MINELRES: Hungary: New minority regulations adopted

minelres@lists.microlink.lv minelres@lists.microlink.lv
Mon Jun 20 09:23:21 2005

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

Office for National and Ethnic Minorities
Budapest, Hungary

Selection of news on
national and ethnic minorities in Hungary

Special issue June 2005

A new piece of minority legislation adopted in Hungary

On the basis of the Bill No T/9126 on the election of minority
self-government representatives as well as on the amendment of some acts
concerning national and ethnic minorities, on 13 June 2005 the Hungarian
Parliament adopted a new law that will bring about important changes in
the Hungarian legal framework affecting the life of national and ethnic

After more than eight years of deliberations, the new law (requiring a
two-thirds majority) was adopted with the overwhelming majority (95%) of
the votes of the MPs present: there were 303 votes for and 10 votes
against the law, with 7 abstentions. By doing so, the Hungarian
Parliament followed the 1993 traditions of consensual decision-making in
the area of policies concerning the national and ethnic minorities
living in Hungary.

The law was worked out on the basis of Article 71 of the Constitution,
with the aim of enforcing the right enshrined in par. (4) of Article 68,
according to which the national and ethnic minorities living in the
territory of the Republic of Hungary may set up local and national
self-governments. It will essentially widen the scope of authorities of
minority self-governments and contribute to the setting-up of bodies
elected only by the members of the communities concerned.

The basic legal provisions concerning minorities will be henceforth
integrated in a different, simplified, thus clearer structure. 

So far, the major pieces of the earlier legislation (still in force)
have been structured in the following way:

- Act No LXXVII of 1993 on the Rights of National and Ethnic Minorities
containing both substantive and procedural provisions 
- Act No LXV of 1990 on local municipal governments comprising a
separate chapter on minority self-governments 
- Act No LIV of 1990 on the election of mayors and members of municipal
governments comprising certain provisions on the election of minority
- Act No C of 1997 on electoral procedures

In the future, the regulations will make up only three blocks affecting:

- The rights of minorities (the chapter on minority self-governments
will be taken out of Act LXV of 1990 and be included in the Act on the
rights of national and ethnic minorities)
- The substantive regulations of the election of minority
- The regulation of the election procedures.

The most important elements of the changes in the above-mentioned areas
are as follows:

1. The rights of national and ethnic minorities

- The law provides clear definitions among others on what shall be
considered as minority public affairs, minority educational and cultural
institutions, minority media 
- It specifies the scope of authority and the duties of the new
medium-level minority self-governments to be established
- It regulates the relationship between the local municipal governments
and the local minority self-governments in a clearer and more definite
- It stipulates that public service media should provide - in accordance
with a separate act - for the regular broadcasting of minority
programmes with specific departments (units) and from financial means
specified in a separate budget line 
- It changes significantly the legal status of national minority
self-governments: instead of being classified as "other economic
organisations" they will get the status of "central budgetary
organisations", which implies their integration in the system of local
authorities and accordingly ensures their state control (legality
control will be ensured similarly to the local minority

2. The substantive regulations of the election of minority

- In addition to the already existing local and national level,
minorities will be entitled to set up medium-level (county and capital
city) self-governments 
- Only those Hungarian citizens will be entitled to vote who will have
declared their affiliation to a minority community and got included in
the list of minority voters containing at least 30 names in the given
- Candidates may be fielded exclusively by minority civil organisations
whose statutes specify the objective of representing the given national
or ethnic minority and that have been working for at least three years
- Medium and national level self-governments will be elected in a system
of electoral lists by the members of local minority self-governments
("electors") at a subsequent round of elections 

3. The regulation of the electoral procedures

- Registration on the minority voters' list will be done by the local
election office; inclusion in the register is decided by the chief
administrator of the Mayor's Office; however, s/he is not entitled to
consideration and judgment, s/he may only formally control the
application. Denial of the inclusion can be brought before court.
- Voters wanting to register in the minority voters' list should fill in
a form annexed to the new act: in the form they have to explicitly state
that they are the members of a given minority community. 
- Minority candidates fielded are obliged to state that they are willing
to undertake the representation of the minority community and to declare
whether they know the language, the culture and the traditions of the
minority community and if they had already been earlier members or
office-bearers of the self-government of another minority. Anyone has
the right to read the declarations of the candidates.  
- Data protection is observed: only the number of people registered in
the minority voters' list will be made public. Access to the list is
limited, and the list itself will be destroyed immediately after the
results of the elections have become final (or recourse to legal
remedies has been judged)
- The elections of the medium-level and national self-governments will
be held only in those settlements where a local minority self-government
is operating on the day of the elections. 

The new legal provisions will also modify the way in which minority
representatives can obtain preferential seats in the local municipal
government. By making use of a preferential system, that member of the
local minority self-government who obtained the highest number of votes
at the local minority elections will become a member of the municipal
government with full powers. If nobody meets the preferential criteria,
the president of the local minority self-government becomes the
spokesperson of the minority and will be entitled to take part in the
work of the local municipal government with the right of consultation. 

On 8 June, the leaders of twelve out of the thirteen national and ethnic
minorities (with the exception of the Serbian National Self-government)
issued a common Declaration supporting the legal amendments. They made
some concrete remarks and expressed some concerns as for the electoral
regulations, but with regard to the necessity of the modifications and
the expected positive returns, they welcomed the consensus of the
parliamentary parties and stated that the elements concerning the
operation and the financing of minority self-governments and minority
educational and cultural institutions would promote greater stability.

Budapest, June

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