"Passports for 80,000 ethnic Hungarians"

BELGRADE -- Hungary expects to issue 80,000 passports this year to Serbian citizens of Hungarian ethnicity.

Hungarian Ambassador in Belgrade Oszkar Nikowitz says that a new law enables ethnic Hungarians living in other countries to apply for citizenship.

Nikowitz told the Euractiv Serbia website that his figures were based on polls that showed one in three ethnic Hungarians were interested in making such a move.

The ambassador however noted that Budapest was not expecting "mass immigration, not even by those who will be given our citizenship".

Nikowitz also stated that practical advantages were not the main reason why Hungary decided to offer ethnic Hungarians citizenship, and said the law that enables it "primarily had a moral dimension for Hungarians who lost Hungarian citizenship due to historical circumstances".

"There are of course practical advantages too, such as that Hungarian passports are valid in the EU. Besides, as soon as they cross the Hungarian border, they are treated just like other, local Hungarian citizens, except, of course, when it comes to permanent residency, paying taxes, social insurance, and the like," explained the ambassador.

Nikowitz aslo noted that the issue of giving ethnic Hungarians with newly obtained Hungarian passports the right to vote was still being debated, and that no decision was made.

The diplomat further believes that the law will not have a negative influence on Hungary's relations with Serbia.

"Dual citizenships do not clash with laws and regulations, or principles of Serbia, and since we consulted with Belgrade while we prepared this law, we don't expect any adverse consequences to our relations," he concluded.