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Hungary: Information on the December 2004 referendum on dual nationality (December 2004 - August 2005)

Publisher Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada
Author Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Ottawa
Publication Date 30 August 2005
Citation / Document Symbol HUN100484.E
Reference 7
Cite as Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Hungary: Information on the December 2004 referendum on dual nationality (December 2004 - August 2005), 30 August 2005, HUN100484.E, available at: [accessed 18 December 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

In a 5 December 2004 nationwide referendum organized as the result of a petition submitted by the World Federation of Hungarians (EurActiv 3 Dec. 2004; see also IHF 2005), Hungarian voters were asked whether ethnic Hungarians residing in nearby countries should receive dual Hungarian citizenship (CNN 5 Dec. 2004; AFP 5 Dec. 2004; BBC 5 Dec. 2004). The question read as follows:

"Do you think Parliament should pass a law allowing Hungarian citizenship with preferential naturalization to be granted to those, at their request, who claim to have Hungarian nationality, do not live in Hungary and are not Hungarian citizens, and who prove their Hungarian nationality by means of a 'Hungarian Identity Card' issued pursuant to Article 19 of Act LXII/2001 or in another way to be determined by the law which is to be passed?" (CNN 5 Dec. 2004; 5 Dec. 2004).

While the proportion of those who voted "yes," and thus supported the granting of dual citizenship to ethnic Hungarians from neighbouring countries, was 51.6 per cent (RFE/RL 7 Dec. 2004; IHF 2005), only slightly more than 37 per cent of eligible voters cast their ballots (ibid.; AFP 5 Dec. 2004). As a result, the motion failed (CNN 5 Dec. 2004; 5 Dec. 2004; JFB n.d.), since it had to be supported by at least 25 per cent of eligible voters (ibid.; RFE/RL 7 Dec. 2004; IHF 2005). Supporters of the "yes" side argued that it would unify Hungarians (AFP 5 Dec. 2004; BBC 5 Dec. 2004) and compensate for the post-World War I Treaty of Trianon, when Hungary lost two-thirds of its territory (RFE/RL 7 Dec. 2004; CNN 5 Dec. 2004) and three-fifths of its population to neighbouring countries (ibid.). Detractors felt that granting citizenship to non-Hungarian citizens would further encumber the nation's public welfare system (CNN 5 Dec. 2004; AFP 5 Dec. 2004; BBC 5 Dec. 2004) and undermine national cohesion (JFB n.d.). Opponents claimed that up to 800,000 ethnic Hungarians might have come to Hungary (PINR 13 Dec. 2004; RFE/RL 7 Dec. 2004) from less wealthy East-European nations (ibid.).

There are an estimated 5 million ethnic Hungarians outside Hungary (BBC 5 Dec. 2004), including 2.5 million in neighbouring countries (PINR 13 Dec. 2004; AFP 5 Dec. 2004): approximately 1.5 million in Romania, 600,000 in Slovakia, 300,000 in Serbia (ibid.; IHT 6 Dec. 2004), 200,000 in Ukraine (ibid.) and other significant minorities in Croatia, Slovenia, and Austria (AFP 5 Dec. 2004). Many of them were allegedly disappointed that the "yes" side did not win the referendum (The Budapest Sun 16 Dec. 2004; RFE/RL 8 Dec. 2004; PINR 13 Dec. 2004), as a victory would have given them the chance to obtain European Union (EU) citizenship (ibid.). At least one Hungarian shop in Romania displayed a sign refusing entry to Hungarian citizens (RFE/RL 8 Dec. 2004; The Budapest Sun 16 Dec. 2004), and The Budapest Sun claimed that people in Serbia threw stones at cars with Hungarian plates as a sign of protest (16 Dec. 2004).

The chairman of the Hungarian Coalition Party, Bela Bugar, argued that the failture of the referendum did not reflect the views of the Hungarian electorate as a whole, and that the Hungarian government should grant dual citizenship to ethnic Hungarians abroad (SME 16 Dec. 2004). At a January 2005 meeting in Subotica (in Vojvodina, Province of Serbia and Montenegro), more than a dozen ethnic Hungarian organizations met to "assess the aftermath of the failed December 5 referendum," and decided to meet with the Hungarian Government and request financial aid (The Budapest Sun 13 Jan. 2005). Further information on the consequences of the referendum since January 2005 could not be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate within time constraints.

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim for refugee protection. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Agence France-Presse (AFP). 5 December 2004. Zoltan Simon. "Hungary Vote on Granting Citizenship to Millions Invalid Amid Low Turnout." (Dialog)

British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). 5 December 2004. "Low Turnout Scuppers Hungary Vote." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2005]

The Budapest Sun. 13 January 2005. Vol. 13, Issue 2. "Referendum Declaration." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2005]
_____. 16 December 2004. Vol. 12, Issue 51. "Referendum Fallout: Ethnic Hungarian Anger Spills Over." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2005]

Cable News Network (CNN). 5 December 2004. "Hungary." Election Watch. [Accessed 25 Aug. 2005] 5 December 2004. "Hungary." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2005]

EurActiv. 3 December 2004. "Hungary to Hold Controversial Referendum on Citizenship and Health Privatisation." [Accessed 29 Aug. 2005]

International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHF). 2005. "Hungary." Human Rights in the OSCE Region: Europe, Central Asia and North America, Report 2005 (Events of 2004). [Accessed 25 Aug. 2005]

International Herald Tribune (IHT) [Neuilly-sur-Seine, France]. 6 December 2004. Nicholas Wood. "Uneasy Echo in Hungary Vote on Ethnic Rights Stirs Memory of Empire." (Factiva)

Journal francophone de Budapest (JFB). N.d. Guillaume Carré and Isaure Rodet. "Échec du Référendum." [Accessed 25 Aug. 2005]

Power and Interest News Report (PINR). 13 December 2004. "'Hungary's Referendum on Dual Citizenship: A Small Victory for Europeanism.'" [Accessed 25 Aug. 2005]

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). 8 December 2004. Vol. 8, No. 229, Part II. "Ethnic Hungarians in Romania Unhappy with Outcome of Hungarian Referendum." (RFE/RL)
_____. 7 December 2004. Vol. 8, No. 228, Part II. Michael Shafir. "The Legacy of Trianon." (RFE/RL)

SME [Bratislava, in Slovak]. 16 December 2004. "Bugar: Dual Citizenship for Ethnic Hungarians 'Correct Reaction' to Referendum." (FBIS-EEU-2004-1216/Dialog)

Additional Sources Consulted

Internet Sites, including: Amnesty International (AI), European Country of Origin Information Network (ECOI), Freedom House, Human Rights Watch (HRW), United States Department of State, World News Connection (WNC).

Copyright notice: This document is published with the permission of the copyright holder and producer Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada (IRB). The original version of this document may be found on the offical website of the IRB at Documents earlier than 2003 may be found only on Refworld.

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