Fidesz refuses to amend citizenship law after passport debacle

September 26, 2014


Opposition MPs yesterday demanded stricter rules for citizenship applications over the illegal sale of passports by corrupt officials and lawyers. Russian and Ukrainian citizens speaking little or no Hungarian reportedly pay up to EUR 10,000 (USD 13,000) for Hungarian citizenship.

A joint parliamentary committee meeting was convened in response to a report that a large-scale network is organising Hungarian citizenship using false documents. Fidesz’s 2010 citizenship law enables people of Hungarian heritage living abroad to obtain citizenship in a fast-track procedure.

National security committee head Zsolt Molnár (MSZP) said the regulations should be tightened, especially the language exam given to applicants.

Democratic Coalition (DK) defence and law enforcement committee member Ágnes Vadai called for tighter eligibility checks, although this would require “extra work for the Hungarian secret services. It might be necessary to carry out retroactive checks,” she added.

According to a two-part report published by Index last week, selling citizenship has become an industry in Hungary, as a Hungarian passport is an easy route to EU citizenship.

The number of Hungarian citizenships issued illegally was not in the range of tens of thousands as the press reported, Fidesz MP Zsolt Németh argued after the three-day session of the national security committee, which he chairs, and the foreign affairs and law enforcement committees.

“A total of 100-200 criminal reports have been filed,” Németh said, adding that “Hungary has withdrawn citizenship in 22 cases while further investigations are under way”.

“Hungary’s protection measures against abuses of citizenship applications are effective,” he added, and ruled out any legal amendment.

Green party Politics Can Be Different (LMP) national security committee member Bernadett Szél argued that restricting the naturalisation process would be unwarranted, “but checks must be kept at a high level”.

The Democratic Coalition party proposed the joint committee session of parliament’s law enforcement and national security committees to review the procedure of granting Hungarian citizenship, while Socialist MPs called for the dismissal of Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén, who is responsible for Hungarian communities abroad.