These are long versions of the answers that experts gave us for the Lead Article “Democracy on Life Support” which deals with the rollback of democracy in some Eastern European countries. The article is focusing on the situation in Hungary. Below you find the answers from our three interviewees to the following question…
Do you believe a local ethnic conflict is still possible in Central Europe (e.g. with Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, or Slovenia)? Why or why not?
Szálkai: I do not believe that a local ethnic conflict is still possible in Central Europe. In spite of the hostile rhetoric that occurs time to time between these countries (or rather between the fringe groups of these countries), they are united in many international organizations and local initiatives, and they are aware of the fact that their main national interests can only be achieved by means of cooperation.
Citizen X: Hungary and the other countries of Central Europe should finally learn from the history of the past 150-160-170 years that it is neither possible nor permissible to establish homogeneous nation-states. The ethnic references of the Hungarian revolution of 1848-49 or the two world wars are the best examples supporting this standpoint, emphasized among others by István Bibó, famous Hungarian politician. Nevertheless, the listed countries constitute an important geopolitical unity, and besides the dangers and threats, can offer significant possibilities for each other in case of cooperation, we should never forget about this. But, while it is possible to accept a language law that discriminates Hungarians in Slovakia, and while in case of other countries there are no problems with double citizenship, but in case of Hungary it is treated as a political game, there cannot be a real cooperation between these countries. Still, Central European politicians may act according to bad historical reflexes and habits, but we should not play the role of the scaremonger! Everyone should support the understanding and development of different identities, they should be made acceptable and possible to live with, and no-one should treat them in violent or suppressive ways.
Hartmann: I honestly don’t know.