PER Report: The Roma in Hungary

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Date: Tue, 26 Sep 2000 11:48:11 +0200 (EET)
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Subject: PER Report: The Roma in Hungary

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PER Report: The Roma in Hungary: Government Policies, Minority
Expectations, and the International Community

The Roma in Hungary: Government Policies, Minority Expectations, and
the International Community
Budapest, Hungary
December 6, 1999


A Note on Terminology 
The International Scene 
Governmental Measures in Hungary 
The Perspective of the Gypsy Self-Government 
The Contributions of Experts 
Conclusions and Suggestions 
List of Participants 
Other PER Publications 


The government of Hungary has launched a major program to improve the
situation of Romani communities. The Roma are recognized as one of 13
historic ethnic minorities in Hungary's Rights of National and Ethnic
Minorities Act. In 1993, Romani communities were given the right to
establish their own self-government. By 1997 the former gov-ernment
developed a medium-term strategy for improving the situation of the
Roma. The present government has been continuing these efforts: they
reviewed the medium-term strategy and created an Interministerial
Committee on Roma, including Romani representation to oversee and
coordinate the implementation of the government program. Meanwhile,
the Roma have become more politically active and are increasingly
aware of their rights. 

Nevertheless, the Roma in Hungary continue to suffer greatly from low
social status and from discrimination. Some Roma charge that the
gov-ernment is not serious about carrying out its own medium-term
strategy and cite what they consider to be insufficient financial
resources devoted to it. They have also questioned the effectiveness
of these programs and policies in actually improving life in Romani

One of the conditions for Hungary's EU accession is improvement in the
situation of the Hungarian Roma. The government's position is that its
programs and policies do provide a basis for solutions, and that
ministries have already been delegated specific tasks concerning
Romani education, employment, and housing. Government officials claim
that implemen-tation of these tasks has begun, although they concede
that financial constraints mean slower progress than they would like. 

On December 6, 1999 a seminar was held in Budapest, Hungary orga-nized
by the Project on Ethnic Relations in cooperation with the Hungary:
Government Policies, Minority Expectations, and the International
Community," the seminar provided an opportunity for Romani leaders and
government officials to assess the governments medi-um-term program
for the Roma and to consider how to strengthen it. 

The discussion was valuable in several respects. First, it allowed
Roma and government officials to share their perspectives on programs
and policies toward the Roma. Second, it reinforced the shared desire
of Romani leaders and government officials to ameliorate the situation
of the Roma. Third, it emphasized that simultaneous improvements are
needed at national, local and international levels. Finally,
participants offered suggestions about how to reach these goals. 

This report was written by Dr. Ferenc Melykuti, director of PER's
office in Budapest, Hungary and edited by Robert A. Feldmesser, PERs
Senior Editor, and PER staff. The participants in the meeting did not
have an opportunity to review the text, for which PER assumes full

Allen H. Kassof, President 
Livia Plaks, Executive Director 
Princeton, New Jersey 
July 2000 

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