STA, 26 February 2020 - Three local communities in the north-eastern region of Prekmurje are upset after a cable operator announced it was expanding its TV package in the area with programmes catering for the Hungarian minority, which does not in fact live in the three municipalities. The development comes amid concerns about Hungary's expanding influence in the region.
Telemach said it would include five Hungarian programmes in its package in Lendava, Odranci, Velika Polana and Črenšovci, in response to the wishes of the Hungarian community in the area. The latter three communities are not bothered by the new programmes, but rather by the reason given for the move.
Jožef Horvat, the head of the parliamentary faction of the conservative party New Slovenia (NSi), has alerted the government in a letter that Hungary's influence in the municipalities with exclusively Slovenian population is expanding through the programmes.
"We are not bothered by the programme scheme and business decisions of a private subject even when it comes to bilingual programmes, but it does bother us that in its official release the company stated that this was in accordance with the wishes of our municipalities' residents and labelled them as bilingual, which they aren't," Velika Polana Mayor Damijan Jaklin said.
In his letter, MP Horvat said that it was commendable that the Pomurje Hungarian community was aspiring for Hungarian programmes, but that it was unacceptable that in public explanations Črenšovci, Velika Polana and Odranci were listed as mixed ethnicity areas populated by a sizeable Hungarian minority. "This is simply not true and it is common deceit."
Horvat, whose party has just agreed to be part of a new government formed by Janez Janša, the leader of the Democrats (SDS), accused the outgoing government of silently watching developments in Prekmurje, asking what it was planning to do to protect the majority nation and language in the region.
Črenšovci Mayor Vera Markoja says that Telemach has apologised to the community for declaring it is home to a Hungarian minority. The company told the STA its purpose was not to cause discord or "declare ethnically mixed areas", but rather to offer a choice of quality content to all viewers across the country.
Telemach said that as part of its switch to the digital programme scheme new Hungarian programmes would be available throughout the country. The company has one TV signal for Lendava, Odranci, Velika Polana and Črenšovci, which means separating the programme scheme by municipalities impossible.
Prekmurje has in recent time seen extensive Hungarian state and private investment, which has sparked considerable attention. While some see the investment as welcome aid benefiting the entire population of the underdeveloped region, others see it as Hungary expanding its influence in a region what used to be part of the Hungarian empire.
Hungarian investments in the region include the acquisition of the spa Terme Lendava, unofficially at the cost of EUR 9 million, EUR 6 million investment in the Lendava football academy as well grants distributed to individuals and entrepreneurs commanding Hungarian language.
Opinions on the Hungarian aid are also divided within the Hungarian ethnic community in the region with some arguing that the investments do not generate economic effects and questioning the motives behind them, suggesting that Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban was trying to assert his ways also in Slovenia.
Hungarian MP Ferenc Horvath believes that the aid is welcome. "Slovenia too should give as much here. Aid is welcome in the region. These are public funds, we know where they are destined, and they are also a contribution to Slovenia because money is spent here and taxes are paid here as well."
A similar view was taken by the SDS, which is facing allegations that media with ties to the party have received funds from Hungary.
The SDS believes that the Slovenian government is neglecting Prekmurje as well as the Slovenian minority in Hungary, "which is why the Hungarians help both". "If our investment was sufficient, the Hungarians would have nowhere to invest".
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