MINELRES: News on national minorities in Hungary, September - December 2007

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Mon Jan 28 08:06:01 2008

Original sender: Katalin Deak <Katalin.Deak@MEH.HU>

Department of National and Ethnic Minorities
Prime Minister's Office
January, 2008 

Selection of news on national and ethnic minorities in Hungary
September - December 2007

Government Order changes the state budgetary financing system of local
and regional minority self-governments 

Government Order No. 375/2007 (XII.23.) introduces a new system with
regard to the allocation of state budget subvention to local and
regional minority self-governments. The objective was to differenciate
between minority self-governments on the basis of their concrete
acitivites performed in the interest of minority cultural autonomy. 

In the past, local minority self-governments were equally granted the
same amount of state support (approximately 2560 euro/year) regardless
of their actual activities. Experience showed that despite of the equal
state support, the tasks actually performed by local minority
self-governments, as well as the size of the minority population they
represented, differed a great deal. In 2005 the modified Minority Act
authorised the Government to elaborate and adopt a Regulation in order
to redress the unfair situation where all local minority
self-governments were granted the same amount of state support. 

>From January 1st, 2008 the amount of state support allocated to minority
self-governments is devided into parts: subvention for general
operation, and task - based subvention. The subvention for general
operation (in 2008, approximately 2200 euro) shall continuosly equally
be transferred to the local minority self-governments in order to cover
their annual operational costs, whereas the transfer of the task - based
subvention shall be subject to an evaluation of their effective
activities by the Department for National and Ethnic Minorities in the
Prime Minister's Office. Annex No. 1 of Government Order No. 375/2007
(XII.23.) contains the evaluation criteria. 

Claims to the task-based subvention shall be submitted to the relevant
regional office of the Treasury Property Directorate before February 1,

It is important to refer to the fact, that the new regulations do not
affect the budgetary financing system of national minority
self-governments, accordingly the annual budget support provided for the
national minority self-governments shall remain different depending on
the size of the given community.  

Government adopts Decree on packages of measures concerning Roma

As reported in our previous newsletters, in 2005 the Hungarian
Government had taken up the elaboration of the National Strategy of the
'Decade of Roma Inclusion' Programme with the involvement of some 700
roma NGOs. As it is known, the Decade of Roma Inclusion Programme is to
be carried out by participatory states on the basis of two-year period
packages of measures. The first package of measures was formulated in
Government Decree 1105/2007, adopted in December 2007 with the aim of
identifying the tasks for 2008-2009. It is important to draw attention
to the fact, that the Decree is a continuation of the earlier
governmental medium-term packages of measures aiming at the improvement
of the life quality of the Roma, renewed by the government every second
year since 1997.   
The Decree tackles the issue of cultural autonomy separately from issues
related to social inclusion and accordingly it dedicates distinguished
attention to the extension of roma cultural autonomy. It orders for
instances the establishment of a national roma cultural centre to host a
variety of roma cultural events from concerts to theatre performances.
The Decree also focuses on the improvement of basic and further teacher
training for the Romany and Beas languages and it promotes the training
of official translators and interpretors into or from Romany and Beas.
Furthermore, it orders the creation of the necessary conditions in order
to apply Part III. of the European Charter for Regional or Minority
Languages to Romany and Beas.             
Other than cultural objectives of the Government Decree center on
establishing the conditions of social and economic integration of the
Roma population; improving their living conditions and their access to
public services; a more effective economic policy, including the
increase of the employment rate of the Roma; the extension of integrated
education and the elimination of school segregation. The Decree also
identifies objectives and tasks in relation with the promotion of equal
opportunities, media, and sports.  

The Hungarian Government's presidency program of the Decade of Roma
inclusion Programme sets out the following priorities:

1. Invitation of new interested governments to join the Decade:
Bosnia-Herzegovina, Moldova, Portugal, Spain and Slovenia.

2. Action to persuade the institutions of the European Union to discuss
the Decade of Roma Inclusion program and consider adopting a
comprehensive Roma policy.

3. International and local awareness and support of the Roma Decade is
to be raised.

4. On the basis of Decade Watch monitoring report, common indicators are
to be developed to further strengthen the monitoring of implementation
of government actions.

5. Reinforce cooperation with the private sector through Corporate
Social Responsibility strategies to contribute to the education and
employment of Roma.

In 2008 the Hungarian Government provides 150 million HUF (600.000 euro)
for the realisation of the goals laid down in the Government Decree. 

The financial perspectives of minority self-governments for 2008 

A fund administered at the Department for National and Ethnic Minorities
of the Prime Minister's Office supports new initiatives of minority
self-governments to take over or to found educational or cultural
institutions. The amount allocated for this purpose has increased from
last year's 70 million HUF to 120 million HUF (480.000 euro) in 2008.
Another fund administered at the Department aims to provide financial
support for local minority self-governments and minority NGOs in need.
This minority - targeted state support increases to 80 million HUF
(32.000 euro) from last year's 38 million HUF. 

The Department granted 100 million HUF (400.000 euro) for the national
minority self-governments in order to contribute to the creation of
practical conditions of their management regulated in detail by the
Minority Act. 

 "Prizes for Minorities" awarded

Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany delivered the 2007 Prizes for Minorities
in the Parliament on 18 December. State President Laszlo Solyom, Speaker
of the Parliament Ms. Katalin Szili, and heads of several state run
institutions and minority communities also attended the ceremony. In
1995, the Government of the Republic of Hungary, in harmony with its
endeavour to develop and maintain a tolerant athmosphere toward
minorities declared 18 of December, the day of the adoption of the UN
Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic,
Religious and Linguistic Minoroties, the "Day of Minorities". On this
occasion, every year the Prizes for Minorities are awarded to persons
and institutions for their outstanding efforts made in the interests of
national minorities in Hungary and Hungarians abroad. 

Among the awarded in 2007 there were teachers in recognition of their
outstanding activities carried out in the field of minority education; a
police officer, a Roma himself, in recognition of his efforts to
establish a network of roma desk officers at police stations throughout
the country; the editorial office of RomNet, a website informing the
public about all Roma related news and events on a high professional
level; the Association of German Artists and Writers in Hungary; the
editorial office in charge of minority programmes at the state run
television; a Roma activist for her selfless aid given to disadvanteged
Roma families in the Northern regions of Hungary; a German folk dance
teacher and a Roma art historian.         

Brief overview of the activities of minority working committees in 2007 

As reported in April 2007, the then Minister of the Prime Minister's
Office suggested the establishment of three working committees tasked
with the identification of unresolved legal, financial and media -
related problems affecting the minorities living in Hungary. The
committees are composed of government officials from the relevant
fields, as well as experts delegated by the national minority

The legal committee discussed possible legal solutions as to the
parliamentary representation of minorities. The following questions were
raised and discussed as starting points of a future legislation: should
representation be guarenteed for all minorities or only for some? Should
every minority get in or should there be 13 minority representatives but
not from every minority? Should an approach that satisfies certain,
larger minority groups at the expense of smaller ones be applied (the
existing legal order would best accommodate this approach) or rather a
"collective" approach that would ensure the parliamentary representation
for all minorities, even those that under the present legal
circumstances could not hope to achieve sufficient votes? Would
representation or delegation be widely acceptable?  The legal status of
minority representatives in the Parliament was also discussed, namely
whether or not to grant minority representatives a full right mandate.
Experts pointed out that the threshold must be set so as to ensure
minority representation in the Parliament. The existing law requires
party to gain at least 5 % of votes nationwide to ensure its seats in
the Parliament. Since minorities in Hungary are relatively small in
number, the threshold must be lowered under 5 %, or rather it must be
defined in terms of a minimum number of votes necessary to ensure that
all minorities achieve representation.  

In the course of its activities in 2007, the committee of finances
assesed the multi - channel financial system and on the basis of the
outcome, this year it will make proposals to improve the financial
situation of minority self-governments. The committee had a lion's share
in the elaboration of  Government Order No. 375/2007 (XII.23., see in
details above). 

In 2007 the media committee came to the concusion that the increase of
financial support for the minority written press, the creation of the
conditions for professional further training of journalists working in
the minority editorial offices were unavoidable in 2008. The committee
also discussed the National Audiovisual Strategy.    

Recent activities of the Department for National and Ethnic Minorities
of the PMO

Workshop on the use of geographical names in minority languages -
November 30, 2007.

The Department invited participants, including the leaders and experts
of national minority self-governments, with the aim of informing them
about the regulations of Government Order No. 303/2007. (XI. 14.) on the
registration of geographical names in Hungary. 

The workshop also gave floor to discussion about unresolved issues with
regard to the use of geographical names in Hungary. The President of the
Committee on Geographical names (subordinated to the Ministry of
Agriculture and Rural Development) also shared his views with the

Workshop for Roma NGOs - November 20, 2007

In his opening speech State Secretary Mr Ferenc Gemesi pointed out that
the forum for Roma NGOs had been convened for the first time with the
aim of launching a series of discussions about the "hot" issues of the
prevailing Roma - targeted minority policy. 

Ms Erika Nemeth, head of the Department reminded that the responsibility
for the successful integration of the Roma society lays not only with
the Government, but also with the Roma NGOs. The latter have the
responsible task to nominate competent Roma to government bodies which
have been appointed to realise, or rather follow with attention the
realisation of the newly adopted Roma integration measures.   

A Romanian pre-school opened in multicultural Battonya

The formal opening of the Romanian pre-school in Battonya, a settlement
close to the Hungarian - Romanian border, took place on 19 October,
2007. As a fulfilment of its commitment under the recommendations of the
Hungarian-Romanian intergovernmental minority committee, the Hungarian
Ministry of Education and Culture provided 60 million HUF (240.000 euro)
for the realisation of this project. The pre-school offers high standard
conditions for 26 children. The language of instruction is

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