MINELRES: Hungary: Minority News, July - August 2005

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Wed Aug 31 21:41:43 2005

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

Office for National and Ethnic Minorities
Budapest, Hungary

Selection of news on
national and ethnic minorities in Hungary

July - August 2005

Series of anniversaries

15th anniversary of the Office for National and Ethnic Minorities

On 30 August 2005, the Hungarian Office for National and Ethnic
Minorities celebrated the 15th anniversary of its foundation. The
Office, which is the main governmental agency in charge of minority
issues, was established by Government Decree No 34/1990 (VIII.30) in
1990 for the purpose of carrying out governmental tasks related to
national and ethnic minorities living in Hungary. 

The Office for National and Ethnic Minorities is an independent state
administrative body with national sphere of authority. Earlier
supervised by the Prime Minister's Office, it has been operating since
October 2004 under the guidance of the Minister of Youth, Family, Social
Affaires and Equal Opportunities. The Office is responsible for
co-ordinating the implementation of the government's minority policy
objectives. Its field of action covers the issues of preserving and
developing the identity, the language, the traditions and the cultural
heritage of minorities. It continuously evaluates the situation of the
national and ethnic minorities and the enforcement of their rights. It
prepares analyses and minority policy concepts on which the government
can base resolutions concerning the minorities. It facilitates the
communication between the government and the minority organisations. The
Office is involved in minority-related legislation and the preparation
of amendments as well as in the drafting of government programmes
designed to implement the minority act. 

Minister of Youth, Family, Social Affaires and Equal Opportunities Mrs
Kinga Goncz, Parliamentary Commissioner for the Rights of National and
Ethnic Minorities Dr Jeno Kaltenbach, the former presidents of the
Office as well as the presidents of the national minority
self-governments honoured the celebration festivities with their

10th anniversary of the existence of the institution of ombudsman

Almost 16 years have passed since the institution of the ombudsman was
introduced by the new Hungarian Constitution, and the respective Act was
passed 12 years ago. The four ombudspersons (the commissioner for
citizens' rights and his/her deputy, the commissioner for national and
ethnic minority rights as well as the commissioner for data protection)
have been operating for ten years, since the appointment of the first
ombudspersons took place on 30 June 1995. The ombudsmen may initiate
general or specific actions to remedy anomalies related to the
procedures of authorities and public service providers. In this respect,
the minorities' ombudsman is responsible for investigating any kind of
abuse of minority rights that comes to his attention and for initiating
general and individual measures in order to remedy it.

The mandate of the first commissioners expired on 30 June 2001. Among
them, Dr Jeno Kaltenbach, commissioner for national and ethnic minority
rights - who was also active for a long time as vice-chairman of the
European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance of the Council of
Europe - was the only ombudsperson whose appointment was renewed, which
clearly reflects the stability of this unique institution in Europe. 

10th anniversary of the Prize for Minorities

The Day of Minorities (18 December) and the Prize for Minorities
connected to this feast was launched upon the initiative of the then
State Secretary Mr Csaba Tabajdi in 1995. Since then, the Prize has been
awarded every year to outstanding members - individuals, organisations
and groups - of the minority communities living in Hungary as well as to
representatives of the Hungarian communities living abroad. To
commemorate the anniversary, the Office for National and Ethnic
Minorities published a book containing the list and the achievements of
those awarded as well as interviews with selected prize winners. 

Government Decrees on minority reports

In summer 2005, the Government has adopted the biennial report on the
situation of the national and ethnic minorities living in Hungary to be
submitted to Parliament. The compilation of the report is regularly the
task of the Office for National and Ethnic Minorities. Separate chapters
of the comprehensive report deal with the different aspects of the life
of minorities (e.g. minority legislation, education, culture and arts,
religious life, media, demographic situation, financial support,
international relations, etc.) and also with the separate presentation
of each minority community. The report can be read in Hungarian on the
website of the Ministry of Youth, Family, Social Affairs and Equal
Opportunities at the following address: 

The 3rd report on the implementation of the European Charter for
Regional or Minority Languages compiled by the Office for National and
Ethnic Minorities was equally adopted by the Government by Government
Decree 2150/2005 (VII.27.). After translation, the report will be
submitted to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe in autumn.

Financial assistance to the take-over of minority institutions by
minority self-governments

Since 2003, a new fund managed by the Office for National and Ethnic
Minorities has been supporting minority self-governments to take over
and maintain already existing minority educational or cultural
institutions or to found new institutions of this kind. Parallel with
the phenomenon of strengthening minority identity, we can observe an
increased will on behalf of the minority self-governments to do so. In
2005, the assistance available for this purpose amounted to HUF 440M.
(With appr. 200 HUF equalling 1 US Dollar this makes up about. USD 2.2M)
The evaluation of the 2005 applications has ended in summer. 11 out of
the 13 minority communities have applied and obtained financial
assistance. Among them, the German community will receive a support of
HUF 80M (six institutions including the German Theatre), the Roma
community will get HUF 53M (three institutions including the National
Roma Museum) or the Slovak community will be given HUF 96.8M (eight
institutions including the Research Institute of the Slovaks of Hungary,
the Bekescsaba school mentioned in our previous issue and the Slovak
Cultural Centre, which joins and co-ordinates the activities and the
programmes of seven Slovak regional community centres). HUF 6.5M were
allocated to cover the investment and operational costs of a
Budapest-based, Croatian-language radio that will broadcast its
programmes through the Internet. About 75% of the total amount available
was allocated for different operational costs whilst HUF 110M will cover
construction and investment expenses such as the enlargement of the
Museum and Archives of the Poles living in Hungary or the reconstruction
of the Bulgarian Cultural Centre.

Members of minority communities awarded

On the occasion of the National Feast of the Republic of Hungary (20
August), the President of the Republic of Hungary Mr Laszlo Solyom
handed over state awards to prominent personalities in the building of
the Hungarian Parliament. Parliamentary Commissioner Dr Jeno Kaltenbach
was awarded the Middle Cross of the Order of the Republic of Hungary.
Minister Kinga Goncz also handed over awards to several members of
minority communities (activists, community leaders, musicians, artists,
teachers) whose outstanding intellectual, artistic or humanitarian
activities have greatly contributed to the development of the country.

Exhibitions of works by minority artists

Deputy State Secretary of the Ministry of Youth, Family, Social Affairs
and Equal Opportunities Mrs Edit Rauh Hornung opened the exhibition of
the paintings by well-known Roma painter Istvan Szentandrassy in the
Arts Gallery "Esely" (Chance) of the Ministry at the end of July. Later
this autumn, this gallery will also host the exhibition of paintings by
the internationally known painter Stefan Orojan (from the Romanian
community of Hungary) and a photo exhibition entitled "Thank you,
Hungary", based on the collection of Mr Raptis Ioannis, member of the
Greek community. The photo exhibition will show visual documents from
the life of some 3,500 Greek children who took refuge - without their
parents, but with their consent - in Hungary in the period of the Greek
civil war which took place between 1946-1949.

Network of Opportunity Centres

In co-operation with all possible partners including municipalities,
employers, organisations of employees, the police and professionals in
the area of health care and social affairs, the Government has been
setting up a network of "Opportunity Centres" to become one of the main
pillars of the Programme for the Equality of Opportunities. So far, 12
centres out of the 20 envisaged have been set up, and they serve as a
linking point for representatives of organisations whose activity is
related to the equality of opportunities in a given county. The Centres
collect and analyse information, carry out surveys, provide information
on measures and programmes promoting the equality of opportunities and
inform about their implementation, help to mobilize resources to fight
social exclusion, take up mediation activities and provide professional
advice. Their main profile is community organisation, which means that
they do not work with individual clients, but rather with social groups
affected by inequality problems and with organisations seeking to remedy
these problems.

In August 2005, at a two-day conference of the leaders of Opportunity
Centres, President of the Office for National and Ethnic Minorities Mr
Antal Heizer proposed the development of closer co-operation between the
office and the network. He offered the holding of a series of
presentations on the recently modified minority legislation that would
contribute to a better preparation of the 2006 minority elections. The
office will supply the network with free information material and
publications as well.

Conference on minority issues 

The Minority Research Institute of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences,
the Institute of Germanistics of the Eotvos Lorand University and the
Friedrich-Ebert Stiftung will organize a conference on minority issues
and languages in the premises of the Minority Research Institute on 11
October. The first presentation by minority ombudsman Jeno Kaltenbach
will bear the title "Law and identity: is European regulation possible?"
Other presentations of the programme will tackle the issue of European
identity and nation states, the possibility of the preservation of
minority languages in Hungary and the economic situation of minorities
living in Hungary. 

Two events from the area of minority education

The interest of schoolchildren in attending the Totkomlos Slovak
Bilingual Primary School has been growing for years. However, the
building of the school was too small and obsolete. Within the system of
targeted financial assistance, the Hungarian Government allocated HUF
624M for a period of three years with the aim of having the building
renovated and enlarged. To mark the beginning of the works, the
foundation-stone were laid by Hungarian Minister Mr Peter Kiss leading
the Prime Minister's Office and Deputy Prime Minister of the Slovak
Government Mr Pal Csaky on 30 August 2005 under solemn circumstances. In
Pecs, the enlargement works of the Miroslav Krleza Croatian-Hungarian
Educational Centre supported from PHARE Cross-Border Co-operation (CBC)
Funds have successfully ended. The new aula and the new dormitory will
be inaugurated by Mr Laszlo Toller, Mayor of Pecs, on 31

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