MINELRES: Minority News from Hungary January 2005

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Thu Jan 27 16:14:22 2005

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
October 2004 - January 2005

Hungarian members of the European Parliament are active in the field of
human rights and minority protection 

Several politicians from among the 24 Hungarian MEPs have rich
experiences in the field of minority protection. As reported before, the
first Roma politician ever was sent to the European Parliament by
Hungary in June 2004. Mrs Jaroka has since then shown deep commitment
towards the improvement of the situation of the Roma throughout Europe.
She is, along with Mrs Magda Kosane Kovacs, member of the Socialist
Group, one of the Deputy Heads of the Antiracism and Diversity
Intergroup of the EP, formed in October 2004. The Group is scheduled to
hold its first session on the Roma in Budapest at the beginning of 2005.
Budapest seems to be a good choice because one can find here all
extremities from the deepest poverty to the present - or even future -
European level. Some of Hungary's experiences and achievements in
improving the situation of the Roma merit being analysed and taken over
by other countries of the region.

Last December proved to be a busy period in forming groups within the
EP: an Intergroup for Autochtonous National Minorities, Constitutional
Regions and Lesser used Languages was established on the initiative, and
under the presidency of Csaba Tabajdi, leader of the Hungarian Socialist
delegation to the EP. As the Head of the Intergroup stated, members
would focus their long-term activity on the possible elaboration and
adoption of an EU Directive on minority protection. The Co-Chair of the
group is Mr Michl Ebner, former rapporteur of the EP on minority
languages, and two of the eight vice-presidents are of Hungarian
nationality: Mrs Kinga Gal from Hungary and Mrs Edit Bauer from

In December 2004, Mrs Katalin Levai, member of the Socialist Group
established the "Roma Forum" of the European Parliament with the support
of the Socialist and the Green Parties. The Forum intends to carry out
effective lobbying for the Roma, as well as to function as a bridge
between the national authorities and the EP regarding Roma issues. In
November 2004, Mrs Levai invited 24 Roma leaders from Hungary to
Brussels to discuss the general direction of her future lobby activity.
In December 2004, Mrs Viktoria Mohacsi, former Ministerial Commissioner
responsible for Roma integration at the Ministry of Education took the
place of Gabor Demszky, Chief Mayor of Budapest in the delegation of the
Free Democrats to the European Parliament. With Mrs Mohacsi taking the
floor, the group of Hungarian MEPs wanting to keep the issue of human
rights and antidiscrimination on the EU agenda has certainly enlarged.
As a politician of Roma origin herself, Mrs. Mohacsi has stated that she
would in her future work concentrate on the enforcement of the human
rights of all, and not only the Roma. 

Mr Viktor Orban, leader of the main Hungarian opposition party, the
FIDESZ-MPP, and vice-president of the European People's Party is the
chair of the newly formed working group on the inclusion of the Roma
(WG) of the EPP. The opening session of the WG was held in Brussels in
December 2004. The idea of the WG is that - as a result of the latest EU
enlargement - the Roma have become the most numerous and the most
disadvantaged minority in Europe, thus they need particular attention
also at European level. As Orban stated at a press conference, he
envisages the operation of the WG for a one-year period with the aim of
elaborating concrete plans in order to ensure a better use of existing
EU programmes and funds in the interest of the Roma.    

The first judgement under the Law on Equal Treatment was passed in
October 2004

The first judgement stating the infringement of the Law on Equal
Treatment was published in October 2004. The Pest County Court adjudged
a 500.000 HUF compensation to a Roma man who suffered damages because of
not having been employed merely on  the basis of his Roma origin. An
attorney of the Legal Aid Office of National and Ethnic Minorities,
which represented the plaintiff in this case, has expressed her hope
that the judgement would become a precedent and those who presumably
have been discriminated against would not hesitate to seek legal aid in
the future.

In relation to the above, mention must be made of the formation of the
Equal Treatment Authority under the Law on Equal Treatment in January
2005. As Mrs Kinga Goncz, Minister for Youth, Family, Social Affairs and
Equal Opportunities informed the press, the Authority will employ 17
staff members and will be assisted by a six-member consultative body. In
case the breach of the Law is proven, the Authority may impose a fine of
HUF 50,000-6M on the person who violated the law. The Government Decree
on the formation of the Authority was passed in conformity with the
Directive 2000/43 of the EU.      

Ombudsman for Equal Opportunities at the state-run television

A newly established position was announced in October last year at the
public TV. Mr Peter Leipold, chief editor at the state-run television is
now, as Ombudsman for Equal Opportunities, also responsible for the more
preferential and effective appearance of national and ethnic minorities
in TV programmes. He intends to target his activity at how minority
programmes may be broadcast at a more suitable time, and also at
elaborating ways of how minority-related issues could be integrated in
programmes other than those of minorities. Similarly, Ms Viktoria
Kertesz represents the interests of disadvantaged and disabled people at
the public television company.

Seminar of the Office for National and Ethnic Minorities on the use of
minority languages 

In the framework of a workshop in October 2004, the Office invited
minority representatives from all over the country to discuss the
findings of a survey conducted by its colleagues. 
In his opening speech, Mr Vilmos Szabo, then Political State Secretary
in charge of minority issues stressed the importance of adopting the
bill on the amendment of minority-related legislation by the Parliament
at this year's sessions. The aim of the survey was to make the
government aware of the possibilities and demands of minorities
regarding the use of their mother tongue in the local administration,
cultural and religious life. The inquiry included 126 settlements that
are mostly inhabited by minority communities.  

The survey found that although representatives of the local
administration, who expressed their affiliation to a minority community,
had a good command of their mother tongue, the sessions are held, and
the minutes are kept, in Hungarian. One of the reasons raised to explain
this was the "resistance" of the Offices for Administration. These
Offices are responsible for the legal supervision of the operation of
the local administrations and consequently, if the records of the
sessions of the local governmental bodies are not written in Hungarian,
they cannot carry out their work without the time- and cost-consuming
translation of the documents. Concerning the other aspect of the use of
minority languages in local administration, namely the possibility for
minority clients to manage their official affairs in their mother
tongue, the result of the survey has indicated that due to the
insufficient knowledge of minority languages of local civil servants,
the use of minority languages is in this respect hardly

As regards education, it was made clear that although the facilities are
given, in many settlements there are no minority kindergartens and
primary schools as a result of which a considerable number of
inhabitants tend to leave their villages. As a possible solution it was
proposed in the course of the seminar that schools shall establish
associations in order to jointly maintain educational institutions. 

In the domain of cultural and religious life and the media, some
astonishing data were brought to the attention of the participants: only
approximately 50 % of the minority written media reaches the affected
ones. In the case of the orthodox communities the mess is conducted in
the mother tongue, but otherwise this is not characteristic. 

The Ministry of the Interior launches a preparatory training for Roma

The Ministry of the Interior, the Police College and the National
Institute for Family and Social Policy have jointly launched a programme
in the framework of which Roma secondary school students and graduates,
who intend to seek employment at the Ministry of the Interior, the
Police, the Border Guards, the Fire Service and the Directorate General
for the Prevention of Distasters, can take part free of charge at a
preparatory training designed particularly for them. 

The Vodafone Hungary Foundation has again considerably supported the
programme. Former British Ambassador to Hungary Mr Nigel Thorpe, the
president of the foundation noted that their aim was to ensure to
disadvantaged, particularly Roma youngsters, the full enforcement of the
principle of equal opportunities. 

The Serbian-Hungarian Inter-governmental Minority Joint Commission was
established in December 2004

Following the former ratification of the bilateral convention on the
rights of the Serbian minority in Hungary and the rights of the
Hungarian minority in Serbia, the minority joint commission monitoring
its implementation was established in Budapest in December 2004. The
commission is co-chaired by Vilmos Szabo, Hungarian Political State
Secretary and Rasim Ljajic, Minister in charge of Minority Affairs of
Serbia and Montenegro.

On the occasion of the statutory meeting, recommendations to both
governments were adopted that touch upon the issues of education,
culture and scientific co-operation, as well as the preservation of
national identity. The text of the minutes is due to be signed in
Subotica later in January. The next meeting of the commission is
scheduled for the end of 2005 in Belgrade.      

"Prizes for Minorities" awarded

Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany delivered the Prizes for Minorities for
2004 in the building of the Hungarian Parliament on 16 December. State
President Ferenc Madl, President of the Parliament Ms Katalin Szili, the
ambassadors of the minorities concerned and the heads of several public
institutions and minority communities also attended the ceremony.
Wishing to develop and to maintain a tolerant atmosphere toward
minorities, the Government of the Republic of Hungary declared 18
December, the day of the adoption of the UN Declaration on the Rights of
Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic
Minorities, the Day of Minorities. Every year, on this occasion, Prizes
for Minorities are awarded to persons and institutions for their
outstanding efforts made in the interests of the national minorities in
Hungary and those of Hungarians abroad. Among those awarded in 2004, we
can find a teacher committed for years for the better education of Roma
children, who is at the same time the head of the first Romani-language
kindergarten in Hungary; an outstanding choreographer whose life is
dedicated to the preservation and the popularization of Croatian folk
dances in Hungary; an ethnographer and researcher of the traditions of
the Slovak minority; the Head of the Institute of German Studies at the
Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest as well as a Romani poet and