minority Language Law adopted
in July 1999 because of its serious shortcomings.  How can a law who's ostensible
intention is to benefit minorities can actually be passed in Slovakia over and above
the objections of the largest minority?  There is no indication on the part of the
Slovak government that it intends to reverse the discrimination contained in the
law.

The state of Hungarian-language higher education has reached crisis proportions
in Slovakia:  Today, nearly half as many ethnic Hungarians graduate from
institutions of higher education (3.6 percent) than ethnic Slovaks (7.5 percent) at
the national level.  The number of ethnic Hungarian graduates from Konstantin
University-where enrollment by minority students has dropped by a whopping
three-fifths in the past five years-has not replace retiring teachers.  Yet, for more
than a year, the senate and accreditation committee of the university have failed to
take up the issue of implementing a January 2001 government recommendation to
create an independent Hungarian-language division of six departments within the
institution for which monies have already been allocated.  The purpose of the
college would be to provide adequate training of ethnic Hungarian teachers for the
600,000 strong community as no such independent facility exists in the country.
Upon joining the government coalition, the Hungarian Coalition Party relinquished
its goal to establish of an independent Hungarian-language university, which
would be necessary to reverse the declining trend in native-language education, in
favor of pledges by the government to create the division at Konstantin University
and narrow the gap between ethnic Hungarian and Slovak graduates.  The
government has failed on both counts.

In response to the above mentioned discrimination, the Hungarian Parliament
passed the 'Status Law' last year.  The Status Law aims to protect the cultural
identity of Hungarian minorities in the lands where they have lived for centuries.
Under this law,  Hungarians living in Slovakia and surrounding countries with
large Hungarian minorities, will be entitled to a special identity document proving
that they are Hungarian and allowing them to work in Hungary for three months
each year.  Ethnic Hungarians will also qualify for free health care, improved
educational opportunities, and funding for cultural institutions.  Slovakia has been
adamantly opposed to the Status Law, and negotiations between the two states
have stalled.

The adoption of the laws on redistricting and regional election in July and
December 2001, precluded a Hungarian majority in any of the eight new territorial
units and therefore prevented the election of a single ethnic Hungarian chairman to
head up any of these units. Through a combination of gerrymandering, a two-
round election system, and fierce propaganda for Slovaks to vote for "Slovaks"
(criticized by European Parliamentary Rapporteur Wiersma to no avail),
Hungarians, who were previously relatively well-represented at the local level,
now suffer serious under-representation on precisely those local issues (education,
culture, public administration) of greatest importance to the cohesiveness of a
minority.

There are those who believe that by extending N.A.T.O. membership to Slovakia,
that country will respond by adopting western norms of Human Rights,  I believe
that respect for Human Rights should be a precondition to membership in the
N.A.T.O. Alliance, otherwise we run the risk of weakening N.A.T.O.  Until
Slovakia faithfully fulfills its Human Rights obligations, Slovakia should not be
admitted into the N.A.T.O. Alliance.  The Admission of Slovakia into the
N.A.T.O. Alliance would constitute an irrevocable move.  What is your position on
this important issue?
 

Sincerely,