Hungarian NGOs about Gyula Horn's statements on Roma

Date: Tue, 03 Feb 98 22:56:54 -0500
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Subject: Hungarian NGOs about Gyula Horn's statements on Roma

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Hungarian NGOs about Gyula Horn's statements on Roma 

I have been asked to distribute this by the Roma Press Center (Roma
Sajtokozpont) here in Budapest. It is a statement published by a number of
Hungarian organisations and pertains to recent statements by Hungarian Prime
Minister Gyula Horn.

Dear Sir / Madam,

We, the undersigned Hungarian human rights organizations would like to take
this opportunity to draw Your attention to some recent public statements
made by Gyula Horn, Prime Minister of Hungary regarding the Gypsy minority,
as these statements have raised concerns.
As You probably know, as a result of the economic transformation following
the political transition, the large Gypsy minority in the former communist
states of Central and Eastern Europe has found itself in a situation even
more difficult than before. This triggers tension all over the region. In
several countries the authorities have responded to these tensions with
violence and increased discrimination, bringing about the wish to migrate
from Romani communities.

The situation in Hungary is better, although certain endeavors can be
experienced here from both the local governments and the central government,
which, instead of relieving, further intensify existing tensions. Last
summer the government elaborated a Roma-program. We do not question the good
will behind government efforts to improve the situation of the Gypsy
minority. Unfortunately, however, we are faced with the fact that conflict-
management programs cannot keep up with the rapid decline of the situation
of the Gypsies, and the dynamically growing tensions. This is the reason why
we consider the attached selection of the Prime Minister's statements -
which are well fit to increase ethnic tensions - worrying.

The Hungarian Prime Minister has made these statements in an environment
where representative public opinion polls demonstrate that the larger part
of majority society openly dislikes Gypsies; 67% of the Hungarian majority
population agrees with the statement that "the inclination to commit crime
is there in Gypsies' blood", and 90% approve that "Gypsies would have no
more problems if only they finally started to work".

The Prime Minister is speaking about the work-willingness of the Gypsies.
However, until the mid-80's there was hardly any difference between the
employment rate of the Romani and non-Romani populations (87% and 85%).
Today almost three-fourths of the working-age Gypsy population are ousted
from the labor-market, because of their lack of education or discrimination
in the workplace, which has also been admitted by the government (see below)

The Prime Minister of the Republic of Hungary is talking about increased
crime among the Gypsy population, and he claims that the Romani population
should isolate themselves from criminals among Gypsies - although it is well
known how much the 'Gypsy crime' stereotype is an adequate device to
generate prejudices. The Prime Minister can not possess data about criminals
who happen to be Gypsies. If he does, according to Hungarian laws in force,
he could only obtain such data illegally. (The effective Hungarian Data
Protection Act forbids the registration of sensitive data like ethnic
affiliation, and the Minority Act protects the freedom of the choice of
identity.) The cited statements of the Prime Minister suggest that crime and
ethnic affiliation are linked with each other.

All these statements are made by one of the most significant Hungarian
public dignitaries, at the time when anti-Gypsy prejudices have resulted in
openly anti-Gypsy measures. In several settlements, local residents have
started collecting signatures to detain Gypsies from settling in the village
, and in December 1997, the local residents of P=E1tka, Fej=E9r county
formed a live chain for two days to prevent Gypsies from moving into the

The European Commission Agenda 2000 country report about Hungary cites the
Hungarian government's report about the situation of national and ethnic
minorities that was submitted to the Parliament in March 1997. In this
report the government admitted that ethnic Gypsies in Hungary are often
subjected to attacks and discriminative measures, and there is a threat that
the situation will aggravate in the coming years. The country report
highlights the following statements of the document: effective legal
regulations cannot effectively prevent ethnic conflicts, and Gypsies are
also subjected to discrimination on the labor market.

Dear Sir / Madam,

In this situation we believe it raises serious concerns that the head of the
Hungarian government makes statements suitable to support prejudices. He in
fact claims that unemployment, striking Roma the worst, is an outcome of
minority ethnic characteristics, and dependence on social allowances is due
to laziness as an ethnic feature. We believe that the Prime Minister should
not feed already existing racial prejudices in the society with such
arguments that may seem reasonable on the surface. According to our
experience, the Hungarian government is sensitive to concerns expressed by
significant international organizations. Therefore, we, the undersigned
Hungarian human rights organizations think that it would be desirable to
inquire at the Prime Minister concerning the above-mentioned concerns: such
statements are capable of undermining the general conviction that the
responsible Hungarian political actors identify themselves with European

To official organizations: we consider it would be advisable to include in
your program sending observers to Hungary, as well as to prepare a report
about the situation of the Roma, the largest minority in Hungary, taking
into account that in the opinion of established social researchers and
governmental experts, the situation may lead to serious ethnic conflicts. In
our view the explicit attention and opinion of international organizations
and institutions may substantially support all efforts aiming at the
tolerant handling of the tensions, in line with European norms.

Should you need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us

Sincerely Yours,

Andr=E1s B=EDr=F3
European Roma Rights Center                             

B=E9la Osztojk=E1n
PHRALIPE Independent Gypsy Organization

M=E1rton Ill
Centre for the Defense of Human Rights - Hungary

Ferenc K=F5szeg 
Hungarian Helsinki Committee

Alad=E1r Horv=E1th
Romani Civil Rights Foundation - Hungary

Judit Fridli
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union

Jen=F5 Zsig=F3 
Romani Parliament - Hungary

Statements of Gyula Horn, Prime Minister of Hungary regarding the Hungarian
Gypsy population

Some public statements made by Hungarian Prime Minister Gyula Horn about the
Gypsy population in Hungary are listed below. The sources of the statements
are Hungarian daily papers and other news providers. The dates and places of
the publications are indicated at the end of the statements

"Unfortunately the claims and remarks stating that it is also the Gypsies'
responsibility, task and duty to isolate and separate from criminals,
ruffians and the like among Gypsies have remained more or less unanswered"  
(The Prime Minister's speech at a meeting with foreign ambassadors in
Budapest on July the 16th 1997, in:

"(Gy. H.) emphasized that while the country is doing very much to benefit
its minorities, one must take the interests of majority society into
consideration as well. Laws and norms are binding for everyone, not just the
majority, but the minority as well - (...) it can no longer go on that
people establish themselves in a lifestyle without labor earnings; it is
also impermissible that they destroy newly built social housing units, and
it is unacceptable too that crime is increasing apace in the neighborhoods
inhabited by Gypsies."
(The Prime Minister's speech at a miners' congress in Balatonfured, in:
Nepszabadsag, 11.28.1997)

"(Gy. H.) stressed that it is well known, that crime has substantially
increased within the Gypsy population, therefore he called the Roma again to
exclude from their community those who are trying to make a living by
committing crime."
(The Prime Minister's speech at the meeting of the Lungo Drom Romani
organization, which constitutes the basis of the National Gypsy
Self-Government, in: Magyar Harlap, 01.17.1998)

"(Gy. H.) did not consider it acceptable that for Romani families the only
form of making ends meet is the allowance received for the children, and in
his view this could be helped if only they entered employment." (The Prime
Minister, ibid., in: Nepszava, 01.17.1998)

"It must also be said outright that a significant portion of society has
unfavorable experience regarding Gypsies' work-willingness, abuse of public
goods and observance of community norms and rules."
(The Prime Minister, ibid., in: the Roma Press Center's archive)
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