Part II

In 2010, the parties of the conservative coalition, the Alliance of Young Democrats (Fidesz)–Christian Democratic People’s Party (KDNP) led by Viktor Orbán won a two-thirds parliamentary majority and were able to launch a new kin-state policy that involved the redefinition of the nation on an ethno-cultural basis to include all Hungarians who live outside Hungary. The basis of the new policy was the institutionalization of relations towards ethnic kin through dual citizenship and non-residential voting rights. The responsibility of the Hungarian state toward ethnic kin was enshrined in the new constitution. The strategy of the government of Viktor Orbán toward ethnic kin can be described as ‘national reunification beyond the borders in the rhetoric framework of a borderless Europe in which individuals may cultivate transnational ties and minority rights (including cultural and territorial autonomy) and are safeguarded by international treaties’.1

I examine Hungarian kin-state policy in a ‘quadratic nexus’ where the kin-state, the home states, the national minority, and international actors, in the first place the European Union, interact.2 The approach of looking at Hungarian kin-state policy as an interaction between four actors allows me to place Hungarian kin- state policy within the broader framework of international treaties on minority rights. The EU and the institutions affiliated with it, the European Commission, OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, the Venice Commission, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, and the High Commissioner on National Minorities are transnational actors who influence the behaviour of the home state, the kin-state, and the minority.

I place Hungary’s kin-state policy in the context of the current discourses on the concepts of nation, nationalism, and ethnic identity. Increasing migration to Europe from outside the continent has posed new challenges for autochthonous national minorities. The Western political elite welcomed the ‘new minorities’, many of whom had fled war and poverty, and regarded their ethnic identity as a source of multicultural enrichment for Western societies. Minority research increasingly focused on the individual rights and integration of migrants. The struggle of Hungarian minorities to attain collective rights for the reproduction of their communities was relegated to the background.

Kin-state policy has a special place in Hungarian politics because Hungary lost two thirds of its territory through the Treaty of Trianon of 1920, and over three million ethnic Hungarians found themselves citizens of neighbouring states, often along the Hungarian border. The loss of its territory presented a great trauma for Hungary and the situation of the ethnic kin in neighbouring countries has since been a source of great concern for all Hungarian governments prior to and after the communist era.

Hungarian minorities were subjected to great assimilation pressures, which reached new heights under communism when they could no longer turn to the kin-state for help, and even their existence was hardly acknowledged officially in Hungary. Although Hungary has attempted, since democratization, to influence EU law and international legislation to promote the protection of its ethnic kin, it has been unable to halt the process of assimilation. There is a widespread feeling among ethnic Hungarians in all the regions where they live that they are not equal to the majority in their opportunities to reproduce their ethnic identity. This generates feelings of uncertainty and hopelessness as far as the future of their ethnic community and their cultural survival is concerned. Thus, while Hungarians have the same obligations as every other citizen, e.g. to pay taxes and bear arms, they do not have the same rights.3

At the advent of parliamentary democracy thirty years ago, ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring countries placed their hopes in democracy and the EU to provide guarantees for the survival of their communities. They set up their own political parties and cultural organizations, and formulated their demands vis-à-vis their home states and the kin-state. Ethnic Hungarians hoped to govern themselves through their own institutions by attaining a form of autonomy which they expected to help them ensure their survival as an ethnic group. In the two largest Hungarian communities, in Romania and Slovakia, ethnic Hungarian party representatives have participated in the majority governments but have been unable to obtain autonomy or laws on minority rights.4


Today, with two exceptions (Serbia and Ukraine), the countries where significant Hungarian minorities live are members of the EU. Since respect for minority rights is a condition for EU membership, the home states agreed to respect the fundamental rights of ethnic minorities when they became members of the EU and were signatories to international agreements protecting the rights of ethnic minorities, such as the use of their mother tongue in contact with administrative authorities. After accession, however, the EU has few means to force home countries to improve their policy toward minorities because the jurisdiction over minority rights protection belongs to the home states. International documents on minority rights and the EU standards of minority protection are soft laws that serve as a point of reference for a minority rights regime.5 It has become clear over the years that the EU cannot guarantee ethnic minority rights in member states because it has no minority policy of its own, and no means to enforce the soft laws regarding minority protection. As Agarin and Cordell summarize it: ‘[the EU] mandated the nation state with ultimate say over the remit of support and protection allocated to groups that the nation state itself was to designate a “minority” on its territory and that formed the key to the emerging European minority rights regime’.6

No EU system of minority protection was put in place to shield the rights of national minorities against the nationalizing majority. The EU and other supra- national political institutions such as the United Nations, International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank see their task as keeping the activities of ethnic minorities in check. As a rule, stability is regarded by international actors as more important than the democratic credentials of the home states and how they treat minorities living on their territory.7 Under current EU legislation at most the identity of minorities could be maintained, but this would surely lead to their assimilation over the long run. Short of border revision, only a system of minority protection backed by international pressure can influence the policy of the titular majority in countries where ethnic minorities live.8


In the years prior to and at the time of the democratic transformation there was a general expectation in Hungarian political circles that the advent of democracy would restore the rights of ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring countries. After the first democratic elections in the 1990s there were great hopes that the situation of ethnic Hungarians would improve in their homelands.

After decades of silence under communism about the existence of ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring countries, József Antall, the prime minister of the first democratically elected (conservative) government (May 1990–December 1993), called himself the prime minister ‘in spirit’ of the Hungarian nation, including the ethnic kin in neighbouring countries. His follower, Gyula Horn, who headed a socialist-liberal government (1994–1998), considered himself only the prime minister of Hungary, that is of the people who live within the territory of Hungary itself, and the question of minorities was relegated to second place behind good neighbourly relations.9

From 1998 to 2002, Viktor Orbán headed a conservative government and introduced fundamental changes in Hungarian kin-state policy. The idea of a unified Hungarian nation became the basis of kin-state policy which entailed increased support for minority rights and the claims of ethnic kin for autonomy and collective rights. The Status Law of 2001 was the first step towards institutionalizing relations with ethnic kin, with the aim of expanding the Hungarian political community. It reinforced the special relationship of ethnic kin to Hungary on the basis of the idea of the nation as an ethno-cultural entity. Under the law, ethnic Hungarians from Romania, Ukraine, and Serbia could enter Hungary without a visa. This aimed at maintaining cross-border ties with ethnic kin after Hungary became a member of the EU and the eastern border of the Schengen visa regime. Hungarians in neighbouring countries, except in Austria, received a Hungarian identity card that provided them with educational, cultural, health, and economic benefits on an individual basis in the kin-state. Ethnic Hungarians were also to receive educational benefits in their homelands, to promote their nation-building project. Ethnic Hungarian religious, civic, and party organizations played a key role in implementing the law.

The Status Law was designed as a framework law that would be modified by decrees after specific issues had been worked out with neighbouring governments. The law defined its purpose as ‘to comply with its responsibility for Hungarians living abroad and to promote the preservation and development of their manifold relations with Hungary, as well as to ensure that Hungarians living in neighbouring countries form part of the Hungarian nation as a whole to promote and preserve their well-being and awareness of national identity within their home country’. Although the issue of the rights of and relations to the ethnic kin divided the political camps, in 2001, the Hungarian Parliament adopted the Status Law with a parliamentary majority of over 90 per cent.10

The Status Law was an alternative to granting ethnic Hungarians ‘dual citizenship’ which was first suggested by the NGO, the World Federation of Hungarians in 1996, and formulated the wish as a political goal in 1998. Viktor Orbán’s first Fidesz government (1998–2002), however, lacked the two-thirds majority needed for adopting a law on dual citizenship. Many in Fidesz were also of the opinion that most of the Hungarian public would not approve of the granting of dual citizenship to ethnic kin. A major reason for this was the lack of knowledge and interest regarding the situation of ethnic kin after decades of silence about their existence under communism. The Hungarian public was also not adequately informed what dual citizenship would mean. These concerns determined the result of the 2004 referendum on dual citizenship (see below).

The Status Law was subjected to harsh criticism by the home states, which regarded it as an act of interference in their internal affairs. The advisory body of the Council of Europe, the Venice Commission, criticized especially those provisions of the law that were applicable on the territory of the home states. A subsequent revision of the law extended short-term unemployment benefits to all Romanian citizens.11

The World Federation of Hungarians initiated a referendum on dual citizenship to ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring countries. The referendum, which took place in December 2004, reignited the controversy over the concept of the cultural and the political nation. The question of who belongs to the nation was placed at the centre, and differences over the concept of the nation were magnified. These events shaped Hungarians’ image of themselves in Hungary and abroad for some time to come. The ruling social-liberal coalition (four governments between 2002 and 2010; in 2004, headed by Ferenc Gyurcsány) called for a boycott of the referendum and used the issue of Hungarian minorities to mobilize against the conservative opposition led by Orbán. The coalition envisioned that millions of Romanians would come to Hungary, with whom the population would have to share welfare benefits. A major concern was that with dual citizenship, ethnic Hungarians would receive non-resident voting rights which they would use to vote for the conservative camp in parliamentary elections. The Gyurcsány government (2004–2009) relied on the political concept of the nation, and stressed that ethnic Hungarians should not be granted the right to vote in parliamentary elections if they do not work and pay taxes in Hungary. The government’s campaign for boycotting the referendum was successful because the issue of Hungarian ethnic kin was low on the agenda of the Hungarian population, and fears of an ‘invasion’ were high.12

In the end, the referendum was invalid because of low turnout. Many on the conservative side and ethnic Hungarians abroad saw in the defeat of the referendum a ‘second Trianon’ for the Hungarian nation. Ethnic Hungarians abroad perceived the failure of the referendum as a rejection of the Hungarian communities abroad, and their symbolic exclusion from the Hungarian nation. They condemned the campaign conducted against dual citizenship by the left- liberal coalition government, but also blamed the indifference of the Hungarian population at large. Relations between the Hungarian population and the ethnic kin soured, and many pre-existing prejudices toward each other were reinforced. Orbán interpreted the rejection by the left-liberal coalition government of the idea of granting Hungarian minorities Hungarian citizenship as a betrayal of those minorities. In a speech in 2005, Orbán referred to the referendum when he said that ‘when it occasionally got the chance, the left wing attacked its own nation’. He stressed the need for a nationally oriented left wing, because ‘there is no national unity without the participation of the left wing’.13

From 2002 to 2010, the socialist-liberal governments identified themselves primarily as the representatives of those who live in Hungary.


The first law that the newly established Parliament passed in 2010 was the amendment of the Act on Hungarian Citizenship of 1993, following the election of the second Orbán government in May 2010, which paved the way for a simplified naturalization procedure.14 The introduction of dual citizenship and non-resident voting rights received much media attention, and highlighted the situation of ethnic Hungarian minorities. The problems of ethnic Hungarians were given publicity and aspects of their nation-building were presented as a tool for the survival of their community in the face of the nation-building project of the majority which sought to assimilate them.15 The new constitution, the Fundamental Law of 2011 which entered into force in 2012, defined the ethnic kin as part of the Hungarian nation and aimed to fulfil the promise of the ‘spiritual reunification of Hungarians’. The declared aim was to strengthen the ethnic identity of the kin and help them create cohesive national communities capable of governing themselves. The Fundamental Law declared that there was one Hungarian nation which included Hungarians abroad, and that the Hungarian state was responsible for their well-being. The Hungarian kin-state took up the representation of the interests of its ethnic kin who lived outside its territory by asserting that the responsibilities of the kin-state transcended territory and citizenship. It sought to monitor the condition of its ethnic kin and felt obliged to help it reach its basic aspirations, collective rights, and a form of autonomy in the region where they lived.16

The home states regarded this new kin-state policy as unnecessary interference in their internal affairs, and contended that their treatment of Hungarian minorities was exemplary. The  EU  criticized  Hungary’s  kin-state  policy for embracing the ethno-cultural conception of the nation. The Venice Commission objected that Hungary’s constitution places the Hungarian nation at the centre, instead of referring to all Hungarian citizens who live on the territory of the state, regardless of ethnic origins. Another objection was that no consensus had been reached with the opposition over the new constitution. The Commission expressed concern that the enshrinement in the constitution of the responsibility of the Hungarian state toward ethnic Hungarians across the borders could lead to a conflict of competences between the Hungarian authorities and the states where Hungarian minorities live. Another cause for concern was the mention of ‘collective rights’ which were not considered as internationally recognized.17

The Hungarian Standing Conference (Magyar Állandó Értekezlet, MÁÉRT) reconvened in 2010 after a six-year hiatus under the governments of Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsány, to serve as the most important political discussion forum for representatives of the Hungarian government, parliamentary parties, and Hungarian organizations abroad. MÁÉRT currently has four working committees: the Committee on Foreign and Legal Affairs, the Committee on Education and Culture, the Committee on Economy and Local Government, and the Diaspora Committee. Another important framework is the Forum of the Hungarian Representatives of the Carpathian Basin (Kárpát-medencei Magyar Képviselők Fóruma, KMKF), which promotes cooperation between Hungarian parliamentarians and Hungarian representatives from neighbouring countries. The government set up the Parliamentary Committee on National Cohesion, which devotes itself to promoting ties between Hungarians in the kin-state and those living abroad. The Committee began its work in January 2011 and has a subcommittee named the Autonomy Subcommittee, which is devoted to helping the autonomy aspirations of ethnic kin. The Hungarian National Assembly consults with the Hungarian–Hungarian Forums about decisions concerning the policy toward the ethnic kin. A major goal of the government was to increase dialogue with Hungarians abroad, and incorporate their views into its decision-making process. Here, institutionalized forums between the Hungarian government and representatives of Hungarian communities play a key role.18

A new government structure was set up, which aimed to create the conditions for carrying out the strategic goals of the government in kin-state policy. The aim was to create the necessary institutional framework to ensure that the policy toward the ethnic kin was given consideration at the levels of decision making and execution, and was present at all levels of the public administration. Kin-state policy became part of Hungarian public administration, and public servants were trained to handle it professionally. The policies toward Hungarians abroad were coordinated by an inter-ministerial entity in which representatives from seven ministries participated. This reflected the increased political weight of the ethnic kin in government policy, and the determination that all key ministries should be involved in carrying out the policy.19

The Hungarian state initiated numerous cultural as well as economic programmes for ethnic Hungarians, and coordinated the legislative and administrative levels involved in carrying out these programmes. The strengthening of the economic role of Hungary in the Carpathian Basin is defined by the government as key to the success of its kin-state policy. The Programme of National Cooperation calls for the restoration of the ‘Carpathian Basin Economic Space’ and for transborder economic cooperation to strengthen the economic weight of Hungarians in the region. Economic development of the regions where Hungarians live has become a key part of the government’s national policy. The government has greatly increased financial aid to ethnic Hungarian communities and implemented various economic programmes in the regions where ethnic Hungarians live, with the goal of helping Hungarian minorities to stay in their home countries by improving their living conditions. New programmes were started that targeted different groups of Hungarians abroad, for example, the Western diaspora and Hungarians living scattered in their home countries. It is estimated that financial support to Hungarian communities abroad increased tenfold in 2010 compared to 2009.20


The Hungarian population has not come to terms with the loss of territory and population incurred through the consequences of the 1920 Treaty of Trianon. A major reason for the difficulty of recovering from the trauma of Trianon is that there is a ‘Hungarian question’ in the Carpathian Basin, since ethnic Hungarians still lack basic guarantees for their minority rights. Hopes that EU membership and democratic institutions could halt the process of assimilation of ethnic Hungarians had to be abandoned. According to a representative survey conducted by the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, 94 per cent of Hungarians believe the Trianon Peace Treaty imposed on the country after the First World War was ‘unjust and excessive’.21 Many important places of national heritage that served as the common remembrance of Hungarian history lie outside Hungary. It is estimated that two to three million Hungarians living outside the territory of Hungary have ancestors inside Hungary.

Until 2010, the Hungarian state did not initiate commemorations about Trianon. The first democratically elected Parliament commemorated Trianon with a minute of silence, an event which was very controversial among the opposition parties. Fidesz, a liberal party at the time, walked out of the commemoration because it objected that the House Speaker had failed to consult the parties before calling for the commemoration. After that, the civil and political organizations which remembered the anniversary of the Trianon Peace Treaty were, as a rule, stigmatized as belonging to the radical right. In recent years, an increasing number of monuments to the memory of Trianon have been inaugurated.22

In 2010, the second Orbán government attempted to come to terms with the historical loss of two thirds of the country’s territory by declaring 4 June the anniversary of the Trianon Peace Treaty, the Day of National Cohesion. Under a law enacted by the Hungarian Parliament, a national day of remembrance is to express the unity of the nation and to remember an event that was not discussed during the era of communism, and had not been officially commemorated since the democratic transformation of 1989.23

The government had a Memorial of National Unity (Nemzeti összetartozás emlékhelye) built opposite the Parliament building to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Trianon Peace Treaty on 4 June 2020. The Memorial is an underground landscape architecture that connects Alkotmány Street, Szabadság Square, and Kossuth Square. The place of the original memorial to Trianon, the famous irredentist statue with the country flag and the flower bed depicting Greater Hungary at Szabadság Square, is occupied by the huge Soviet Memorial that commemorates the ‘liberation’ of Budapest by Soviet troops in 1945. The Memorial of National Unity is 100 metres long, including a four-metre-wide ramp with a granite block at its deeper end which can be walked around. It is made of stainless steel, and of the same material that was used at Kossuth Square. A splintered granite block with an eternal flame closes the ramp, symbolizing the division of the Hungarian nation by the Trianon Treaty of 1920. On both sides of the ramp, the names of historical Hungary’s 12,000 municipalities are engraved. The names are taken from the registry of 1913, and include not only towns and villages lost through the Trianon Treaty but also those that remained in Hungary. This was meant to symbolize national cohesion among Hungarians. Some historians and most members of the opposition saw in the memorial an attempt by the government to whip up national sentiments and support for its nationalist policy. Some social scientists identified the need to construct new social discourses and to control collective memories as the main motivation for building the memorial. The discussions surrounding the memorial brought to light still existing divisions over the assessment of the Treaty of Trianon. While for most of the population Trianon is a national tragedy, others are ambivalent or even feel that Hungary deserved the loss of its territory.24

The memory of Trianon still has a strong presence in the neighbouring countries where ethnic Hungarians live. For the home states, Trianon was a huge territorial gain, and/or the basis on which they built their national state. The suspicion that Hungary’s engagement with its ethnic kin is motivated by the desire to revise the borders is still alive in neighbouring states,25 although no major Hungarian party has supported the idea of revising the borders since Hungary regained its sovereignty following the democratic transformation. All Hungarian governments have also made clear that they seek to ‘virtualize’ the borders through integration into the EU.

Ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring countries view Trianon from yet another perspective. For them Trianon entailed not only the loss of territories, but it also meant their conversion into minorities in their homeland, and put them at the mercy of the majority that sought to assimilate them. After the fall of communism, there were expectations of emancipation through the kin-state from the condition of being in a minority status. T-shirts with the sign ‘I’m Hungarian and not a tourist’ sent the signal that ethnic Hungarians would like to have the same rights as Hungarians in the kin-state.26


The attempt to unify the nation across the borders through dual citizenship has been described as an expression of ‘trans-sovereign nationalism’ or ‘transnational nationalism’.27 Transsovereign nation-building received a boost through the wave of democratization in Central and Eastern European countries in the 1990s, as well as through European integration and globalization. In the case of ‘transnational nationalism’, it is not economic factors or pragmatic considerations that have played the key role, but the goal of reinventing the nation and using transnational developments to convey nationalist discourses.28

Dual citizenship involves parallel and often conflicting processes of nation-building. The Hungarian kin-state used dual citizenship to help ethnic Hungarians retain their ethnic identity, and went against the policy of assimilation pursued by the home state. This was bound to invoke criticism from the home states even if they had similar legislation for their own ethnic kin. A common reproach was that Hungary did not negotiate over the laws with the governments of the countries where ethnic Hungarians live, even though this directly affected their citizens. Compared to the Status Law of 2001, however, the reaction of the home countries to dual citizenship was far more subdued. Slovakia forbade dual citizenship in response to Hungarian dual citizenship. The other home states, however, raised no official objections to the citizenship law because they had ethnic kin across the borders and their own dual citizenship legislation.

Hungarian opposition parties are concerned that the non-resident votes from abroad will influence domestic electoral outcomes and tilt the election results toward Fidesz. Indeed, in the 2014 and 2018 parliamentary elections ethnic Hungarians with dual citizenship voted overwhelmingly for Fidesz. Under the election law, however, only one or two seats could be won through non-resident votes, depending on the number of voters participating, which could only make a difference if the results are tight. Voting rights clearly give the ethnic kin a greater opportunity to influence the policy of the kin-state toward the countries where they live, and to present the needs of their communities. Interest in the situation of the ethnic kin increased as Hungarian politicians came to regard ethnic Hungarians as voters and began to pay attention to matters affecting their lives directly or indirectly. The issue of non-resident votes has become part of the political competition between Hungarian parties. The opposition has continued to argue that external voters have an unduly large influence over the outcome of the elections, even though they do not live in Hungary and do not carry the political consequences of their votes. This resonates with voters, since surveys show that most of the Hungarian population rejects non-residential voting rights.29


By 2020, over 1.1 million ethnic Hungarians outside Hungary received Hungarian citizenship. Most ethnic Hungarians welcomed the institutionalization of relations through citizenship and voting rights, which they considered a form of restitution of the rights they had lost through the Trianon Treaty. They regarded it as an attempt of the kin-state to compensate for past injustices, and for the ethnic kin’s disadvantaged position in the home states. Many ethnic Hungarians also deemed the granting of dual citizenship as the healing of wounds inflicted in 2004, when the Hungarian referendum on dual citizenship failed.

Several field studies and surveys found that most ethnic Hungarians opted for dual citizenship because they felt that it expressed that they were part of the Hungarian nation and strengthened their Hungarian identity. Surveys among ethnic Hungarian dual citizens have revealed that citizenship is not only a status but an important benchmark of identity. Dual citizenship symbolically and emotionally reinforced the ethnic identity of Hungarians outside Hungary. The case of ethnic Hungarian dual citizens called attention to the role of ethnic identity in acquiring citizenship which has for a long time been neglected by Western scholars who focused on citizenship as a means of integrating migrants.30

A major question debated in Hungary is how the institutionalization of relations through dual citizenship can promote the goal of ensuring the reproduction of the ethnic identity of Hungarian co-nationals in their homelands. For ethnic Hungarians who live in countries which are not EU members, the Hungarian passport has often provided a gateway not only to Hungary but also to the West, and encouraged them to leave their homelands. The question of how dual citizenship influences the relationship of ethnic Hungarians to their homeland has been a subject of heated debates among Hungarian experts. Commentators warn that dual citizenship and increased financial aid make ethnic Hungarians too dependent on the kin-state and weaken their ability to make demands of the home state. Surveys show, however, that while ethnic Hungarians regard themselves as part of the Hungarian nation, they have a strong sense of local identity, and perceive themselves as being different from Hungarians in Hungary. By the same token, Hungarians in the kin-state also differentiate between themselves and ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring countries. These differences are likely to prevent ethnic Hungarians from becoming too dependent on the kin-state, allowing them to maintain their ability to make demands of the home state. They also allow ethnic Hungarians to maintain the degree of independence needed to continue building their parallel societies in their homelands.31

Autonomy, self-government in key areas such as education, and the use of the mother tongue in public administration are seen by all Hungarian minority communities as the bases of their survival as an ethnic community. Scholars discuss the question whether dual citizenship would weaken claims for autonomy. Many experts agree that dual citizenship is unlikely in the foreseeable future to influence the achievement of autonomy. In countries with large Hungarian populations the majority refuses to even discuss the topic of autonomy because it fears that autonomy would generate minority separatism.32


In the past ten years, the Fidesz government used the adoption of dual citizenship and voting rights as the basis for the unification of the nation across the borders. This policy influenced the lives of Hungarians inside and outside Hungary. Hungarians in neighbouring countries have been strengthened in their ethnic identity, and can rely on the support of the kin-state more than at any other time since Trianon. Studies and opinion polls show that Hungarians increasingly see ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring countries as part of the Hungarian nation, and most of them approve of granting them dual citizenship. However, the question of who belongs to the Hungarian nation continues to divide the political camps. Frequent clashes between the government and the opposition over conflicting national concepts expose the Hungarian population to rival national discourses. Consensus over kin-state policy is, however, urgently needed to ensure that the institutional structure put in place outlives possible changes of government.

Ethnic Hungarian elites will have to balance between the kin-state and the home state as they seek to formulate claims to maintain their distinct political communities. Financial aid from the  kin-state  will  not  be  able  to  replace the funding of minority institutions by the home state in large Hungarian communities in Romania and Slovakia. The use of the mother tongue in public and local administration is, for example, a claim that must be directly addressed to the home state.

Hungary’s adoption of the ethno-cultural nation concept drew criticism from the EU, as it went against the dominant post-national discourses and the EU’s migration policy. The current emphasis on individual and human rights further reduces the prospect of EU support for the collective rights that ethnic minorities need to preserve their ethnic identity. Under such circumstances, the establishment of strong civil societies that draw strength from past traditions is more important for the survival of Hungarian communities than ever. The example of Székelyföld (Szeklerland) in Transylvania, Romania, demonstrates that civil engagement which promotes regional symbols and keeps the vision of autonomy alive can enhance the social cohesion and ensure the survival of Hungarian communities.

1 Szabolcs Pogonyi, ‘Transborder Kin-minority as Symbolic Resource in Hungary’, Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe, 14/3 (2015), 73–98; Karl Cordell, in Karl Cordell and Konrad Jajecznik, eds, The Transformation of Nationalism in Central and Eastern Europe. Ideas and Structures (Warsaw: University of Warsaw, 2015), 17–34.

2  Roger Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996); David J. Smith, ‘Framing the National Question in Central and Eastern Europe: A Quadratic Nexus?’, Global Review of Ethnopolitics, 2/1 (2002), 3–16, doi:10.1080/14718800208405119; László Marácz, ‘Transnationalizing Ethno-linguistic Hungarian Minorities in the Carpathian Region: Going Beyond Brubaker et al. (2006)’, Erdélyi Társadalom, 13/3 (2015), doi: 10.17177/77171.167.

3 Nándor Bárdi, ‘Different Images of the Future of the Hungarian Communities in Neighbouring Countries, 1989–2012’, European Review, 21/4 (2013), 530–552; Nándor Bárdi, ‘Észrevételek’ (Comments), REGIO, 26/2 (2018), 148–164.

4  John McGarry, Brendon O’Leary and Robert Simeon, ‘Integration or Accommodation? The Enduring Debate in Conflict Regulation’, in S. Choudhry, ed., Constitutional Design for Divided Societies: Integration or Accommodation? (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008), 41–88; István Gergő Székely, ‘Dynamics of Party Politics, Electoral Competition and Cooperation within the Hungarian Minorities of Romania, Serbia, and Slovakia’, Phd Thesis (Budapest: Central European University, 30 April 2014).

5 Kirsten Porter, ‘The Realisation of National Minority Rights’, Maquarie Law Journal 51, MqLawJl (2003),

6 Timofey Agarin and Karl Cordell, Minority Rights and Minority Protection in Europe (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016), 62.

7 Claus Leggewie, ‘Transnational Citizenship Ideals and European Realities’, Eurozine (3 April 2013),

8 Zoltán Kántor, Anemzet intézményesítése a rendszerváltás utáni Magyarországon (The Institutionalization of the Nation after the Change of Regime in Hungary), (Budapest: Osiris Kiadó, 2014).

9 Csaba Lőrincz, ‘Nemzeti érdekek érvényesítése Magyarország csatlakozása során az euró-atlanti államok közösségéhez’ (The Realization of National Interests in the Process of Hungary’s Joining the Community of Euro-Atlantic States), in Zoltán Kántor, ed., A státustörvény: dokumentumok, tanulmányok,  publicisztika  (Status  Law:  Documents,  Studies,  Publications),  (Budapest:  Teleki László Alapítvány, 2002), 185–206; Nándor Bárdi, ‘The History of Relations Between Hungarian Governments and Ethnic Hungarians Living Beyond the Borders of Hungary’, in Zoltán Kántor et al., eds, The Hungarian Status Law: Nation Building and/or Minority Protection (Sapporo: Hokkaido University Slavic Eurasian Studies 4, 2004), 58–84.

10  ‘Hungarian Act LXII of 2001 on Hungarians Living in Neighbouring Countries’, adopted 19 June 2001 by the Hungarian Parliament. Hungarian Act LXII of 2001 on Hungarians Living in Neighbouring Countries (amended on 23 June 2003).

11 The Venice Commission adopted its ‘Report on the Preferential Treatment of National Minorities

by Their Kin-State’ on 19 October 2001; European Commission on Democracy through Law, ‘Report on the Preferential Treatment of National Minorities by Their Kin-State’.

12  Zoltán Kántor, ‘The Concept of Nation in the Central and East European “Status Laws”’, in Zoltán Kántor et al., eds, The Hungarian Status Law: Nation Building and/or Minority Protection, 37–51.

13 See Viktor Orbán’s almost complete speech at Tusnádfürdő in Válasz (24 July 2005), http://www., quoted in Edith Oltay, Fidesz and the Reinvention of the Hungarian Centre-Right (Budapest: Századvég, 2013), 53.

14 on_Hungarian_Citizenship.pdf.

15 Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed; Kántor, A nemzet intézményesítése; Bárdi, ‘Észrevételek’ (Comments).

16 The Fundamental Law of Hungary:

17 Opinion on the New Constitution of Hungary, European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), 17–18 June 2011.

18   Zoltán  Kántor,  ‘Nemzetpolitika  és  állampolgárság’  (National  Policy  and  Citizenship),  Pro Minoritate (Winter 2015), 36–48.

19 Kántor, ‘Nemzetpolitika és állampolgárság’.

20 Nándor Bárdi, ‘Álságos állítások a magyar etnopolitikában. A külhoni magyarok és a budapesti kormányzatok magyarságpolitikája’ (Hypocrytical Statements in Hungarian Ethnic Policy. Hungarians Abroad and the Policy of Budapest Governments toward Ethnic Hungarians), in András Jakab and László Urbán, eds, Hegymenet (Ascent), (Budapest: Osiris 2017), 130–155.

21;  https://

22 Péter György, Állatkert Kolozsváron – Képzelt Erdély (Zoo in Kolozsvár—Imagined Transylvania), (Budapest: Magvető, 2013), 193.

23 A nemzeti összetartozás melletti tanúságtételről szóló 2010. évi XLV. törvény (Act No. 45 of 2010 on the Testimony for National Cohesion).

24 Gábor Czene, ‘Trianon ma is megoszt’ (Trianon Divides Even Today), Népszava (4 March 2020),; Gábor Gyáni, ‘The Memory of Trianon as a Political Instrument in Hungary Today’, in Alexei Miller and Maria Lipman, eds, The Convolutions of Historical Politics (Budapest: Central European University Press, 2012), 91–115; Margit Feischmidt, ‘Memory-Politics and Neonationalism: Trianon as Mythomoteur’, Nationalities Papers (17 February 2020), 130–143.

25  Rogers Brubaker, Margit Feischmidt, Jon Fox, Nationalist Politics and Everyday Ethnicity in a

Transylvanian Town (Princeton: University Press, 2008), 346–347, 349, 379.

26 Bárdi, ‘Észrevételek’ (Comments).

27 Zsuzsa Csergő and James M. Goldgeier, ‘Nationalist Strategies and European Integration’, Perspectives on Politics, 2/1 (March 2004), 21–37 ; Szabolcs Pogonyi, ‘Four Patterns of Non-resident Voting Rights’, Ethnopolitics, 13/2 (2014), 122–140.

28  Pogonyi, ‘Four Patterns of Non-resident Voting Rights’; Gergely Egedy ‘Conservatism and Nation Models in Hungary’, Hungarian Review (May 2013),

29  ‘New Survey Shows that Majority of Hungarians Oppose Voting Rights for Non-Residents’,

Hungary Today (11 January 2018), opposes-without-address-hungary-can-vote-51859/.

30  Szabolcs Pogonyi, Extraterritorial Ethnic Politics, Discourses, and Identities in Hungary (Palgrave Macmillan, Palgrave Studies in Citizenship Transitions, 2017).

31 Attila Z. Papp, ‘Kisebbségi identitáskonstrukciók a kettős magyar állampolgárság által’ (Hungarian Identity Constructions through Dual Hungarian Citizenship), REGIO, 22/1 (2014), 118–155.

32 Tamás Kiss, ‘Unrelieved Ethnic Hegemony but Increasing Transnationalism? Romanian Public Perceptions of Transylvanian Hungarian Ethno-political Claims and Hungarian Kin-State Policies’, in Tom Lantos Institute Yearbook (2016), 25.

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