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Hungary seeks redress after Slovakia snubs president

Published on 19/10/2009

Budapest — Hungary is demanding that the European Union take action against Slovakia after Bratislava refused the Hungarian president permission to enter the country, the president’s office said last week.

President Laszlo Solyom was forced to cancel a private visit on August 21 because Slovakia said it would bar him from entering.

Hungary says that the refusal was in breach of the rules governing Europe’s Schengen zone, of which both Hungary and Slovakia are members. Frontier controls have been dropped in the zone to smooth cross-border travel.

Hungary has obtained a written opinion from European Commission Vice-President Jacques Barrot, and "is asking the Commission to start a procedure against Slovakia" in accordance with article 226 of the Schengen Treaty, a statement issued by the president’s office said.

"With this procedure, Hungary wants to put an end to this matter in order to prevent any repetition of a similar incident in future," the statement added.

Slovakia had repeatedly criticised Solyom’s planned trip to a border town because it had been due to take place on the day the country remembered an invasion by Soviet-led troops, among them Hungarians.

August 21 is remembered in Slovakia as the day in 1968 when what was then Czechoslovakia was occupied by Warsaw Pact troops to crush the "Prague Spring" reform drive by the country’s communist leadership.

Under the provisions of the treaty, Brussels can take legal action against a member state before the Court of Justice of the European Communities in Luxembourg for failing to fulfil its treaty obligations.

"The directive on the free circulation of citizens of the European Union is one of the foundations of the working of the European Union and it is essential that it be interpreted in exactly the same way in all the countries concerned," the statement added.