Europe's ethnic Hungarians keen for motherland's passport
(SUBOTICA) - Hungarian consulates across Europe have their hands full after Budapest passed a law granting citizenship to its diaspora, prompting long queues of applicants eager to get back to their roots.
Lazlo Keneyeres, an ethnic Hungarian residing in Serbia, will have to wait until November to request Hungarian nationality due to an overwhelming number of applicants like himself.
In February the Hungarian government passed measures allowing dual citizenship for ethnic Hungarians living abroad permanently.
"I decided to do this primarily for sentimental reasons. After all, I am Hungarian," Keneyeres, 30, told AFP, adding his decision was motivated by a love for his roots that were represented by his grandparents.
In Romania, resident Hajdu Gabor also said he had applied for a Hungarian passport for symbolic reasons, although he has no intention of leaving the country.
"We want to live here, but there are cultural links with Hungary," said Gabor, who is a local representative of the Hungarian Minority Party (UDMR) in Romania.
The Hungarian consulate there said appointments were "fully booked" until 2012 due to a "very lively interest" in the country, home to 1.4 million ethnic Hungarians.
The dual-nationality law may be the natural consequence of eastern and central Europe's often fractious history that drew and re-drew borders, changed names and state structures.
Many people in the Balkans and central Europe have ancestors rooted in Hungary because they belonged to the Austro-Hungarian empire, which lasted from 1867 to 1918.
During its heyday the empire controlled the present-day territories of Austria, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, as well as parts of Poland, Romania, Italy, Slovenia, and the former Yugoslav republics.
The new legislation affects some 3.5 million ethnic Hungarians living in neighbouring countries, mostly Romania and Slovakia, but also in the northern Serbian province of Vojvodina, home to some 300,000 ethnic Hungarians.
Ethnic Hungarians are also seeking their motherland's passport for practical reasons: it offers an escape route and frees up the European Union labour market.
"The Hungarian passport will be a security valve if there is a need for me to leave the country for any reason," Keneyeres said, referring to the series of bloody wars in the 1990s that tore apart the former Yugoslavia.
Ladislav Milic, another applicant, agreed: "We have seen everything in the former Yugoslavia, with all these wars," saying that a second passport guaranteed he could flee the country if necessary.
Romania and Bulgaria are both EU member states, but the regional bloc has imposed certain restrictions on its workers seeking employment in other countries. With a Hungarian passport, those regulations do not apply.
A Dutch human resources company, Exotic Green, said it is counting on sending a number of fruit pickers from Romania to The Netherlands, thanks to their dual passports.
The Hungarian legislation was approved by Serbia and Romania, but provoked a backlash in Slovakia, where some government officials considered it a threat to the country's national unity.
Text and Picture Copyright 2011 AFP. All other Copyright 2011 EUbusiness Ltd. All rights reserved. This material is intended solely for personal use. Any other reproduction, publication or redistribution of this material without the written agreement of the copyright owner is strictly forbidden and any breach of copyright will be considered actionable.