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Hungary Adopts Citizenship Law

Hungary's new parliament has adopted a controversial law that will grant citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living in neighboring nations nearly nine decades after the country lost two-thirds of its territory. The law comes Wednesday despite a major
diplomatic row with neighboring Slovakia which has immidiately retaliated with legislation banning double citizenship.

The Hungarian new law has allowed millions of ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries to apply for Hungarian citizenship. The only conditions are that they have to prove they are of Hungarian origin and speak the language.

The vote came almost 90 years after Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory under the peace Treaty of Trianon which followed World War I. About three million ethnic Hungarians live in those lost areas, which are now part of neighboring nations such as Slovakia, Serbia, Ukraine and Romania.

The citizenship bill was an old pledge of the center-right Fidesz party which won elections in April and now holds a powerful two-thirds majority in parliament. A Fidesz-government is to be sworn in on Saturday.

Slovakia's parliament reacted immediately Wednesday with legislation which will strip ethnic Hungarians of their Slovakian citizenship if they take advantage of Hungary's offer.

The Prime Minister of Slovakia, Robert Fico, has also condemned Hungary's citizenship law, which will come into force in January. He says granting Hungarian citizenship to Slovakia's half a million ethnic Hungarians amounts to a serious security threat for his nation.

Mr. Fico says it is "egotistic and arrogant" that the legislaton is introduced without consultation with his government. He says the un-friendly policy will harm bilateral relations.

But the man who will be Foreign Minister in the new Hungarian government, Janos Martonyi, has described the Slovakian prime minister's reaction as part of a campaign for the Slovakian general elections in June.

Martonyi insists that the Hungarian legislation in no way affects Slovakian interests or its territorial integrity. He charges what he views as political hysteria ahead of the parliamentary elections.