2009 ban of the Hungarian President from Slovakia

Hungarian president László Sólyom was not allowed [1] to step on Slovak soil on August 21, 2009, as he was about to await the unveiling of a statue of St. Stephen , the first king of Hungary (1000-1038), in Komárno , Slovakia ( Hungarian : Révkomárom ), where the Hungarian Hungarians form the majority of the population.

László Sólyom is seen at right during a 2006 joint press conference with the Russian Federation president Vladimir Putin.

The only official reason given for the denial was that the Hungarian president’s visit might have been made to a security risk. Slovak prime minister Robert Fico had claimed that the police would be unable to prevent the Slovak extremist groups from disturbing the ceremony.

In the two days preceding the visit, Slovakia

  • The ceremony might suggest a Hungarian sovereignty over Slovak soil.
  • Slovakia was informed late about the visit.
  • The date of the visit fell after the Hungarian national commemorating St. Stephen and coincided with the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia .
  • Slovak leaders were not invited, nor did the president have plans to meet with them.
The square in Komárno where the life-size bronze statue of St. Stephen on horseback has been erected, photographed in 2007.

Declaring the Hungarian head of state an unwelcome person (Essentially persona non grata , ALTHOUGH this term Was not used) created additional diplomatic conflict in already tense Hungary-Slovakia relationship .

Purpose of the planned visit

László Sólyom was invited [2] by a civic association, Szent István Szobor Bizottság („St. Stephen Statue Committee“), to a unveiling ceremony in Komárno , Slovakia ( Hungarian : Révkomárom ).

Both the Catholic and the Orthodox Churches look at King Stephen as a saint for his role in converting the peoples of his kingdom to Christianity . Pope Gregory VII canonized him, his son and a bishop; August 20, 1083, the day of the canonization, is a public holiday in Hungary, considered as the foundation of Hungarian statehood. In his Admonitions to his son, he declared, as quoted in the planned speech of Sólyom for the unveiling:

[A] kingdom with only one language and one custom is weak and frail.

-  Stephen of Hungary.

The Komárno statue was unveiled on the day after this anniversary, which is, on August 21, 2009.

The erection of the statue Itself Was Criticized in February 2009 by the extremist and nationalist Slovak National Party (SNS), [2] one of the parts in Slovakia’s governing coalition, Because The town HAD not Erected statues of Saints Cyril and Methodius , two Byzantine Greek missionaries among the Slavic peoples of Great Moravia and Pannonia . The statue consequently Was Placed only on the balcony of the Matica Slovenská , a cultural and scientific institution is focusing Slovakia-related topics. [3]

Objections of Slovakia against the visit

Security risk

Robert Fico , Prime Minister of Slovakia .

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said on August 19 that he could not prevent Sólyom from entering the country and feel a letter to the Hungarian embassy warning of potential security risks, saying that his direction – Social Democracy party government would not prevent extremists of the Slovenská nationalist pospolitosť (Slovak Brotherhood) from going there to demonstrate. [4]

„We will not check the Slovak Republic and we will not know if we will try to use the visit of the president in Komárno in some sensitive issues.“

-  Robert Fico

According to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary, there were no real security risks involved with the ceremony: [5]

[T] here was only a small number of protesters at the location of the ceremony, which the Slovak police were – by the usual means of the police – able to keep under control.

-  Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary


Hungarian Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai stated that the planned visit had nothing to do with the 1968 events.

Two days before the planned visit, the „diplomatic provocation“ because of the August 21 date, the date was chosen by the mayor of Komárno, not by Sólyom. August 21 is the anniversary of the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia led by the Soviet Union after 1968 Prague Spring . Being a Warsaw Pact State, the People’s Republic of Hungary also feels in Slovakia; Poland and Bulgaria also took part in the Soviet putsch.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico compared László Sólyom to the Czechoslovakia invading soldiers: „In 1968 Hungarian tanks were coming to Slovakia.“ Now it’s someone in a fancy limousine. “ [6]

Hungarian prime minister Bajnai telephoned his Slovak counterpart on the phone to reassure him that he was visited by the 1968 events and reminding him that in 2008, the 40th anniversary of the Prague Spring, Sólyom had made a speech officially expressing his regret at the 1968 invasion. [7]

„I feel necessary – as the head of state and democratic republic of Hungary – to express my deep regret for the peoples of then-Czechoslovakia, that the Hungarian troops took part in the oppression in 1968. Can we even conceive what happened , twelve years after the Soviet Army attacked Hungary to crush its revolution in a war of bloodshed? The Kádár-system [„the communist era in Hungary“] had driven Hungary into a situation where we attacked a country that wanted greater freedom. “

-  László Sólyom on 21 August 2008 in front of a Budapest museum

However some in the Slovak press questioned if Fico were truly troubled by the date; the Slovak paper SME wrote:


„Can anyone take it seriously that our successors of communism [ie, the governing coalition] by the one [ Fico ] who did not notice November 17 [date of the 1989 Velvet revolution ], are troubled by the date marking the beginning of “ normalization „, which jump-started their career? „

Late notification

On June 19, 2009, Sólyom had notified Peter Weiss, Slovakia’s ambassador to Hungary, of the planned visit, considered the „highest level of official notification“ in diplomacy. [9] Sólyom’s office stated that Slovakia had mentioned no objections to the trip until the week of the planned visit .: [10]

„There were no indications of any objections against the ceremony, its date or any other circumstance around the presence of László Sólyom until the press releases of August 19.“

-  Message from the Office of the President of the Republic of Hungary

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico called Expired this statement a lie, claiming only Informed That Hungary Slovakia on August 13. [11] Foreign Minister of Hungary, Péter Balázs retorted que le named date August 13, Was the start of the technical preparations and not the notification, which had happened on June 19.

Stressing Hungarian statehood in Inappropriate Circumstances

Ivan Gašparovič , President of the Slovak Republic, said Sólyom „likes to prowl around“ in areas of the Hungarian Kingdom that do not belong to present-day Hungary.

The three main leaders of Slovakia Ivan Gašparovič (President of the Republic), Robert Fico (Prime Minister) and Pavol Paska (Chairman of the Parliament) stated in their statement that the visit is a „deliberate provocation against Slovakia“.

„The president, the chairman of parliament and the prime minister of Slovakia have condemned the circumstances in which the Hungarian president has to stress Hungarian statehood on sovereign Slovak soil.“

-  Robert Fico, Slovak Prime Minister

„He will want to show: it is an area where ‚we‘ [ meaning the Hungarians ] are the Lords and ‚we‘ will decide about our things. What Hungary – especially through their president – “

-  Robert Fico

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary noted: [5]

Hungary respects the sovereignty and territorial integrity of other countries. It is important to have an unobstructed contact with each other’s minorities. Hungary sees with the Slovak step, the freedom of speech , one of the fundamental political rights, has also been violated.

-  Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Hungary on August 24, 2009

No plans of meeting Slovak leaders

Slovaks have criticized Sólyom for not inviting Slovak leaders to the ceremony or meeting them somewhere else, even though Sólyom was not the organizer of the ceremony, as it was organized by the town of Komárno. Previously, the Slovak diplomacy informed the Hungarian diplomacy that Ivan Gašparovič Slovak Head of State will be on the day of the visit. Gašparovič said earlier that he would only accept any invitations if the town also erects statues about Saints Cyril and Methodius . [12] Neither Gašparovič nor Fico distanced themselves from government party leader Ján Slota for his earlier comments disparaging Saint Stephen, the king portrayed by the Komárno staue, as a „clown on a horse“. Fico made further attacks [quote needed ]on Saint Stephen and also said Slovaks should not consider him as their king.

Timeline of events

June 19

On June 19, László Sólyom puts the new ambassador of Slovakia to Hungary, Peter Weiss. Sólyom informed Weiss about the planned ceremony.

August 13

On August 13, the bilateral technical preparations to the ceremony.

August 19

Two days before the planned visit, on August 19, the committee of foreign affairs of the Slovak Parliament called the trip to diplomatic provocation because of the date August 21, anniversary of the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia .

Ivan Gašparovič , President of the Slovak Republic called the „inconsiderate decision“, stating that he is not surprised because he knows how to do things in the area of ​​pre-1920 Kingdom of Hungary .

Back then, Fico said they can not and will not [13] prevent Sólyom from entering the country.

August 20

Miroslav Lajčák , Slovak Minister of Foreign Affairs said Slovak-Hungarian relations have already been harmed by the issue.

On August 20, Miroslav Lajčák , Minister of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia, officially informed Antal Heizer , ambassador of Hungary in Bratislava that László Sólyom is not recommended to cross the border on the next day. He also called Péter Balázs , Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs on the phone about the issue.

„We have reasons to think that this visit will harm the Slovak-Hungarian relations. If László Sólyom would not like this to happen, then the visit will take place. “

-  Miroslav Lajcak, Slovak Minister of Foreign Affairs

August 21

The Elizabeth Bridge connecting Komárom , Hungary with Komárno , Slovakia. The bridge where President Sólyom planned to cross the border.

On Friday, August 21, Ivan Gašparovič , President of the Slovak Republic asked László Sólyom to think about the visit.

„I’d be glad if he [ Sólyom ] took this message very seriously.“

-  Ivan Gašparovič, President of the Slovak Republic

He said in spite of the message, Sólyom decides to visit the unveiling, Slovak authorities must do everything to protect him.

László Sólyom feels a message to Gašparovič in which he pointed out that he is unveiling the statue. He wrote in the message that he was informed about the time. He also made clear that he expressed his regret over the aggression against Czechoslovakia in a public speech on the 40th anniversary in 2008.

Denial of entry

Prime Minister Robert Fico announced in the afternoon, hours before the unveiling that Sólyom will be allowed to enter the territory of Slovakia. The document stating this was sent to the Hungarian embassy in Bratislava.

„The private trip, with a preparatory public speech, is considered a provocation, and, in such circumstances, the Hungarian president is an unwelcome person in Slovakia on August 21.“ [14]

-  Robert Fico

Fico also told the press that they would consider it a serious provocation if he still enters Slovakia. Miroslav Lajčák , Slovak Minister of Foreign Affairs said the relations of Hungary and Slovakia have been harmed by this issue.

On the border Ján Packa, executive of the police of Slovakia . [15]

President Sólyom did not enter Slovakia, after the embassy received a document [16] stating that Sólyom is refused entry into Slovakia:

„[…] in consideration of the risk to security, the responsible bodies of the Slovak Republic, under Directive 2004/38 / EC dated 29 April of the European Parliament and the European Council [17] and Act 48/2002 Zz of the National Council of the Slovak Republic on the presence of foreigners and their further specifications, and the Act 171/1993 of the National Council of the Slovak Republic on the Police Force and its further specifications, the admission to the territory of the Slovak Republic to the President of the Republic of Hungary, Mr. László Sólyom on 21 August „

He walked to the middle of the Danube bridge leading from Hungarian Komárom to Slovak Komárno and held a press conference on the events on the Hungarian side of the border. He stated: [18]

„I turn back because they can not rouse me into a deliberate law infringement as I am a lawyer and a head of state. However, I hope the people of Komárom will remember this visit in their hearts, and that I will come back. “
“ In a relation de deux allied states, this step is unexplainable and inexplicable, with particular attention to the stating that my presence is a security risk. “ [19]
“ I hope the hysteria of the highest states of the state does not reflect the feelings of the Slovak nation. “ [20]

-  László Sólyom

Ceremony in absence of Sólyom

The news stating that Sólyom is not allowed to enter Slovakia, was received with loud whistling among the gathered 2000-3000 people on the square where the statue was about unveiled.

The speeches before the unveiling are about the necessary cooperation, and encouraged peace between the two countries, which was received by the mainly Hungarian celebrators.

A few Slovak protesters attended the ceremony, with signs saying „Sólyom, go home“.

Antal Heizer, ambassador of Hungary in Bratislava read the planned ceremonial speech of László Sólyom to the crowd.

Hungarian politicians of Slovakia took part in the ceremony, among others the mayor of the town, Tibor Bastrnák .

Reactions of the Hungarian diplomacy

The government of Hungary called the ban „unexpected“, „unfounded“ and its justification „deplorable“ and „unacceptable“. [21]

Péter Balázs Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs – called in the Slovak Ambassador Peter Weiss and protested the future of the EU and NATO member state. [5] [22] Péter Balázs asked for explanation.

We see it as unprecedented and unacceptable as an EU and NATO member State bars the Head of State of the Republic of Hungary from their territory.

-  Péter Balázs

The chairman of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Parliament of Hungary, Zsolt Németh declared: [23]

„This is the result of a long process, that raised anti-Hungarianism to a government level in the last three years, the prime reason of which is that Prime Minister Robert Fico has put an extremist party into the government.“

-  Zsolt Németh

He also claims that it is the duty of the international community to find a way of driving back to the road.

The political parties of Hungary have also protested against the Slovak decision. The governing Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP) said, it is definitely a question of who is responsible for the relationship, who has a young nation state seek their identity, which sometimes turns into fierce nationalism. [24]

Legal disputes

According to Péter Balázs, the paper was not lawful, because it was already written in favor of the paper. He also said the Slovak diplomacy has turned international law „upside down“ by leaving the international permissions while banning Sólyom personally, as a civilian. [25] He stated that Hungary plans to inform the EU and a broad international public about this „harsh“ political action.

Legality confirmed

On March 6, 2012 Advocate General at the European Court of Justice Yves Bot gave an opinion on the legality of the ban. He concluded that the visit was not a private goal and was not covered by the free movement provisions of the EU law. Diplomatic relations are governed exclusively by the member states and follows the international law. [26] The court, dismissing the action brought by Hungary, followed the general line of reasoning of the Advocate General. [27]

Media coverage


In the Slovak press, the opinions have been divided over the move of the Slovak government. Those sympathizing with the government have generally agreed with the move. Dag Daniš of Pravda wrote: [28]

„The trip to Hungarian president to Komárno has failed miserably. For Hungary and Slovakia as well. The only one responsible for it, however is Sólyom. He could have missed out on this diplomatic mess-up. Provided he had not been stubborn and arrogant. “

-  Dag Daniš, journalist, Pravda

More liberal and less pro-government papers have also condemned the Slovak reaction, not only Sólyom. As Peter Morvay of SME wrote: [8]

„Insinuations about deliberate provocation from beyond Danube [ ie Hungary ] is just plain nonsense. Even Hungarian infatuation does not justify such an excessive reaction from Fico & Co. unheard of in civilized parts of Europe. Can anyone take it seriously by the success coalition [ ie the governing coalition ] led by the one [ Fico ] who did not notice November 17 [ day of the Velvet Revolution in 1989 ], are troubled by the date marking the beginning of “ normalization „, which jump-started their career? „

Most of these media empires are regularly accused of being the sole advocates of the opposition (fueled by the Prime Minister’s attacks on the media). Yet many members of the opposition have agreed with the ban. Mikuláš Dzurinda , president of the leading opposition party SDKÚ has been quoted to say that Sólyom is instigating conflicts. [29] Pavol Abrhán, member of the opposite KDH has suggested that a diplomatic note should be sent to Hungary. [30]

Czech Republic

The Czech media was among the first ones on the topic blaming both sides for the situation that arose. Mladá Fronta Dnes columnist Magdalena Sodomkov wrote: [31]

„It was not only the provocative Solyom […] who acted tragicomically. The actions of the Slovak politicians are embarrassing as well. With all heart, connecting the celebrations of (a foreign, but still holy) King Stephen I with the anniversary of the occupation (of the Warsaw Pact) is a bit far-fetched […] “

-  Magdalena Sodomková, journalist, Mladá Fronta Dnes

Another daily, Lidové noviny wrote an article in a similar tone: [32]

„If we (ie the Czechs) would like to understand the same way as today’s rulers of Slovakia, then we’d have to rename Charles Bridge and also Rudolfinum, which bears the name of the successor to the oppressing Austrian throne. ] Shocking is also the fact that the Slovaks are unsettled by the reason of the visit itself, which is the inauguration of the statue of King St. Stephen (in Komárno). […] “

-  Luboš Palata, journalist, Lidové Noviny

See also

  • Hungary-Slovakia relations
  • An unofficial Hungarian translation of the diplomatic note sent to László Sólyom (by the Office of the President of Hungary)


  1. Jump up^ „An unofficial Hungarian translation of the diplomatic note sent to the Hungarian embassy, ​​denying the entry (by the Office of the President of Hungary)“ . Archived from the original on 2009-09-09 . Retrieved 2009-08-26 .
  2. ^ Jump up to:b „Szent István tér és szobor lesz Révkomáromban“ ( St. Stephen statue and square to be unveiled in Komarno ), Hungarian news agency MTI, 12 August 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-15.
  3. Jump up^ „SNS prekáža, že v Komárne dali prednosť soche kráľa Štefana“ . Pravda . Archived from the original on 2009-09-09 . Retrieved 2009-08-26.
  4. Jump up^ „Fico: Sólyom lesz a felelős azért, ha Révkomáromban valami történik“(„Fico: Sólyom will be responsible if something happens in Komárno“), MTI, 19 August 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-15.
  5. ^ Jump up to:c „A külügyminiszter tiltakozott a szlovák nagykövetnél a köztársasági elnök látogatásának meghiúsulása miatt“ , 24 August 2009. Retrieved 2010-03-15.
  6. Jump up^ VG.huquotes in Hungarian: „Akkor a magyar tankok jöttek, most pedig valaki gyönyörű limuzinon.“. Accessed 2009-08-26. Archived2009-09-08.
  7. Jump up^ „Sólyom hivatalosan is sajnálkozott a ’68 -as bevonulás miatt“(„Sólyom officially regrets ’68 invasion“),Index, 21 August 2008. Retrieved 2010-03-15.
  8. ^ Jump up to:b „EMS – Stĺpček Petra Morvaya: Zbytočná hysteria“ . Little Press, as . 2009-08-21. Archived from the original on 2009-09-09 . Retrieved 2009-08-23 .
  9. Jump up^ „Köztársasági Elnöki Hivatal“ . Archived from the original on 2009-09-08 . Retrieved 2009-08-26 .
  10. Jump up^ „Index – Külföld – A külügy sem erti a szlovák reakciókat“ . Archivedfrom the original on 2009-09-08 . Retrieved 2009-08-26 .
  11. Jump up^ http://mti.hu/cikk/413770/
  12. Jump up^ „Bumm.sk | Gašparovič: Sólyom kedveli a kalandozó portyázásokat – Sólyom veveszélyben“ . Archived from the original on 2009-09-09 . Retrieved 2009-08-26 .
  13. Jump up^ „Fico claims it’s Sólyom’s fault“ . Archived from the original on 2009-09-09 . Retrieved 2009-08-26 .
  14. Jump up^ The New York Times
  15. Jump up^http://index.hu/belfold/2009/08/21/nem_ajanljak_a_szlovakok_solyomnak_hogy_revkomaromba_utazzon/
  16. Jump up^ „Unofficial Hungarian translation on the website of the Office of the Republic of Hungary“ . Archived from the original on 2009-09-09 . Retrieved 2009-08-26 .
  17. Jump up^ Directive 2004/38 / EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 29 April 2004 on the right of citizens of the Union and their family members to reside freely within the territory of the Member States
  18. Jump up^ Press release on the website of the Office of the Republic of Hungary
  19. Jump up^ „Ez ket szövetséges állam kapcsolatában megmagyarázhatatlan és kimenthetetlen lépés, különös tekintettel a kitiltás indokolására, vagyis arra, hogy biztonsági kockázatot jelent a jelenlétem“
  20. Jump up^ „Remélem, hogy az utolsó napok hisztériája a legfelsőbb állami szinteken nem a szlovák nep érzelmeit tükrözi“
  21. Jump up^ http://www.mti.hu/cikk/413770/
  22. Jump up^ Dübörög at szlóvák-magyar diplomáciai háború
  23. Jump up^ „Nemeth:“ kormányzati rangra emelkedett has magyarellenesség „| hirsarok.hu“ . Archived from the original on 2009-09-08 . Retrieved 2009-08-26 .
  24. Jump up^ „HírExtra“ . Archived from the original on 2009-09-09 . Retrieved 2009-08-26 .
  25. Jump up^ http://www.mti.hu/cikk/413776/
  26. Jump up^ „European Court of Justice: Opinion of the Advocate General in Case C-364/10 v. Slovakia (Freedom of movement for persons):“ . Court of Justice of the EC . Retrieved 6 March 2012 .
  27. Jump up^ European Court of Justice: Case C-364/10 Hungary v Slovakia
  28. Jump up^ „Pravda – Prezident Sólyom verzus prezident Packa“ . Perex, as . 2009-08-22. Archived from the original on 2009-09-08 . Retrieved 2009-08-23 .
  29. Jump up^ „dnes.sk – Sólyom provokuje, tvrdí Dzurinda“ . centrumholdings.com . 2009-08-20. Archived from the original on 26 September 2009 . Retrieved 2009-08-23 .
  30. Jump up^ „SME.sk – Sólyoma sa zastali len Csáky a Bugár (Sólyom was supported only by Csáky and Bugár)“ . Little Press as . 2009-08-20 . Retrieved 2009-08-23 .
  31. Jump up^ „Na Dunaji hádají, který šašek je na koni (Arguments on the Danube over the clown on a horse)“ . MAFRA as . 2009-08-22 . Retrieved 2009-08-23 .
  32. Jump up^ „Svatý Štefan, slavný král Slovenska (St. Stephen, famous king of Slovakia)“ . Lidové noviny as . 2009-08-21 . Retrieved 2009-08-23 .