Bridging the Gap: Cross-border Integration in the Slovak–Hungarian Borderland around Štúrovo–Esztergom
One of the main narratives of border studies in recent years has seen that cross-border interactions rarely result in a thorough integration, with the border remaining a strong dividing line. While not questioning that grand narrative as a whole, this article contributes to nuancing the picture. Through the four analytical lenses proposed by Brunet-Jailly (2005. Theorizing Borders: An Interdisciplinary Perspective. Geopolitics 10, no. 4: 633–649) we investigated the Slovak-Hungarian borderland around Štúrovo and Esztergom, where substantial developments towards a thorough integration of the two sides have actually taken place.
The empirical material is based on personal interviews with 26 local elites, statistical data, field observations, etc. Two dimensions emerge as particularly important behind this integration. One is related to market forces: a long-lasting severe economic situation including high unemployment on the rather agriculturedominated Slovakian side has pushed thousands to daily commute to work on the industrially oriented Hungarian side, where demand for labor has been high. The other key dimension is related to the local cross-border culture, where shared identities and common languages on both sides have led to intensive cultural and educational exchange.
These developments were also facilitated by the policy activities of multiple levels of government and the local political clout. Our case contradicts the now common idea that increasing cross-border integration coincides with decreasing cross-border mobility.