MINELRES: Day of Minorities held on 18 December in the Hungarian Parliament

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Wed Dec 24 11:50:23 2008

Original sender: Nikolett Okosi <Nikolett.Okosi@meh.gov.hu>

Day of Minorities
Budapest, 18 December 2008

18 December was proclaimed by the Hungarian Government as the Day of
Minorities in 1995. Since then in every year the Prime Minister of the
Republic of Hungary awards "Prizes for Minorities" on 18 December to
persons, organisations and minority self-governments for their
outstanding achievements in furthering the interests of national and
ethnic minorities living in Hungary in the field of minority public
life, education, culture, religious life, science and mass media. This
year the awarding ceremony, held in the Dome Hall of the Hungarian
Parliament, was preceded by a meeting commemorating the 15th anniversary
of the adoption of the Minority Act.

The Act on the Rights of National and Ethnic Minorities was adopted by
the Hungarian Parliament almost unanimously (with a 96% majority) in
1993, it was and is a unique legislation on the European continent. By
defining the individual and collective rights of minorities and by
establishing a system of minority self-governments, the law created the
general framework for the protection and preservation of minority
identities in Hungary. 

Two distingueshed guest speakers, both of them well-known for their
expertise in the protection of national minorities, gave their thoughts
on the Hungarian Minority Act. Ms Ilze Brands Kehris, First
Vice-President of the Advisory Committee on the Council of Europe
Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and
Director of the Latvian Center for Human Rights, expressed her
appreciation for Hungary's commitment towards national and ethnic
minorities, its active involvement in the monitoring mechanism of the
Framework Convention for National Minorities, especially its exemplary
role in taking seriously the obligations under the Convention, and its
participation in the reestablishment of DH-MIN in the Council of Europe.
She also stressed, however, the problems within the field of minority
protection experienced by the Advisory Committee. Ms Brands Kehris
underlined that the protection of minority rights is a perpetual work in

Professor Gabor Kardos, head of the Department of International Law at
Eotvos Lorand University and member of the Committee of Experts of the
European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, spoke about the
European context and relevance of the Minority Act. He emphasized that
the Act is one of the central elements in the constitutional protection
of minorities in Hungary. The Act's main objective is the maintenance of
the linguistic and cultural identity of minorities by establishing
public-law bodies for the political representation of minority
communities. In his stocktaking Prof. Kardos enumerated the achievements
attained and also the problems encountered in the last fifteen years,
his main conclusion being that although the Act as adopted in 1993 might
seem to be a symbolic legislation the last decade and a half showed that
it proves to be a major instrument for minorities giving them
enforceable rights for the protection of their identities.

On the occasion of the Day of Minorities 10 Prizes for Minorities were
awarded by Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany. In addressing the audience
the Prime Minister said that in those countries where the different
nationalities, their representatives can participate in decision-making
processes, both locally and nationally, conflicts are more easily
resolved. He reminded that, sadly, intolerance has increased in recent
time in the country, mainly in the relations between the majority and
the Roma minority. He warned, however, that we should not be tempted by
evil: to cover up our own problems with the use of this conflict. The
Prime Minister considered that it would not only mean the surrender of
ourselves, but also of our most fundamental national obligations. He
emphasized that "whether Hungarians, Roma, Ruthenians, Romanians or
Slovaks, Serbs, and Croatians, only when we remain the sons of our own
nation, can we fulfill our destiny."

The Prime Minister awarded the "Prizes for Minorities" in the presence
of Mr Laszlo Solyom, President of the Republic, Ms Katalin Szili,
Speaker of Parliament, members of Parliament, members of the diplomatic
corps, leaders of minority communities, and heads of several public

A short presentation of those awarded can be read below.

Dr. Marietta Boross, museologist was awarded for her activity of many
decades made amongst the nationalities living in Hungary, Bulgarians,
Germans and Slovaks, as well as for the high level presentation of our
folk art heritage and the exploration of the cultural affection of
people living in the Carpathian Basin.

Jozsef Eotvos Roma-Hungarian Pedagogic Society as a civil organisation
was awarded the Prize for Minorities for its exemplary and extensive
activity within the filed of Roma minority living in Hungary.

Mr Tibor Farkas a founder member and member of the board of Cultural
Alliance of Hungarian Gypsies, vice-chairman in the National Roma
Self-Government 2006, member of the advisory board of the Public
Foundation for the Hungarian Gypsies between 1995 and 2006 got awarded
with the Prize for Minorities for his multi-faceted and initiative
activity made in order to improve the living conditions of gypsies in
public life.

Ms Istvanne Hering mayor of Ratka, got awarded with the Prize for
Minorities for her persistent and effective work made in the interest of
preserving the linguistic and cultural identity of Germans. 

Mr Attila Hidvegi-Balogh journalist was awarded the Prize for Minorities
as an acknowledgement of his exemplary professional preparedness and
authentic journalist activity. 

Mr Mihaly Lakatos was rewarded with the Prize for Minorities for his
conscientious pedagogical work of decades and his activity in public

Hungarian Polish Personal Parish and Polish Church was awarded the Prize
for Minorities for its community forming activity made to maintain the
Hungarian Polish community.

Mr Kornel Mundruczo, director, one of the most well-known young artists
of modern Hungarian theatre and film art was rewarded with the Prize for
Minorities for artistic presentation of minority existence, making
cultural diversity accepted by the society, creating a tolerant
environment, taking artistic role in the fight against exclusion and

Ms Sandorne Nagy, teacher was awarded the Prize for Minorities as an
acknowledgement of her pedagogical and leader work.

Samuel Tessedik Dance Ensemble got rewarded with the Prize for
Minorities for their effective activity of many decades within the field
of nurturing the traditions of Slovak folk dance. 

Nikolett Okosi
International desk officer
Prime Ministerís Office
Department for National and Ethnic Minorities

H-1055 Budapest, Kossuth Lajos ter 4.
P.O. Box: 1357 Budapest, Pf. 2.
Phone: 00 36 1 441-2220
Fax: 00 36 1 441-2212

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