MINELRES: Minority news Hungary, July - September 2004

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Thu Oct 7 14:04:02 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

July - September 2004

New Hungarian Prime Minister announces personal and structural changes
in the government

On 29 September, upon the proposition of the President of the Republic
of Hungary Ferenc Madl, and with the supportive votes of the coalition
parties, the Hungarian National Assembly voted Ferenc Gyurcsany as new
prime minister. The voting concerned not only the person of the new
prime minister but at the same time the adoption of the new government
programme 2004-2006. 

On 30 September, the newly elected prime minister announced personal and
structural changes in the government.  Dr Kinga Goncz, who up to now
held office as minister without portfolio responsible for equal
opportunities  and supervised the work of the Government Office for
Equal Opportunities, will in the future work as minister leading a
Ministry for Youth, Family and Equal Opportunity Affairs. According to
the new administrative set-up, Ms Goncz's scope of duties will cover not
only social, youth and family affairs as well as equal opportunity
issues, but she will be responsible for issues connected to national and
ethnic minorities living in Hungary as well as consumers' protection and
relations with the civil society. The Office for National and Ethnic
Minorities will be subordinated to Ms Goncz's Ministry, and shall
continue to operate as an autonomous organ of state administration with
nationwide competence. The Office for Hungarians Abroad will work under
the supervision of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As a consequence of
these changes, the Political State Secretariat responsible for minority
issues within the Prime Minister's Office will be dissolved and Mr
Vilmos Szabo, who held this office, will deal - as a state secretary
within the Prime Minister's Office - with issues connected to foreign
and security policy.

Dr Goncz was born in Budapest in 1947.  Originally trained as a doctor,
she took her special examination in psychiatry and in psychotherapy
respectively in 1978 and in 1982. She worked in different medical
institutes and hospitals, but in parallel with this she played an
important part in developing the training of social workers at
university level. Since 1989 she has been the lecturer of the Department
of Social Policy of the Eotvos Lorand University and she regularly
lectured in several other institutions of higher education both in
Hungary and abroad. Being the director of the Partners Hungary
Foundation between 1994-2002, she took part in training and development
activities concerning the techniques of democracy, mediation, the
facilitating of social participation and conflict management in twelve
different countries. Between May 2002 and June 2004, Dr Goncz worked as
the political state secretary of the Ministry of Health, Social and
Family Affairs, and on 15 June 2004 she was appointed Minister without
portfolio responsible for equal opportunities. Dr Goncz speaks English
and German.

Minority-related chapters of the new government programme

The new government programme envisages the following in the field of
minority affairs.

With respect to minorities living in Hungary, the programme states, that

"We consider the national and ethnic minorities living in Hungary as
organic parts and equal components of the state. The preservation of
their culture, traditions and languages enriches the country and the
whole nation. Their relations with the kin-States is of advantage and
interest for Hungary. The government of the Republic of Hungary
initiates the formation of a political consensus necessary to ensure the
parliamentary representation of minorities in Hungary."

As far as the specific problems of the Roma population are concerned,
the document notes, that

" We provide our Roma compatriots with the possibility of integration
and non-discrimination through means of employment, access to knowledge,
the preservation of their culture and social benefits.

The government of the Republic of Hungary condemns any form of racism
and exclusion. Besides our moral commitment we also make practical steps
in order to promote the integration of the Roma population, which - in
consequence of discrimination and preconception - finds itself in a
disadvantaged situation. We continue our efforts to create equal
opportunities and conditions of non-discrimination with respect to the
Roma in the fields of education, employment, housing, access to health
care and the preservation of culture. We continue the integration
programmes in education. With the means of an integration normative
support (per capita funding) we incite schools to educate Roma and
non-Roma children not separately, but in an integrated form. With the
help of the so-called "Moving forward from the last row" programme we
shall achieve that schoolchildren who have been unduly directed to
special classes meant for students with learning disabilities be
redirected to normal classes. A further-training programme will enable
teachers to adopt the educational methods of integration. In the
framework of the so-called "Tolerance" health care programme, we shall
increase the receptive capacity of health-care institutions so that our
Roma compatriots do not suffer disadvantages in hospitals. We support
the integration of the Roma into the labour market with special
training, counsel, and job-finding programmes. We shall support the
dissemination and the recognition of Roma culture."

Concerning the Hungarian minority communities living abroad, the new

"considers neighbouring countries as strategic partners.  Active
governance means here a balanced and predictable, but at the same time
firm and determined foreign policy which supports and protects Hungarian
interests, and as a part of this, supports the enforcement of the
interests of Hungarians living abroad.   

The Government of Hungary finds that the unification of the Hungarian
nation within a pan- European framework is an important goal, so that
Hungarians may live in a wider community, may get on in the European
Union and may, through the preservation of their identity, language and
culture contribute to the diversity of Europe and become a nation of
success. We support the aspirations of Hungarians living abroad to an
autonomy which corresponds to the spirit of European practices and is
based on a consensus between the majority and the minority

Citizens initiate the recognition of the Hunnish minority 

At the beginning of September, the National Election Committee
authenticated the form serving for collecting signatures and submitted
by citizens initiating the recognition of the Hunnish minority. In
conformity with the provisions of Article 61 of the Act on the rights of
national and ethnic minorities, "if a minority other than those listed
in par (1) wishes to prove that they meet the requirements specified in
this Act, they may submit a petition related to this subject to the
Speaker of the National Assembly if supported by at least 1,000 voters
who declare themselves members of this minority". The one thousand
signatures should be collected within two months, and if this has been
achieved, the petition will go before the Parliament, which will examine
whether the community meets the criteria specified in Article 1 of the
Act. According to these criteria, "a national or ethnic minority is an
ethnic group which has been living on the territory of the Republic of
Hungary for at least one century, which represents a numerical minority
among the citizens of the state, the members of which are Hungarian
citizens, and are distinguished from the rest of the citizens by their
own language, culture and traditions, and at the same time demonstrate a
sense of belonging together, which is aimed at the preservation of all
these, and the expression and protection of the interests of their
communities, which have been formed in the course of history. The
amendment of the law - the inclusion of a new minority - requires
two-thirds majority.

Ratification of the bilateral agreement between Serbia and Montenegro
and Hungary

At the end of September, the overwhelming majority of the members of the
Hungarian Parliament ratified the bilateral agreement on the protection
of the rights of the Hungarian minority living in Serbia and Montenegro
and those of the Serbian minority living in Hungary. As the agreement
had already been ratified by Belgrade, the agreement comes immediately
into force.

Opening of a Hungarian-Chinese bilingual primary school in Budapest

Ninety-six schoolchildren started the new academic year in the first
Hungarian-Chinese bilingual primary school that opened in Ujpalota,
Budapest 15th district. Through the new school, this district of
Budapest - with a high concentration of Chinese businesses and other
institutions such as Asia Center, China Markt, restaurants and shops,
the headquarters of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce and a Buddhistic
temple - has become also the educational base of Chinese families whose
children could so far learn their mother tongue only at home. To meet
the growing demand, the municipal government of the district provided
for this purpose a state-owned school building that had been closed
down. (The building is provided free of charge for 50 years, and
maintenance costs will be borne jointly by the Chinese and Hungarian
governments.) The school receives not only Chinese children: Hungarian
children whose parents are employed by the People's Republic of China
(eg by the Embassy) have also been admitted. Hungarian children
constitute about one sixth of the pupils. The staff comprises eleven
teachers, who will use in their work schoolbooks coming from China.
According to statistics, the majority of the 20,000-member Chinese
community lives in Budapest. They demonstrate a strong sense of
belonging together, which is aimed at the preservation of their
identity, they publish their own newspaper and lead an active community

The register of forenames of national and ethnic minorities in Hungary
has been completed

With the involvement of experts, by January 2004, twelve out of the
thirteen national self-governments of minorities compiled their lists of
forenames based on their traditions. The Armanians, due to internal
dispute, failed to come to a consensus on the matter. As a consequence
of this, in August 2004, the book containing the complete list of
eligible minority forenames was published without the Armenian names.

Simultaneously, the Ministry of Interior has compiled the forms of
bilingual birth-certificates. A person declaring minority affiliation
may choose the forename of his or her child from the above mentioned
list. The decision whether he or she chooses the option of a Hungarian
certificate with the phonetically written version of the name, or rather
goes for the bilingual document, lies with him or her.