To Heighten Tensions


BERLIN/BUDAPEST/BOLZANO (Own report) - A new study published by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) warns of the heightened "potential for conflicts" in the EU due to the ethnic policy promoted by Berlin. Most recently, according to the paper, the Hungarian government under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán particularly made waves with provocative steps for supporting "Hungarians Abroad" in neighboring countries. Dissention is currently growing also in other countries over ethnically defined minorities, particularly since certain governments have begun granting their citizenship to ethnic minorities of neighboring countries. Berlin also - erroneously - praises the South Tyrolean Autonomy Statute as a model solution. Erroneously, because, as can be seen by current secessionist demands in northern Italy, this can, under no circumstances, be "the model for solutions to conflicts" of other minorities. Throughout the study, there was no mention of the Federal Republic of Germany's ethnic policy though it describes its application by other countries such as Hungary and Romania, as well as the German-speaking minority of South Tyrol - criticizing them sharply. Germany not only practices this incriminated ethnic policy generally, it is elaborately granting German citizenship to members of minorities in neighboring countries, which, according to the SWP, is even in violation of official OSCE recommendations.

Community of Fate

The ethnically defined model of nation and "national minorities," as is traditionally advocated by Berlin, is the focus of the study produced by the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP). This stands in contradiction to systems, which see themselves as a union of individuals, regardless of their ethnic-cultural heritage and that assure their citizens individual minority protection. The model also advocated in Berlin, on the other hand, parts from the premise "of a more or less exclusive cultural community," which, "due to its common language, heritage or religion," sees itself as "a historically forged community of fate." This form of "cultural community" often projects political measures onto "national minorities" of neighboring countries, "often across the respective national borders into the neighboring country." As her example, the author of the study, Sabine Riedel, takes Hungarian policy of considering and systematically supporting Hungarian-speaking minorities of neighboring countries as "Hungarians Abroad."[1] The - just as systematic - support provided by Berlin, through a department of the German Ministry of the Interior, to German-speaking minorities outside of Germany is not mentioned in the study.[2] The German government, on the other hand, has always been supportive of Hungary's ethnic policies. ( reported.[3])

From Differentiation to Autonomy

As the author writes, the ethnic-culturally defined model of the nation bears a significant potential for conflict within the European Union. Pressure from Budapest to grant wide-ranging special rights to the Hungarian-speaking minority in Slovakia, has led to the passage of a language law. The Hungarian-speaking minority comprises approx. one-tenth of Slovakia's total population. The law stipulates that in residential areas of the Hungarian-speaking minority, street signs must also be in Slovak and that scholastic materials "must give consideration to Slovak being the official language." Budapest protested, but the OSCE Commissioner for National Minorities confirmed that the rights of the Hungarian-speaking population "had not been violated by the language law." In fact, writes the SWP paper, "knowledge of the official language (...) is important for successful integration of the minority." Hungarian associations that "exclusively concentrate on 'their' minority learning the native language, obviously have set other political priorities." "They are not only striving for a stronger linguistic differentiation, but in the long run also for territorial autonomy."

From Speculation to Option

In Romania, where another large Hungarian-speaking minority is at home, similar anxiety has been growing since the beginning of the 1990s. At the time, the Romanian government had decreed that Hungarian-speaking pupils, regardless of their right to courses in their native language, must learn official Romanian. This had provoked persistent protests from the minority, which, in turn, caused "fears in the majority population" - fears "of Romania's further linguistic differentiation, which could lead to secession." Hardly anyone had noticed this in Germany. "Whereas twenty years ago, this development was still a speculative projection into the future," the author explains, "it has now become the subject of current political debate in Romania." In March 2011, the parliament in Bucharest felt compelled to debate a "Declaration by Hungarian Officials on Territorial Autonomy based on Ethnicity," but have yet to take consequences in regards to Hungary. Romania's President, Traian Basescu intervened only when, shortly thereafter, Prime Minister Orbán made a statement in Budapest to the effect that the moment for "the Hungarian government to interfere in the administrative reorganization of Romania," has "not yet" arrived.

From the Role of a Protective Power to Revanchism

According to SWP's expert, Sabine Riedel, Hungary's having begun to grant Hungarian citizenship to members of the Hungarian-speaking minorities in the bordering countries is one of the reasons for such anxiety in Romania about possible secessionist scenarios. The "policy of dual citizenship for Hungarians Abroad" and the affiliated "protective power role" - in light of revisionist declarations, such as those concerning the Peace Treaty of Trianon of 1920 - are "elements of a revanchist policy," says Riedel. In any case, granting dual citizenship must be critically viewed. It opens the door to interference in the domestic affairs of those countries, where the respective minorities are living. This causes dissention in Europe. The SWP study points out that Romania, for example, seeks to compensate for problems caused by dual citizenship for Romanian "Hungarians Abroad" by granting dual citizenship themselves - particularly to Moldavians.[4] This does nothing to neutralize tensions, but merely expand them. But, the country that in the 1990s was the first to begin elaborately issuing passports to citizens of neighboring countries - the Federal Republic of Germany - is not mentioned in the study. In Poland, there are up to 300,000 people, who, based on their German heritage, have received German citizenship - with all rights and responsibilities.[5]

From Autonomy to Secession

According to the SWP paper, the problem becomes very clear in South Tyrol, which is widely acclaimed as a model - in Romania, even in Tibet and most recently in Alsace - for an alleged finalized solution to the question of autonomy for ethnic minorities. ( reported.[6]) Contrary to repeated public pronouncements, the reputed moderate South Tyrolean People's Party (SVP) had indicated already in the early 1990s that it is officially in favor of the statutes of autonomy, but "it has not lost sight of its true objective, the complete national sovereignty of South Tyrol," writes SWP expert Riedel. Since some time, "a radicalization could be observed" in the South Tyrolean regional parliament. The SVP's rivals are openly demanding the secession from Italy - becoming attached to Austria is not out of the question. "With this current intermediate result," sums up the SWP author, "at the moment, the South Tyrolean autonomy model [can]not be the model for resolving conflicts" as Germany claims. However, very unabashed separatist forces in South Tyrol are repeatedly receiving support - including from high-ranking politicians - from Germany, which robs the allegation of it being a model for resolving conflicts of all credibility. ( reported.[7])

Legal Relationships of the Nazi Era

In view of the growing ethnic tensions in the EU, the study is calling for urgently discussing "whether nationality laws, which tend to put into question or ignore national borders or refer to Nazi era legal relationships, do not run counter to the spirit of European integration." The fact that particularly in the Federal Republic of Germany, regulations are openly referring back to Nazi measures, is not mentioned. One reads, therefore, on the webpage of the German General Consulate in Wrocław that, in certain cases, a person can obtain German citizenship if he can prove that his ancestors were classified as "ethnic Germans" during the Nazi Reich.[8] The SWP author also recommends that to give "more attention" to the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities' 2008 "Bolzano / Bozen Recommendations," "which call on the member countries not to grant a second ethnically based citizenship to minorities abroad." German practice is diametrically opposed to these OSCE recommendations.

[1] Zitate hier und im Folgenden aus: Sabine Riedel: Doppelte Staatsbürgerschaften als Konfliktpotential. Nationale Divergenzen unter europäischer Flagge, SWP-Studie S24, Oktober 2012
[2] see also Cultivating Relationships and German Settlements in the East
[3] see also Pillars of the Future, Tragsäulen der Zukunft (II), Pillars of the Future (III) and Tragsäulen der Zukunft (IV)
[4] see also Das deutsche Blutsmodell (II)
[5] see also Everything that Serves Germany
[6] see also Alsace at the Forefront
[7] see also Doppelrezension: Südtirol-Terrorismus, Der Zentralstaat als Minusgeschäft, Crisis Profiteers and Wie es der Zufall will
[8] "If you or your ancestors come from a region, which belonged to the Republic of Poland before the Second World War, or if you or your ancestors have lived there, it can normally be assumed that your family had the Polish and not the German citizenship on September 1, 1939. To obtain German citizenship in that case, you have to prove that your father or grandfather had been added to the so-called List of the German People" - meaning the corresponding Nazi instrument. Source: Feststellung__der__Staatsangehoerigkeit/Feststellung__Seite.html