Slovakia is seeking reconciliation with Hungary

The new Slovakian government is actively seeking to reduce tension with neighbouring Hungary after a string of diplomatic rows, Foreign Minister Mikulas Dzurinda told the German Press Agency dpa on Tuesday.

"We must look more towards the future than the past," Dzurinda, a conservative politician and former prime minister, said, less than two months after the country's new cabinet was sworn in.

Around half a million people of Hungarian descent live in Slovakia, while there are fewer than 20,000 Hungarians of Slovakian descent. Conflicts over language rights, and questions of national identity have arisen in recent years.

Dzurinda said that trust on both sides had been damaged when the new Hungarian parliament in May passed a law giving the Hungarian minority in Slovakia the right to hold dual citizenship, without consultation with Bratislava.

However the foreign minister condemned the previous centre-left Slovakian government's response - which was to pass a law automatically removing Slovakian citizenship from anyone applying for a Hungarian passport.

"We will be changing this law," he promised.

In addition, Dzurinda said that his government would now seek to reverse another measure introduced by the previous administration, which, amongst other effects, penalised local officials in the mostly southern regions where Hungarian is spoken for using the language in their communications.

"That was not a good move by Slovakia. And particularly to bring in penalties, that was very bad," he said.

Dzurinda suggests using joint projects to bring the two sides closer together.

"It's about building something that's useful for people on both sides. For example, through the fastest possible extension of the motorway connection between Miskolc and Kosice (in Hungary and Slovakia respectively). I would also support other infrastructure projects or common education and research projects," he said.

Dzurinda also slams Slovakia's rejection of Kosovo's independence declaration, saying that some feared the Balkan example could encourage the Hungarian minority in Slovakia to make secessionist demands.

"People that compare the situation in Kosovo with Slovakia are stupid, he said, adding that no one side in the region should act without consulting with its neighbours.

"Unilateral secessions of an ethnic minority go against the interests of Europe and the interests of the civilised world," he said.

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