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State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2011 - Hungary

Publisher Minority Rights Group International
Publication Date 6 July 2011
Cite as Minority Rights Group International, State of the World's Minorities and Indigenous Peoples 2011 - Hungary, 6 July 2011, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4e16d371c.html [accessed 25 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Parliamentary elections were held in Hungary in April 2010 and were won by the right-wing Fidesz party. Both the radical nationalist and openly anti-Roma and anti-Semitic Jobbik or 'Movement for a Better Hungary' party and the left-liberal LMP or 'Politics Can Be Different' also won seats for the first time. While 5 out of 16 of LMP's representatives are women, the 2010 European Gender Equality Law Review noted with concern that none of the parties addressed issues related to gender equality in their programmes. As a result, gender issues have effectively disappeared as an area of concern in Hungarian politics. The Third Opinion of the FCNM Advisory Committee adopted in 2010 also points out that 'although the Hungarian Constitution and the 1993 Law on the Rights of National and Ethnic Minorities guarantee in general terms the possibility for minorities to be represented in parliament, a specific mechanism for the representation of minorities in parliament is still lacking'. The Opinion also recommends that the institutional framework is adjusted rapidly to ensure adequate minority representation.

One of the new government's first moves was an amendment to the Hungarian citizenship law, passed almost unanimously in May 2010. The measure that came into effect on 1 January 2011 allows ethnic Hungarians living abroad to apply for dual citizenship, and will primarily affect ethnic Hungarian minorities living in neighbouring countries. Of these neighbouring countries, only Slovakia (home to 500,000 Hungarians) has objected to the new law. Robert Fico, Prime Minister of Slovakia at the time, called the move a 'security threat' and introduced counter-measures withdrawing Slovak citizenship for people who apply for Hungarian citizenship. In contrast, Romania raised no objections to members of its Hungarian minority obtaining dual citizenship.

Jobbik's election campaign had centred on addressing what it classed as 'Hungary's biggest domestic problem', namely 'the coexistence' of Roma and Hungarians. Once elected, in September Jobbik proposed the creation of 'public order zones' in Roma-inhabited areas of the north-eastern city of Miskolc. The proposal, which was condemned by governing party Fidesz as an 'outrageous proposition', amounted to the establishment of cordoned-off areas where public order offenders would be sealed off and kept under surveillance by local gendarmerie. Jobbik leader Gabor Vona also proposed schooling Roma children in segregated boarding schools.

Jobbik's racist proposals hit a nerve in the country, which saw a series of killings of Roma in 2008 and 2009. A delegation from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) visited some 12 locations where fatal incidents had taken place, and published its report in June 2010. The resulting report identified challenges including:

'The relative frequency of extremist anti-Roma statements in the media and public/political discourse and the weakness of legal or political mechanisms to restrict or counter such extremist rhetoric'.

and

'The weakness of legislation specifically addressing hate crimes and limited capacity to investigate or prosecute such crimes.'

Hungary will come before the UN Human Rights Council in 2011, as part of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR), in order for its compliance with international human rights obligations to be assessed. In a joint submission to the Human Rights Council made in November 2010, MRG and other human rights organizations urged the Council to act firmly 'against flagrant human rights abuses of Roma'. The joint submission gives a detailed account of the ongoing discrimination that Roma suffer in the areas of employment, education, health care and housing. It raises grave concerns regarding the lack of adequate legal protection against the exploitation of Roma women in human trafficking, gender-based and domestic violence, and the over-representation of Roma children in the Hungarian child protection system. According to research conducted by the ERRC, gender-based violence is an acute problem for Roma women, who are reluctant to report incidents of violence for fear of experiencing further victimization and discrimination from the police. The submission points out that there is no specific law on domestic violence against women, and existing measures do not provide adequate protection.

The 2010 European Gender Equality Law Review reports of a case lodged before the Equal Treatment Authority (ETA) by a member of the Roma minority self-government against the mayor of Edelény, a town with a large Roma population. The mayor had alleged that some pregnant Roma women had intentionally harmed their foetuses, damaging their mental or physical health in order to receive higher child benefits. As the Review states:

'the ETA found that this statement – which was then widely spread across the media by its opposition – violated the dignity of pregnant Roma women and Roma women in general and created a hostile and degrading environment for them, thus constituting discrimination in the form of harassment. The ETA ordered the cessation of the violation and, after the Court of the Capital City had turned down the appeal against the decision it acquired final and binding force.'

Fidesz, the mayor's political party withdrew his candidacy, but he ran in the elections and won a seat as the only independent representative in the new parliament.

Hungary took over the Presidency of the EU on 1 January 2011, with the ambitious objective of pushing through the adoption of the Framework Strategy on Roma Integration at the 2011 June meeting of the European Council. The Framework Strategy is supported by the European Roma Policy Coalition (a coalition of human rights NGOs) and has been under discussion at the European Commission and the European parliament since 2008. As stated on Hungary's official EU Presidency website, 'the Framework Strategy would be the cornerstone of a unified European Roma Policy, on the basis of which Member states would in the future develop their own Roma integration reform programs'. It remains to be seen whether the adoption of such a Roma strategy is realistic at the EU level, and whether Hungary, itself facing major problems in protecting the human rights of its Roma population, will succeed in negotiating and seeing through the adoption of the Framework Strategy at the European Council.

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