MINELRES: Hungary: Minority-related news

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Thu Jul 6 15:18:44 2006

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
June 2006

Minority-related tasks in the competence of the Ministry of Social
Affairs and Labour

With the coming into office of the new Hungarian government, issues
connected to the duties and powers of the former Ministry of Youth,
Family and Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities were taken over by the
Ministry of Social Affairs and Labour led by Minister Mr Peter Kiss.
This includes the area of the social inclusion of the Roma population:
this work will be carried out at a specific department of this ministry,
under the guidance of sectorial state secretary Mrs Edit Rauh, who had
already been in charge of equal opportunity issues at the former
Ministry of Youth, Family and Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities.
The Office for National and Ethnic Minorities will work as a central
office subordinated to this ministry.

Reorganisation of the Office for Hungarians Abroad

As a consequence of administrative restructuration, the Office for
Hungarians Abroad ceased to exist on 30 June 2006. The office will get
integrated in the structure of the Prime Minister's Office, and will not
function as an autonomous organ of state administration but as a
Department of the Prime Minister's Office, under the strategical
leadership of Prime Minister Mr Ferenc Gyurcsany and the supervision of
sectorial state secretary Mr Ferenc Gemesi.  The Head of the Department
has not been nominated yet. All staff members of the office were
released from their posts on 30 June. The Office for Hungarians Abroad
was established to coordinate issues connected to Hungarian minorities
living abroad in 1992, and worked with a staff of more than 80 members.
The new Department will only employ some 20 members. The former
presidents of the Office expressed the view that the Prime Minister's
Office is the right place for coordinating the sensitive issue of
Hungarian minorities living abroad, but they felt worried about tackling
it at a lower level (in the framework of a department instead of a
governmental office). Sectorial State Secretary Mr Gemesi stated that
the aim was to replace the present policy of financial support with a
development policy. Specific tasks related to the different sectors will
be dealt with in the relevant line ministries, and the new department in
the Prime Minister's Office will deal with the issue of Hungarians
abroad at a political level.

60th Anniversary of the relocation of the Germans of Hungary to Germany

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of the relocation of the German
population of Hungary, a shocking exhibition opened in the
Budapest-based museum "The House of Terror" in June 2006. Approximately
40 per cent of the 500,000-member German minority of Hungary was
relocated to Germany between 1946-1948. In the memory of this tragic
historical event, the museum also organized an international conference
the participants of which underlined that the principle of collective
guilt is not only inacceptable, but it also weakens the majority

On 18 June, a monument and national memorial place was inaugurated in
the town of Budaors near Budapest, where relocation started on 19
January 1946. The monument by sculptor Peter Menasagi represents a
closed door with typical Swabian characteristics and a table with a key
on the top. The work of art was conceived on the basis of a photo of
those times showing a German owner who had to deposit the key of his
house on the table placed in front of the policeman in charge of the

Her Excellency Mrs Ursula Seiler-Albring, the Ambassador of Germany to
Hungary, the Speaker of the Hungarian Parliament Mrs Katalin Szili,
Minister of the Interior of Land Baden Wurttemberg Mr Heribert Rech and
Minority Ombudsman of Hungary Mr Jeno Kaltenbach were among the speakers
of the commemoration. The monument was by blessed by Hungary's Cardinal
Archbishop Mr Peter Erdo. In his message addressed to the participants,
the President of the Republic of Hungary, Mr Laszlo Solyom made due
apology to the relocated Swabian families and stood up in protest
against the mentality that disposed of people as if they were only

Inauguration of the National Roma Library and Archives

A new Roma cultural institution was opened on 5 May in the headquarters
of the National Roma Self-government in Budapest. The Library currently
has 50,000 volumes partly received as a gift from governmental organs
and other public libraries. The collection is similar to those of other
libraries with the exception that the aim of the Roma institution is to
acquire all the works written by Roma authors. (Currently some 1,000
volumes of the collection are by Roma authors.) Director Imre Vajda
envisages collecting in the archives all written documents about the
Roma and all related sociological, historical, political and
ethnographical studies. 

Preparing the autumn elections of minority self-governments 

In May, all Hungarian citizens with voting rights (some 8,000,000
voters) got through the post the form that shall be used to declare
one's minority affiliation for the purposes of minority elections. As it
has already been reported, only those included in the minority voters'
register can vote for, and get elected into, minority self-governments.
The form should be filled in and forwarded to the chief administrator of
the municipal government before 15 July. As of 4 July, almost 80,000
citizens including 41,608 Roma and 18,858 Germans had themselves
registered. The smallest numbers (453 and 412) are those of the
registered voters of the Ukrainian and Ruthenian minority. These data
shall be used only for the election purposes and shall in no
circumstances be considered as relevant to the size of the minority
communities or be used for determining subsidies to minorities. The
protection of personal data is guaranteed by the law, the names of the
voters shall not be made public and the registers will be destroyed
after the elections. 

In order to inform minority voters about modified electoral rules, the
Office for National and Ethnic Minorities has run so far more than 100
briefing sessions throughout Hungary and made public announcements in
the Hungarian Radio and Television as well. 

Collection of signatures for the recognition of Jewish minority failed

With the deadline being over for the collection of the 1,000 signatures
needed for this initiative, it has become clear that the Hungarian
Parliament will not discuss the possibility of the recognition of the
Jewish population of Hungary as a national or ethnic minority community
under the relevant law. The Head of the National Electoral Office Ms
Emilia Rytko announced on 3 July that the initiators were only able to
collect about half of the 1,000 signatures required by the law for
including a new minority in the list of national and ethnic minorities
recognized by the Act on the rights of national and ethnic minorities.
It is not enough to support the initiative from outside: those signing
the sheet of the petition have to declare their belonging to the given
minority (for the details of the procedure see our January-April 2006
issue). According to sociological research and estimates, the size of
the Jewish population in Hungary is about 100,000

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