This sort of thing is why I have trouble taking Stratfor seriously.
Short version: the new, center-right Hungarian government is reviving the plan to offer Hungarian citizenship and passports to ethnic Hungarians living outside Hungary. (There are a couple of million of them. Most live in Hungary’s neighbors Romania, Slovakia and Serbia, with smaller numbers in Croatia and Ukraine.) Stratfor sees this as “an insurance policy â€” a way of broadening [Hungary’s] power and securing itself should its protectors, the European Union and NATO, weaken.”
What the hell?
First off, the article never once mentions Hungary’s internal politics. Yet internal politics — not a perceived need for “an insurance policy” — are what’s driving this. Like many center-right parties, Fidesz tries to position itself as the party of true, red-blooded patriotism (in contrast to the cosmopolitan, vaguely internationalist center-left). This proposal is red meat for the party’s base. It’s also an effort to expand that base, since Hungarian passport holders will of course be able to vote in Hungarian elections — and (Fidesz assumes) will tend to vote for the nationalist party that gave them dual citizenship. And finally, it’s a flanking move against Hungary’s other right-wing party, the ultra-nationalist, xenophobic, openly racist Jobbik. The Socialists and Greens got smashed so badly in the last election that they’re not a serious threat to Fidesz; Jobbik, on the other hand, competes directly for many of the same rural voters. So a nice high-profile “patriotic” initiative like this is an excellent way for Fidesz to burnish its nationalist credentials. These — not strategic concerns — are the motivating factors behind the proposal.
Second,the writer manages to miss the fact that this exact same proposal was put to a national referendum in Hungary in 2004. (It failed.)
Third, even the proposal’s most ardent supporters don’t claim it will “broaden Hungary’s power”. Everyone recognizes that this will harm Hungary’s relations with its neighbors without offering any gain to Hungary whatsoever. (Supporters claim the harm will be minimal. They may be right! But that’s not the same thing as “no harm”. It’s going to be a net negative.)
If you look at a map of where Hungarians live, it’s a big splash across Central Europe — there are Hungarians scattered from the Adriatic nearly to the Black Sea. (The original Stratfor article contains just such a map. But it’s behind a paywall because, you know, Stratfor needs to pay its highly trained analysts for this stuff.) But if you look at a map of where Hungarians are a majority, that’s a very different map indeed. Basically it’s Hungary plus a very few small enclaves, most of which are geographically separate from Hungary itself. The single biggest piece would be a few thousand square kilometers of Szekeley Land in Transylvania — a poor, mountainous region smack dab in the middle of Romania, a couple of hundred km away from Hungary, and separated from it by a broad belt of Romanian-majority counties. The article suggests that Hungary wants “traditional buffers” against geopolitical insecurity, but these little regions are much too small and geographically diffuse to serve that role. In a hypothetical conflict between Hungary and Romania, the Szeklers and other Hungarians of Transylvania wouldn’t be a strategic asset to Hungary — they’d simply be victims.
The article does note that the opposition to this among Hungary’s neighbors is hypocritical, since they’ve been handing out passports like party favors for years now — Serbia and Croatia to Bosnian Serbs and Croats, Romania to ethnic Romanians in Moldova. (Bizarrely, the article says Romania is doing this “in an effort to wrest Moldova from Russiaâ€™s control”. Again, what the hell?)
This is true, and at the end of the day it’s probably why not much will come of this even if the proposal passes: the countries who will be most offended by it are exactly the countries who are in no position to criticize it. (The interesting exception here is Slovakia. Given that Slovakia’s current government has engaged in very deliberate baiting of its Hungarian minority, the impact of this could be interesting.) That said, it’s still going to be offensive; Romania and Serbia still remember that large chunks of their countries were Hungarian before 1918, and then ruled by Hungary again during WWII. And it’s going to reinforce an ethnic-nationalist discourse of Hungarians as aliens, untrustworthy and disloyal leftovers from ancient invasions.
But at the end of the day, it’s just not going to make much difference. And it’s certainly not going to “broaden Hungary’s power” or in any way add to its security.
As for Stratfor… well, res ipsa loquitur. I will say that whenever anyone cites or links to Stratfor these days, I click through; I don’t consider it an automatically invalid source, but neither can it be called a trustworthy one.