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Europe has recently seen a development towards declining tolerance of pluralism and multiculturalism, putting ethnic and national minorities in an increasingly precarious position. In this context, intensified institutional and legal relationships between ethnic minorities and their external ‘motherland’ has attracted growing attention among policy-makers and academics. Referred to as ‘kin-state politics’, this has proved to be a controversial and largely polarising phenomenon raising important questions relating to identification, belonging and the issues the nation-state model face in addressing ethno-national ties across borders, especially pertinent in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). This research sets out to answer what accounts for the diverging reactions to two Hungarian kin-state policies; the 2001 ‘Status Law’ and the 2010 Citizenship Amendment. Since the former was met with intense criticism while the latter faced only minor disapproval the diverging reactions are analysed through a comparison of domestic, regional and international responses to these two laws extending benefits to ethnic Hungarians abroad. The study finds that the vague international norms guiding kin-state engagement are regularly politicised within domestic electoral competition for nationalist purposes. This instrumentalisation is commonly to the disadvantage of the minorities these policies claim to protect. Therefore, in order to guarantee efficient and high-quality minority rights protection in an integrated Europe, the normative role of the kin-state
in ensuring the continued well-being of its minorities needs to be clarified.
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