Washington, DC – We, members of the Hungarian American Coalition, have followed with interest and concern the passionate debate generated by the upcoming national referendum to be held in Hungary on December 5. On that day voters will be asked to decide whether Parliament should adopt legislation to grant citizenship with modified requirements to those Hungarians who live outside the borders of Hungary.
Many European nations, including France, Germany, Ireland and Spain have granted citizenship to their co-nationals living outside their country. Among Hungary’s immediate neighbors, Romania and Croatia also have a large number of citizens living beyond their political boundaries. Each of these countries has been able to structure a fair and equitable system of social benefits for resident and non-resident citizens alike.
A “yes” vote in Hungary on December 5th would only be the first step in the process, as it would empower the Parliament to enact legislation specifying benefits and defining requirements for granting citizenship to Hungarians living abroad. Parliament must then pass the law with the modified requirements for citizenship with a two-thirds majority.
Since 1920, the borders of the Hungarian nation of 15 million have not coincided with the borders of the Hungarian state, having a population of 10 million. Thus, the relationship of Hungarian co-nationals to Hungary has long been a question of national strategy that needed to be resolved. As a country, it is often said, Hungary is surrounded by itself, since over three million ethnic Hungarians involuntarily found themselves citizens of a foreign country when Hungary’s borders were drastically redrawn. For thousands of Hungarians who have lived as second-class citizens and have suffered discrimination as members of a historic national minority, regaining their Hungarian citizenship means both the formal declaration of their ethnic belonging and, at long last, the partial redress of historical injustices.
Many of us Hungarian Americans who were constrained to flee our homeland were declared non-citizens by the communist government of Hungary. Our pride in our ethnic identity, however, never diminished, and during the past 15 years we have been able to return to Hungary whenever we wished and, quite a few of us have regained our lost Hungarian citizenship.
That is why we hope Hungarian voters will turn out in large numbers on December 5th, and vote “yes,” urging the Hungarian Parliament to create a fair and generous law to return the right of citizenship unjustly denied to Hungarians. We are certain that both the country and the nation of Hungary will be the richer for it.