MINELRES: Hungary: Minority News

MINELRES moderator minelres@lists.delfi.lv
Fri Feb 21 09:47:48 2003

Original sender: Judit Solymosi <solymosij@mail.datanet.hu>

Selection of news on national and ethnic minorities in Hungary

December 2002 - February 2003

Start of the National Network for Integrative Education

The National Network for Integrative Education, in operation since
January 2003, contributes to the start of nearly fifty programmes that
aim at promoting the integration of socially disadvantaged and Roma
children. The programmes shall start running in North-Hungary, in the
northern part of the Great-Plain Region, in South-Transdanubia, as well
as in Budapest and in its outskirt areas. The establishment of the
institutional background for the integration of Roma and socially
disadvantaged children appears as a distinct heading in the 2003 state
budget. For this purpose, 900 million HUF were allocated. All the
above-mentioned programmes are based on the co-operation of different
institutions, such as kindergartens, elementary and secondary schools,
social suppliers, maintainers and Roma self- governments.

Roma desk office in the Ministry of Defence

On 1 December 2002, a Roma desk office with one desk officer and two
staff members was set in action in the Ministry of Defence, in order to
effectively carry out tasks related to Roma affairs.

Anti-discrimination training programme 

This year in January, the anti-discrimination training programme
organised by the Roma Integration State Secretary of the Prime
Minister's Office, was launched in the framework of the Roma Social
Integration PHARE Programme. Staff members of Roma legal aid offices
take part in one of the training series, while the other one, covering
the seven regions in Hungary, runs with the inclusion of those Roma and
non-Roma public and civil servants, professionals and representatives of
the non-governmental sphere who, in the course of their work, get in
contact with Roma inhabitants. The aim of the training is the
improvement of co-operation and communication between the institutions
providing public service, the deepening of knowledge of colleagues
dealing with legal protection, as well as acquiring the methods of
conflict management and prevention. The patron of the training is Dr
Jeno Kaltenbach, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Rights of National
and Ethnic Minorities.

Co-operation agreement between the Ministry of Informatics and
Communications and the national minority self-governments

A co-operation agreement was signed on 20 December 2002 between the
Ministry and the national minority self-governments. In order to
preserve their culture, to appear in the electronic media and to improve
their relation to their kin-State and to international organisations
dealing with minority rights protection, it is inevitable for national
and ethnic minorities to get involved in information-based society. As
to promote this goal, the Ministry has undertaken to inform the national
self-governments about the most significant ministerial initiatives. It
will consider their opinion on conceptions and draft projects regarding
minorities, and conciliate with national and ethnic minorities residing
in Hungary as far as the development of the tendering system and the use
of funds are concerned. The national and ethnic self-governments have
assumed to take part in the "Intelligent (digital) settlement"
programme, launched by the Ministry. For the co-ordination of the
co-operation a National Minority Informatics Board was established,
consisting of the representatives of the Ministry and the minority
self-governments. The body is to seat on a regular basis in the future
with the task of estimating the needs of national minorities in the
field of informatics, as well as the possibilities of co-operation.

The election of the national self-governments 

After the election of the local minority self-governments in October
2002, between 3 January and 16 February the national and the
metropolitan level minority self-governments were elected indirectly, in
the course of electoral assemblies. The election is considered valid if
more than 50 percent of the electors cast their votes. The bodies set up
this way consist of at least 13 up to 53 members. Rules of the election
procedure regarding minority self-governments are meant to undergo
modification in the coming months, primarily on the basis of the current
experiences of the self-government elections. 

The National Ruthenian Minority Self-government was the first national
body to be elected on 5 January. The Ukrainian, Slovenian, Slovakian,
German, Croatian, Romanian, Serbian and Greek national self-governments
were respectively formed on 18, 19, 25, 26 January and on 1, 2, 8, 9
February. The Bulgarian, the Polish and the Armenian bodies were elected
15 and 16 February.

The Supreme Court invalidated the results of the election of the
national Roma self-government held on 11 January. The justification
alluded to the fact that less electors cast their votes at the electoral
assembly than it is required by law. As it is well known, out of the
possible 4591 electors 2651 registered at the assembly, which means that
at the time of the registration the assembly was in the position to
lawfully elect the members of the self-government. As a protest against
presumed and positive irregularities, supporters of the association
called Lungo Drom left the assembly which resulted in the fact that by
late night hours only 1347 voters, less than half of the total number of
electors remained on the spot.  The election meeting was re-convened for
1 March.

The elected members of the national self-governments solemnly receive
their credentials from the President of the National Election Committee
in the dome hall of the Parliament.

With the exception of the Slovenes and the Romanians, all other national
and ethnic communities have established their self-governments on the
metropolitan level as well. The Coalition of Roma Parliament realised an
overwhelming victory at the metropolitan level self-government election,
while Lungo Drom did not manage to collect one single mandate. Due to
the low number of Slovenians in Budapest, their self-government on the
metropolitan level was not formed; they are represented at district
level. The election of the Romanian self-government in Budapest failed
twice, since some electors left the electoral meeting before casting
their votes. They claimed that most of the 27 candidates did not belong
to the Romanian community in Budapest.

The President of the Office for Romanians Abroad visits Hungary

Upon the invitation of Antal Heizer, President of the Office for
National and Ethnic Minorities, State Secretary Doru Vasile Ionescu,
President of the Office for Romanians Abroad paid a several-day visit to
Hungary. As his first official programme, Mr Ionescu attended the
electoral meeting responsible for establishing the National Romanian
self-government in Gyula. Subsequently, in Budapest, he met with the
Chief Minister of the Prime Minister's Office, and the parliamentary
commissioner for the rights of national and ethnic minorities.
Furthermore, Mr Ionescu held talks in several ministries and finally he
met with the presidents of the state- run television and radio. Before
his return to Romania, Mr Ionescu stated that on the part of his
partners he experienced openness in all matters of subject. The talks,
having touched upon the modification of rules of minority
representation, educational and cultural issues as well as the support
of the practice of religion in the mother tongue, were concluded in a
dialogue-orientated, friendly atmosphere.

The meeting of the Ministry of Education with the minority

As we anticipated in the latest edition of our newsletter, a meeting
took place between the representatives of the Ministry of Education and
minorities at the end of November. The State Secretary and the head of
the relevant department of the Ministry informed their partners about
the financial resources allocated for minorities in the ministerial
budget. Members of the advisory body of the Ministry, named the National
Committee of Minorities, presidents of the national minority
self-governments, as well as the President of the Office for National
and Ethnic Minorities were invited. At the meeting it was announced that
budget funds made available for minorities increased by 15 percent.
Moreover, the Ministry establishes a HUF 150 million fund for the direct
support of minority higher education, and sets apart the subvention of
minority textbook publication within the general schoolbook subvention
as a whole. This means a 100 percent increase of funds, amounting up to
250 HUF million. 

Monitoring of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National

A follow-up seminar to monitor the implementation of the Framework
Convention of the Council of Europe was organised in Budapest on 2 and 3
December. On the first day of the seminar, held with the participation
of two representatives of the Council of Europe Advisory Committee and
one colleague from the Secretariat of the Framework Convention, State
Secretary of the Prime Minister's Office for National and Ethnic
Minorities Vilmos SzabŇ, Roma Integration State Secretary of the Prime
Minister's Office L┬szlŇ Teleki, Ministerial Commissioner for Roma
Affairs of the Ministry of Education Viktoria Moh┬csi Bern┬thn╩, Head of
department of the Central Statistical Office Zolt┬n Czibulka, and
Parliamentary Commissioner for the Rights of National and Ethnic
Minorities Dr Jeno Kaltenbach summarized the developments of minority
policies since the submission of the first country report. Presidents of
the national minority self-governments were also given the possibility
to have a word. On the second day, the participants visited the House of
Germans in Hungary, and took part in a round-table discussion dealing
with the issue of electronic media and minorities.

Modification of the Government Resolution on the establishment of the
Inter-Departmental Committee on Roma Affairs

Government Resolution 1196/2002, modifying Government Resolution
1048/1999 on the Establishment of the Inter-Departmental Committee on
Roma Affairs, was published in the second half of November, 2002.
Accordingly, the president of the committee is the Minister of the Prime
Minister's Office in charge of minority issues, while the state
secretary for Roma affairs serves as vice president. The appointed
deputy state secretaries of the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry
of Health, Social and Family Affairs, the Ministry of Agriculture and
Rural Development, the Ministry of Labour and Employment, the Ministry
of Children, Youth and Sports, the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of
National Cultural Heritage, the Ministry of Education and the Ministry
of Finance, furthermore the president of the Office for Regional
Development of the Prime Minister's Office, the President of the Office
for the National Development Strategy and EU subventions, and the
President of the Office for National and Ethnic Minorities have a
permanent seat in the committee. Besides, the appointed deputy state
secretaries of the Ministry of Economics and Transport, the Ministry of
Defence, the Ministry of Environment and Water Management and the
Ministry of Foreign Affairs occasionally participate in the committee's
work. The secretary of the Council of Roma Affairs, the minority
ombudsman, the president of the National Roma Self-government, the
presidents of the Ghandi Public Foundation and the Public Foundation for
the Roma of Hungary take part in the committee's work as permanent
guests. The Office of the Roma Integration State Secretary completes the
secretarial work of the committee.

Bilateral agreement on minority protection between Hungary and

On 27 December, after one year of conciliation, Minister for Minority
Issues of Yugoslavia Rasim Ljajic and Political State Secretary of the
Prime Minister's Office of Hungary Vilmos SzabŇ signed the
Yugoslavian-Hungarian agreement on the protection of national minorities
which, according to Mr SzabŇ, is in compliance with the interests of
both parties and the national minorities in the two countries concerned.
The agreement enumerates and guarantees the fundamental rights of
minorities in different fields such as culture, economic and public
life. For the Serbian minority residing in Hungary, the instrument is of
special significance as to the preservation of their national identity.
As a kin-state, Serbia-Montenegro supports its nationals. For that
matter, Serbia-Montenegro concluded a similar agreement with Romania a
few weeks ago.

Exchange of views on the present and the future of minority education 

In late November, leaders of the national minority communities,
professionals in education policy and politicians had an exchange of
views on the present and the future of education of national minorities
in the office of the ombudsman for minority rights. The consultation was
based on the working material compiled by the colleagues of the
ombudsman on the basis of comments received from 77 institutions and
minority education experts. Political Secretary of the Ministry of
Education, Istv┬n Hiller stated that the Ministry places great emphasis
on the preservation of the mother tongue and national identity, as well
as on the establishment and transfer of the institutions of cultural
autonomy. Istv┬n Hiller also stressed that the system of scholarships,
once existing between Hungary and the neighbouring countries and fallen
apart at the time of the change of the political system, shall soon be
revitalised. Concerning the education of the Roma he stated that the
absolute goal of the government lies in the enforcement of the
integrated education, furthermore the Ministry follows the ministerial
commissioner's activity with high expectations.

The expansion of a German school centre 

The Chief Minister of the Prime Minister's Office inaugurated the newly
built part of the Cultural Centre of Germans in Hungary in Baja in late
November 2002. Besides financial contribution on the part of the
Hungarian State, German state and foundation resources, as well as
supporters from South Tyrol made possible the realisation of the
building expansion. The Hungarian government, as the Chief Minister
stated, has merely one word to say, which is "thank you". The Cultural
Centre of Germans in Hungary includes a kindergarten, an elementary and
secondary school, a dormitory and a training centre. The new building
accommodates the expanded secondary school and the dormitory. The
representatives of the founders, in tandem with the principal of the
institution were awarded prestigious state prizes on the occasion of the

University inaugurated by Rau  

The German University named after Gyula Andr┬ssy was solemnly
inaugurated in the presence of the President of the Republic of Hungary
Ferenc M┬dl and the President of the Federal Republic of Germany
Johannes Rau on 29 November 2002. Mr Rau also met with the president of
the National German Self-government. 

"Prizes for Minorities" awarded

Prime Minister P╩ter Medgyessy delivered the Prizes for Minorities for
2002 in the Parliament the 17 of December. State president Ferenc M┬dl,
President of the Parliament Katalin Szili as well as the leaders of
several state run institutions and minority communities also attended
the ceremony. The Government of the Republic of Hungary, according to
its endeavour to develop and maintain a tolerant atmosphere 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 Minorities, 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
the national minorities in Hungary and of Hungarians abroad. The head of
the German department of a secondary school in P╩cs, the editor of the
Roma Magazine of the state run television, the founder of the Roma
Football League in Hungary and the Martenica Bulgarian Folkdance group
were among the 2002 prizewinners.