Slovak president vetoes foreign anthem ban

Bratislava (AFP) –


Slovak President Andrej Kiska has vetoed a controversial law banning foreign national anthems at public events, his office said in a statement on Thursday.

Ethnic Hungarian MPs who said they had voted for the legislation in March "by mistake" later asked Kiska to veto it.

The law, now returned to parliament for a second vote, made the singing of foreign national anthems in Slovakia punishable by a 7,000-euro ($7,850) fine, with the exception of anthems sung in the presence of an official foreign delegation.

Kiska?s office said that he considered the legislation to be "inconsistent" with "the rule of law" in a statement sent to AFP on Thursday.

The legislation now returns to parliament where MPs can either overturn the veto or accept it.

The Slovak National Party (SNS), the nationalist junior coalition partner in Slovakia's governing populist coalition, proposed the legislation ostensibly to "protect" Slovak state symbols.

But it also contained the article banning foreign anthems, a move that critics argue targeted ethnic Hungarians who comprise Slovakia's largest minority.

Accounting for around eight percent of the eurozone country's population of 5.4 million, ethnic Hungarians often sing the national anthem of Hungary at football matches, in churches and at commemorative events throughout the southern part of Slovakia bordering Hungary.