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Slovakia's Deputy Prime Minister has said that his country has made significant progress towards minority rights protection and that Slovakia has become truly multinational.
Pál Csáky was speaking in Komárno, a town on the Slovak-Hungarian border, at a conference organised by the Federal Union of European Nationalities, FUEN. The 'Congress of Nationalities' is an annual event held under the auspices of FUEN, a German-based non-governmental organisation dealing with minorities, mostly in Central and Eastern Europe.
'Two years ago, to organise a conference such as this would have been problematic', said Mr Csáky, who is from Slovakia's Party of Hungarian Coalition - Madyar Koalicio Partja. 'The previous government in power followed a nationalist policy and led our country into isolation', he told the conference, referring to the hard-line former Prime Minister Vladimir Meciár who frequently pursued policies hostile to minorities.
'However under the current government, the society is really multinational and representative of all minorities.' Meciár's policies, which included controversial language laws and the re-drawing of regional boundaries to ensure that Hungarians would not form majorities in most areas - were widely criticised abroad and are believed to have set back Slovakian accession to the EU.
Given that in total, almost 25 percent of the Slovak population belongs to a minority, dissatisfaction in Slovakia itself was intense. The Hungarians, numbering about 12 percent of the population, are the largest minority ethnic group and are concentrated along the southern border. Their situation changed dramatically in 1998, however, when a new government was formed involving, for the first time, the Party of Hungarian Coalition. (...)