MINELRES: Hungary: Minority News January - April 2006

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Mon May 8 10:11:02 2006


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

January-April 2006

Parliamentary elections held in April

The parliamentary elections held on 9 and 23 April brought the victory
of MSZP (Hungarian Socialist Party), which alone will have 186 seats out
of the 386 seats of the Hungarian Parliament. The MSZP's former
coalition partner, SZDSZ (SZDSZ Hungarian Liberal Party) has won 18
seats, while 6 more seats were obtained by candidates fielded jointly by
MSZP and SZDSZ.  It is probable that MSZP will conclude once again a
coalition agreement with SZDSZ (as it was the case in the governmental
term between 2002-2006) and the new government will probably continue
its work under the leadership of Mr Ferenc Gyurcsany, who has been the
Prime Ministre of the Republic of Hungary since 2004. In the opposition
we find the electoral alliance of Fidesz (Fidesz Hungarian Civic
Alliance) and KDNP (Christian Democratic People's Party) with 164 seats
as well as MDF (Hungarian Democratic Forum) with 11 seats. One MP is
independent. 

While national or ethnic affiliation is a sensitive private issue, some
MPs claim a national identity which is different from Hungarian. Three
Roma MPs sit in the benches of Fidesz and some MPs in MSZP, Fidesz and
MDF belong to the German and Croatian minority communities.


Programme for the elimination of segregated Roma neighbourhoods

The programme started in 2005 and originally intended to last 12 months
will probably last until mid-2007 as the aim is to produce genuine
change in the nine settlements that were granted subventions. The
programme will affect the life of more than 1,000 families (some 5,000
people) living in 850 buildings. The programme is not uniform in all
settlements but will be implemented in conformity with the specific
needs and opportunities of each of them. The Roma families participating
in the programme had to sign a letter of intent in which they committed
themselves to take an active part in the improvement of their living
conditions through training courses and participation in the
construction works.


Scholarship for young Roma research worker

Ms Zsuzsa Orsos is the first researcher to have been awarded the Roma
scholarship of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The young biologist of
the Institute of Public Hygiene of the Pecs University will get a
monthly scholarship assisting her in her PhD studies during two years.
The scholarship is awarded to young researchers of Roma origin under 35.
Ms Orsos comes from a family with 8 children, her mother is illiterate.
Ms Orsos' specific field of research concerns the incidence of a
variation of gene TP53 and aims to clarify whether the Roma are more
inclined to cancer because of an increased defectiveness of this gene.
So far, augmented cancerism could be proved among the Roma living in
Northern Hungary; and research involving Roma from the southern Baranya
and Somogy counties is going to start.


Developments concerning the recognition of the Jewish and other
minorities

In autumn 2005, private persons started a popular initiative aimed at
having the Jewish community included in the list of the officially
recognized national and ethnic minorities of Hungary.

As it is known, in 2003, in the period of drafting the Act on the rights
of national and ethnic minorities, the members of the Jewish community
refused such a recognition and declared to be not a national or ethnic
but a religious minority.

The general procedure is the following: the initators prepare a specimen
sheet for the collection of the 1,000 signatures which are needed for
putting the issue on the agenda. They formulate the question to be asked
and submit this specimen to the National Electoral Committee, which
controls if the question is within the competence of the Parliament and
if its formulation is unambiguous, and then validates the sheet. After
this decision the 1,000 signatures have to be collected within 60 days
and be submitted again to the National Electoral Committee. This body
will evaluate and assess if the signatures are valid and authentic.
During the procedure, the Committee is obliged to ask for the
professional opinion of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences. The decision
on the inclusion under the minorities' act lies with the Parliament,
which may also require further clarifications in order to judge if the
minority concerned fulfils the requirements set in the law.

In the concrete case, the National Electoral Committee validated the
sheet and the collection of signatures started in in February, but it
was then suspended because, according to the law, the collection is
prohibited 41 days before and after parliamentary or municipal
elections. (Parliamentary elections took place in Hungary on 9 and 23
April.) When the collection of the signatures, and, afterwards, the
procedure of the National Electoral Committe has ended, the package will
be submitted to Parliament, which has to decide within three months.

As the elections of the local minority self-governments will take place
in October 2006, the registers of the persons with voting right will be
compiled already in summer. Thus the Jewish community - even if its
legal recognition as a national minority takes place in the meantime -
will not be able to establish  minority self-governments unless
Parliament adopts an individual exceptional regulation allowing them to
do so before the 2010 elections. 

In April, the National Electoral Committee decided of the acceptance of
the specimen sheets submitted by two citizens with the aim of initiating
the recognition of two other minorities. The specimen sheets certified
will be used for the collection of signatures of people asking for the
recognition of the Bunievats and the Russian minorities under the act on
the rights of national and ethnic minorities. However, the collection of
signatures - as explained above - could not start because of the
parliamentary elections.


Positive change in the consideration of the Roma population

At the completion of the Phare project entitled "Programme for a
Cohesive Society" and implemented under the patronage of Ms Kinga Goncz,
Minister of Youth, Family and Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities,
the organizers of the campaign announced at a press conference at the
end of January that during the past three years the proportion of those
accepting the Roma increased by 22 per cent and the proportion of those
discriminating against them decreased by 10 per cent. The three
components of the project included research, education and
communication. This means that besides well-known means of communication
(articles in the press, giant posters, TV-spots, etc.), the programme
focused also on teachers' training and the elaboration of teaching
materials in order to generate change in the attitude of Hungarian
society.


Bilateral declaration signed between Serbia and Hungary in the field of
informatics

In March, a declaration on bilateral cooperation in the field of
informatics was signed by the line ministers of the Serbian and the
Hungarian government as well as the leaders of the Hungarian and Serbian
minority self-governments of the two countries in Subotica, Serbia. With
the extension of the Hungarian Academic Internet Network, Serbia will be
able to join the European Internet Research Network (GEANT) and
Hungarian minority educational, cultural and research institutions of
Serbia may communicate with any specialised institution working in
Hungary. Joint informatics development activities as well as the
development of a common Serbian-Hungarian Internet site are foreseen in
the framework of the
programme.

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