The Irish Times view on Hungary’s hankering
Treaty of Trianon
The reversal of the treaty is the cornerstone of prime minister Viktor Orbán’s far-right narrative, a hankering for a return to a ‘Greater Hungary’ which has alarmed neighbours. Photograph: EPA
Church bells rang out across Hungary last Thursday. Citizens stopped work, stood, and bowed heads for a minute’s silence. There was a parliamentary debate, new films, a new monument, meetings, and leaders’ national TV addresses.
Commemoration, not celebration. One hundred years ago the Treaty of Trianon was signed by the victors of the first World War, reordering what was left of the Austro-Hungarian empire. As Versailles was to Germany, the treaty of Trianon is known in Hungary as the békediktátum, or “dictated peace,” a grave “historical injustice”.
Millions of ethnic Hungarians would find themselves part of what are now Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia and Ukraine. The reversal of the treaty is the cornerstone of prime minister Viktor Orbán’s far-right narrative, a hankering for a return to a “Greater Hungary” which has alarmed neighbours. And which undermines a pillar of EU membership, a promise by acceding countries to accept the permanence of each others’ borders as they find them, like it or not.
Orbán has acknowledged that any moves to realise such ambitions by military annexation are inconceivable. In December he said a secession from Romania of Transylvania – another region lost at Trianon – was unrealistic. All he is interested in, Orbán insists, is to establish Hungarian leadership in building a new Central Europe.
That, cynics say, and the consolidation of his own power base by offering state funds and citizenship to Hungarians who live abroad. Since 2010 one million have signed up, and in the 2014 elections 95 per cent of these new citizens in Romania and Serbia then cast their votes for Orbán’s Fidesz party. The uptake was limited in Ukraine and Slovakia, where dual citizenship is prohibited, but because citizenship is a national prerogative those that do sign up are also automatically entitled to the full rights of EU citizens.
Trianon may have been an injustice, but the nationalist conceit that history can simply be rewritten or erased is a poison to the body politic. One that the EU was precisely created to lance.