MINELRES: Hungary: Selection of news on national and ethnic minorities

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Thu Jun 10 14:07:18 2004

Original sender: Solymosi Judit <solymosij@mail.datanet.hu>

Office for National and Ethnic Minorities
Budapest, Hungary

Selection of news on national and ethnic minorities in Hungary

April - June 2004

Janos Wolfart passed away

It is with deep sorrow that the Office for National and Ethnic
Minorities informs the readers that Mr Janos Wolfart, the first
president of the Office between 1990-1995 died in a car crash in Germany
on 6 June 2004. A prominent representative of the German minority of
Hungary, Mr Wolfart started his career as a journalist. In the past
years he worked as a diplomat in Bonn and in Berlin, and he currently
worked as a ministerial commissioner tasked with launching the Collegium
Hungaricum in Berlin. In 1995, Mr Wolfart was decorated with the Grand
Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany. 

Roma ministerial commissioner appointed to the Ministry of National
Cultural Heritage

In spring 2004, Ms Katalin Kallai - former desk officer of the
Department for Roma Issues of the Office for National and Ethnic
Minorities - was appointed Roma ministerial commissioner of the Ministry
of National Cultural Heritage. Her tasks include communication with
organisations representing Roma interests, with local governments and
governmental agencies; participation in preparing decisions affecting
the Roma and coordination of the Roma-related tasks of the ministry. Ms
Kallai stressed her willingness to make efforts to solve the problems of
Roma musicians and to promote the opportunities for Roma artists to
present their art worldwide.

Supporting the digitalisation of Roma cultural and artistic values

The Office for National and Ethnic Minorities announced a call for
proposals for implementing programmes aimed at the preservation of Roma
traditional, cultural and linguistic values in a digital form
(digitalised films, books and publications on CD-s or DVD-s). The call
is open between 1 June and 30 September and will provide to winning
applicants non-reimbursable support in a total value of HUF 15M.

Campaign for a society of acceptance
The HUF 558M contract with the winner of the 18-month Phare Programme
entitled "For the development of a society of acceptance" was signed at
the end of April. Gigantic posters, electronic and printed
advertisements, cartoons and serials will attempt to change Roma-related
biased attitudes in the second half of the year. The campaign also
includes an educational programme involving 50 schools and the further
training of 250 teachers. Referring to the campaign, Mr Jurgen Koppen,
Head of the EU Representation to Hungary stressed that the will of all
citizens of the European Union is needed to create a society of
acceptance and tolerance and to improve the social status of the Roma. 
Laying the foundation stone of a new chapel in Csatka

On 31 May 2004 (Whit Monday), at the end of the mass celebrated in
Hungarian and in Romany by Bishop Szilard Keresztes, the cross blessed
by His Holiness John Paul II was handed over to the rector of Csatka,
the most important place of pilgrimage of the Hungarian Roma since 1863,
situated in Western Hungary. Last November a 200-member Hungarian Roma
delegation visited the Vatican and asked the pope to bless a carved
wooden cross while donating him another one. Back in Hungary, the
consecrated cross was carried round in the 19 counties and it will find
its ultimate place in a chapel to be built later this year. After the
mass, Minister of Equal Opportunities Ms Katalin Levai, President of the
Office for National and Ethnic Minorities Mr Antal Heizer and President
of the National Roma Self-government Mr Orban Kolompar laid the
foundation stone of the new chapel. Several Roma entrepreneurs and
minority self-governments have made financial contributions to the

Pragmatic replacement measures in education

Minister of Education Balint Magyar announced in June that in September
2004 10% of the schoolchildren in grade 2 who had been placed in
remedial schools because of their alleged mental deficiency will be
redirected to the normal school system. A survey carried out by
independent experts examined all the 1,782 schoolchildren in grade 2 and
established that 205 out of them were actually not mentally disabled.
The parents of 47 pupils did not agree with the replacement of their
children for fear of a possible underachievement. For this reason, for
two subsequent years the Ministry of Education will financially support
the reintegration of these children.

Conference on the Decade of Roma Inclusion

It will be recalled that the regional conference entitled 'Roma in an
Expanding Europe: Challenges for the Future', co-sponsored by the
European Commission, the World Bank and the Open Society Institute and
organized in Budapest in summer 2003 proposed an international
initiative called The Decade of Roma Inclusion. The second preparatory
meeting of the decade was held with the participation of 9 countries in
Budapest at the end of March. The working groups delegated by the
participating countries discussed their national action plans. The
Secretariat of the decade envisages preparing a publication of the best
innovative practices figuring in the action plans. The main emphasis is
laid on four key areas: education, employment, health care and housing.

"Fatelessness" published in Lovari

The novel entitled Fatelessness by Nobel-prize winner Imre Kertesz came
out in Lovari language (the most spread version of Romany in Hungary) in
mid-April. The translation was made by Gyorgy Rostas Farkas, a Roma
writer and poet, whose family was also partly deported during the
Holocaust. The book was published by the Aranygolyo Publishing House in
3,000 copies.

"Together in Europe - Roma messages to the renewed Union" - a conference
on the occasion of EU accession

At the end of April, representatives of the Roma community of Hungary
gathered in the House of Parliament to welcome EU accession and to
transmit the message of Hungarian Roma to the European Union. The
conference was attended by Jurgen Koppen, Head of the EU Representation
in Budapest, Ministers Katalin Levai and Peter Kiss, State Secretary for
Roma Issues Laszlo Teleki and President of the National Roma
Self-government Orban Kolompar as well as representatives of 350 Roma
self-governments and civil organisations. In the course of the
conference, Roma representatives were given the opportunity to express
their views concerning Hungary's EU accession and the situation of the
Roma minority. The message was meant to draw the attention of the
governments of the member states on the necessity of measures to support
marginalized and excluded people. The participants considered that the
accession was not an aim in itself but only the beginning of a big work.
It is not privileges that the Roma want but fair judgement and the
possibility to prove that they can be useful members of the Union. The
messages formulated will be sent out to all member states and to all
Roma organisations in Hungary.

Governmental office to be set up against discrimination

As announced at a conference organized in May with the aim of promoting
equal treatment and opportunities, from January 2005 a new governmental
office will be established to combat discrimination in conformity with
the provisions of the Act on equal treatment and the promotion of equal
opportunities. The new agency with nationwide competence and probably
some 60-70 staff members may initiate investigations upon request and ex
officio, and will have the right to impose sanctions up to HUF 6M
against those violating the above-mentioned law.

Minority candidates on party lists for European Parliamentary elections

Hungarian political parties will send 24 members to the European
Parliament at this year's elections. All three potential mandate-winning
political parties have fielded candidates proposed by the Roma
communities on their ballots compiled for the European Parliamentary
elections.  Mr Imre Ban takes the 18th position of the list of the
Hungarian Socialist Party; Ms Livia Jaroka takes the 8th position on the
list of the Fidesz Hungarian Civic Alliance, while Viktoria Mohacsi
occupies the 3rd position on the list of the Alliance of Free Democrats. 
Ms Katalin Levai, Minister without portfolio for Equal Opportunities
will likely continue her political career in Brussels, as she is a sure
winner of membership in the European Parliament. Ms Levai is the third
ranked candidate on the list of the Hungarian Socialist Party for the
European Parliamentary elections. 

Festival of Minority Theatres

The festival of theatrical performances of national and ethnic
minorities living Hungary was a prominent event of their cultural life
also in 2004. The event took place in April in the theatre halls of the
Thalia Theatre with the following motto: "Minorities welcome the
European Union". The opening performance of the festival was the
dance-cantata entitled "Armenian legend". With the exception of the
Ruthenian community, all recognised minorities performed plays at the