The refusal of the visit of the Hungarian President László Sólyom to Slovakia after the passing of the Slovak Language Act brought Slovakian-Hungarian relations to a deep-point. Despite the meeting of the prime ministers and the visit of the OSCE High Commissioner Knut Vollebaek the underlying problems have remained unsolved. After a few days of silence the Hungarian foreign minister's comments that Slovakia must learn manners from its "older brother" has angered his Slovakian counterpart again.

 

Analysis and forecast: increasing risk


The conflict is not expected to be solved in the short term. Handling of the disagreements largely depends on bilateral meetings (as the European Union is reluctant to take sides), but domestic politics both in Slovakia and Hungary point toward sharpening conflicts.

 

The 2010 election campaign in both countries can deepen the controversy, as a competition has begun on both sides in nationalist rhetoric (Slovakia: Fico, Meciar and Slota; Hungary: Fidesz and Jobbik). This poses political risks even in the mid-term, beyond the elections.

 

The deepening of the conflict is primarily due to the peculiarities of Slovak domestic politics. Robert Fico’s aim is to end the increasingly embarrassing coalition with the anti-Hungarian Slovak National Party (SNS). This can only be achieved through discrediting the SNS: the first definite step was the strategic disclosure of corruption cases; the second is that in local elections due on 14 November Smer and HZDS candidates are putting up in alliance leaving the SNS out. Mr Fico seems to be determined in taking the Hungarian card out of the hands of Mr Slota.