To historian in Le Monde: Excuse my French, but that’s baloney

The key to a peaceful Europe, as the founding fathers have realized, is that ethnic minorities of Europe are respected and their fundamental rights protected. Those who dismiss the rights of Europe’s ethnic minorities risk fueling a trend that has caused Europe some of its worst nightmares and terrible armed conflicts.

A recent edition of the French daily Le Monde featured an interview with historian Georges-Henri Soutou on ethnic minorities, and the prominent historian does just that – speaks of ethnic minorities in a way that we believed was long gone with the first half of the 20th century.

Monsieur Soutou claims that Hungary’s decision to grant citizenship rights to ‘every Hungarian minority in every neighboring state’ is a ‘grave decision and seems to be a legal violation of the European system.’

Excuse my French, but that’s baloney.

Hungary has introduced a system that makes it easier for ethnic Hungarians to apply for Hungarian citizenship. It is not automatically granted, as Mr. Soutou suggests, the person still has to apply. It does not only affect Hungarians in the neighboring countries but all over the world. If Mr. Soutou proves to have Hungarian ancestry and wishes to become a dual citizen, he can apply just as well.

That is not, of course, in violation of any law in Europe. In fact, many countries all over the world have similar regulations, including those in circumstances similar to Hungary.

What are those circumstances? As a result of the wars and tumult of the 20th century, millions of Hungarians were deprived of their citizenship, faced ethnic cleansing and were oppressed culturally and ethnically. Many had to leave their places of birth and seek safety somewhere else. We are talking about approximately one third of Hungarians. Today’s population of Hungary is less than ten million, but the Hungarian nation numbers some 15 million.

It’s quite common when a nation has a large, ethnic diaspora community living outside the borders of the mother country, the state will take measures to make it easier for members of the diaspora to reconnect with the mother country, if they wish to do so.

Let me take it a step further.

In Hungary, we have many people with dual citizenship. People, who are living in Hungary, but ethnically connect to another heritage as well. Why? Because that’s Europe. France, I can assure you, also plays host to many dual nationals.

I understand that the French think of nationality differently, but that view is not shared by everyone in Europe. Today, ethnic and legal identities are sometimes two different things, and these days, a modern country should be able to respect that, particularly if we do not want to repeat the same mistakes of the past when these identities were not respected.

Suggesting there’s something wrong about dual citizenship, when people requesting the citizenship of the country of their heritage, is simply backwards thinking. It’s irresponsible of a prominent historian to do so.