MINORITIES RESEARCH

Toso Doncsev

Recent Changes in the Condition of National Minorities

In discussing the latest changes and tendencies in the condition of minorities in Hungary, before anything else we should mention Hungary's minorities policies, or the tasks facing the government. The circumstances and the position of the minorities are greatly influenced by those legal, institutional and financial conditions, through which the government tries to assist them in preserving their traditions, culture and identity.

In the past decade there has been general agreement between the parliamentary parties, and therefore joint action has been possible, in three areas. In addition to the Euro-Atlantic integration and the issue of Hungarians living outside Hungary, the problem of minorities living in Hungary formed the third such area. Ever since the inauguration of the last, reformist government before the sweeping political changes of 1989, the professional, scholarly and political workshops dealing with the minorities, and partly constituted by representatives of the minorities, have continuously been forming; the process of the minorities' self-organisation has grown from strength to strength, and their representatives joined the work of legislative bodies. The programs of the successive governments have proven, through the passing and sanctioning of the laws aimed at the protection of minorities and the improving of their life conditions, that Hungary attaches special attention to the realisation of national and ethnic minorities' rights. Since the political changes of 1989 the aim of minority politics, founded on general consensus, has been the creation of complex system of conditions for the minorities that enables them to preserve and to pass on their cultural self-identity.

Continuity does not, however, mean stagnation, as our governments, which all ascribed great significance to the minority issue, were working on different areas of the then actual issues of minorities politics; in other words they shifted the emphasis to various aspects. On the other hand, the situation of the minorities failed to freeze into a fossiled museum piece; on the contrary, they moved away from their earlier static position.

Unlike its Latin correspondent, "continuitas", the Hungarian word "folyamatosság" (continuity), which derives from "folytatni" (to carry on), "folytatás" (to be continued) and "folytatódás" (continuation), also carry the meaning "folyamat" (process). It simultaneously expresses uninterruptedness, permanence and the fact that it is about the propagation and further progress of earlier results. As the outstanding milestones in the development of Hungarian minorities politics, we should mention the Minority Round Table in session between 1991 1993, the proclamation of the Minority Law of 1993, the formation of the minority self-government system in 1994-95 and its consolidation and social embedment with the elections of 1998.

The minority protection measures are associated with four main areas: legislation, the establishment of new institutions, financial support, and the arousal of society's attention towards the minority issues.

Legislation

The guaranty of constitutional rights and fundamental human rights, along with the supervision of their execution, receives central importance in legislation. In the area of minority politics, Law LXXVII of 1993 on the rights of national and ethnic minorities, which was passed with a majority of 96 per cent, is of crucial importance.

Since then some new laws, as well as some modifications of previous laws, have been passed. An amendment of Law LXXIX of 1996 clarified those rules that applied to the foundation and running of public education institutions by local and national minority self-governments. This law declares that the language of education in Hungary is both Hungarian and the language of those minorities who live there; furthermore, it lays down that the national and ethnic minorities are entitled to education in their mother tongue. The organisation and maintenance of minority education is obligatory in all cases when the parents of eight children of a minority require it. From the viewpoint of the further development of minority education, the Minority Law also has paramount importance, since it reserves for the minority bodies the right of prior consultation and approval so as to guarantee the autonomy of minorities in education. These rights were reconfirmed in the bill's amendment of 1996. The national bodies of minority self-government themselves are allowed to establish and run educational institutions; however, the professional and financial preconditions for this have still no been provided.

The ministerial decree 32/1997 on the guiding principles of kingergarten and school education is a fundamental document, which defines the content of education and regulates the tasks regarding the teaching and education in mother tongue, in bilingual education and, specifically, in the teaching and education of the Romany minority. The minority education makes the classes in the given minority's history, geography, culture, tradition, as well as the minority rights, obligatory.

Law CXXVII of 1996 on National News Agency obligates the Hungarian News Agency to publish information about the lives of the national and ethnic minorities.

Law CXL of 1997 on the protection of cultural values, on museums, on public libraries and on public education has also bearing on the minorities. The bill's aim was, among others, the preservation and worthy continuation of the cultural traditions of national and ethnic minorities, the improvement of the personal, intellectual and economic conditions of collective and individual education.

In the past few years the minorities' viewpoints have appeared in other pieces of Hungarian legislation. The resulting bills can meet the requirements of the age, which guarantee the basic constitutional rights of minorities.

It is a rather unfortunate situation, however, the in the matter of the minorities' parliamentary representation there has still not been a consenus.

Establishment of Institutions

The political will to support the minorities has also created some new institutions. The position of parliamentary ombudsman for national and ethnic minorities has been instituted in accordance with the Constitution and Law LIX of 1993. The minority ombudsman's task is to examine, or order the examination of, anomalies in the area of minority rights, and to start proceedings, both general and individual, to remedy them. The citizens can turn to the ombudsman in all cases when they feel that their constitutional rights have been violated due to some authority's or public office's actions, or failure to act.

A new, autonomous institute of national jurisdiction was established in state administration in 1990, the National and Ethnic Minorities Office. In 1998 it came under the supervision of the Ministry of Justice. The main task of the Office is to aid and prepare the government's decision making in minority politics and to help form its minority politics concept. It continuously evaluates the situation of minorities, supervises the realisation of their rights and conducts analyses in order to better found the governmet's decisions related to them. It also synchronises the execution of the tasks laid down in the government's program, and monitors the realization of the minority tasks under the jurisdiction of government offices. The Office is in continuous consultation with the representatives of the minorities. It has set up an institutional framework specifically for this task. On the recommendation of the European Council, delegations from Central and Eastern European states still without similar institutions, or having similar institution still in an embryonic state, are continuously arriving in order to study the Office's work.

In establishing the minorities' self-government system, the Minorities Law used a method which was unique in the world: it combined the local governments, which were formed in legitimate elections and were endowed with the status of public office, with the sporadic settlement of the minorities; in other words, it combined the form typically associated with regional autonomy with the specific settlement formations basically founded on individual rights. At the same time, the bill opened the way for regional autonomy by permitting the creation of minority self-governments in the various settlements.

With the development of the minorities' self-government system the minorities living in Hungary earned the right to integrate, in a legitimate way, their organisations into the system of self-governments in order to ensure the realisation of national and ethnic minority rights in the day-to-day life of the local public affairs. For minority self-governments, the right laid down in law, whereby they can freely decide in matters of the establishment, transfer and maintenance of institutions autonomously within their own jurisdiction, is a manifestation of cultural autonomy, especially in the areas of local schooling, local media, written and electronic, the preservation of traditions and public education.

Several hundreds of minority government representatives took part in the courses organised by the Minority Office. The topics of the courses covered every aspects of Hungary's constitutional framework. To speed up the training, after 1997 the courses were run by the counties' trained minority referees, with the National and Ethnic Minoroty Office merely providing the professional and-with the help of PHARE grants-the financial assistance. In connection with the parliamentary elections of 1997, the Minority Ombudsman and the Public Administration Office of Budapest published manuals for representatives of minority self-governments.

The National and Ethnic Minorities Office also held training courses for civil organisations in order to increase the efficiency of keeping contact with local governments and minority self-governments. During the training, which took place in the country's five large cities, delegates from about 200 civil organisations represented the country's minorities to acquire the skills and techniques necessary for putting out tenders, communicating and budgeting.

The Financial Support of Minorities

The government lends support to the self-organisation and functioning of minorities in a multi-channel system that separates the overhead costs from the financing of programs, and also the financial support given to minority self-governments from the grants allocated to civil organisations.

The national self-governments and public endowments receive central funding through the Ministry of Justice, the subsidy to the local governments appears in the Ministry of Interior's budget, while the civil organisations of the minorities are funded on the recommendation of the Parliament's Committee of Human Rights, Minorities and Religion. The subsidy of minority self-governments is steadily increasing. In 1977 the national self-governments received subsidies in the sum of 306 million Forints, which grew to 398 million in 1998, and 506 million in 1999. As to the local self-government of the minorities, they drew 300 million Forints in 1997, as opposed to 350 million in 1998, and-in view of a sharp rise in their number-730 million in 1999.

Every national self-government that was established after the first election has now adequate head-quarters, guaranteeing the necessary preconditions for proper functioning. The recently established Ukraine and Ruthen self-governments will get their own headquarters soon.

The largest sum in the budgetary subsidies designated to the minorities is for educational purposes. The budget guarantees subsidiary government subsidies in the framework of a normative support scheme to those local governments which maintain an institution discharging educational programs for minorities. In the Budget of 1999 a total of 4.6 milliard Forints have been set aside for the purposes of providing kindergarten and school education as well as dormitories to students of national and ethnic minorities.

Despite the growing budgetary support to minority education, some of the local governments maintaining small, independent minority schools have run into financial difficulties. To solve the problem, further sums under separate budgetary heading have been allocated to those local governments that are running minority schools with less than 130 students, or minority kindergartens with less 60 children.

Further important elements in the budget's support scheme for minorities are the public endowments: the Public Endowment for Hungary's National and Ethnic Minorities, the Public Endowment for Hungary's Gypsy Minority, and the Gandhi Public Endowment. By establishing public endowments, the government not only invited the minorities' representatives to take part in the decision making process, but it also made it possible that the minorities' different situation and demands be taken into account in the financing of concrete tasks.

The Public Endowment for Hungary's National and Ethnic Minorities has been established in order to support programs and activities that serve the purpose of preserving the self-identity of the countries' minorities, and to nurture and pass on their traditions, language, and culture, both material and spiritual. The written media of the national and ethnic minorities receive support from the same endowment to the extent of one newspaper for every ethnic or national group. In 1998 this mean the financing of 17 newspapers belonging to 13 minorities, with nationwide distribution. To achieve this goal, the government paid out 474 million Forints in 1998, and 530 million Forints in 1999. Nevertheless, the demand for this form of subsidy exceeds the endowment's financial capacity nine-times over, creating considerable tension both among the applicants and in the body of trustees whose job is to judge the applications.

The Foundation for Hungary's Gypsy Minority, which had 280 million Forints at its disposal in 1999, primarily supports the development of small enterprises, as well as vocational and health programs to aid families and small communities in making a livelihood. The Gandhi Foundation's aim is to maintain a secondary school with a dormitory, reserved especially for talented Gypsy youth. They received subsidies in 1999 in the sum of 210 million Forints.

Under the Minority Law, the government set aside a "minority compensation budget" for two years running, with 500 million Forints for each year, to facilitate the housing of national and local minority self-governments. The remaining part of the 1 milliard Forints have been spent on the educational and cultural institutions of the minorities, as well as on the local minority self-governments.

Minorities and Social Focus

After sweeping the problem under the carpet for several decades, which was basically what the previous regime had done, the presence of national and ethnic minorities is beginning to be accepted by Hungarian society at large. This is manifested, among others, by those tens of thousands of sympathy votes that members of the majority nation cast on the minorities' self-governments. An important role is assigned to the public and minority media in raising people's attention and making them sensitive to the issue. Their functioning and supervision are regulated and guaranteed both by Hungarian laws and by international agreements ratified by Hungary.

At the moment, the public channel Hungarian Television produces programs for twelve nationalities, with the Hungarian Radio broadcasting programs for thirteen nationality since 1998. Biweekly television broadcasting of minority programs in the minorities' mother tongue complement the minority newsmagazines in Hungarian. The national self-governments of the minorities make sovereign decisions about the principles of using the television time available for them at the public media. The broadcasters are obligated under the law to take these decisions into account. In addition to the minority newspapers of nationwide distribution, the minority supplements of the national newspapers and the minority language supplements of the local newspapers also report on minority issues; furthermore, there are such special minority magazines as "Barátság" (Friendship), "Napút" (Sun Way), or earlier on "Polisz", as well as the magazines specializing in minority research, such as Kisebbségkutatás (Minority Research), Regio (Region), or Pro Minoritate. The minority research workshops of universities, higher education institutes and museums, the Minority Research Workshop of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, the European Comperative Minority Researches Institute, the László Teleki Foundation's Central European Institute all conduct research and hold conferences to keep the minority issue in the focus of society's attention.

One indication of the minorities' acknowledgment as state constituting factors, and a sign of appreciating the role they have played in our history, is the fact that the 100 small monographs published within the millennium program "The Library of a Hundred Hungarian villages" includes publications on the local history of settlements inhabited by minorities.

The enacted measures and laws in themselves are not enough. It is also necessary to continuously re-evaluate their execution in order to implement the necessary changes. In this regard the international organisations keep a watchful eye on the development of our minorities' conditions. The Hungarian government compiled a country report for the General Secretary of the European Council in the first half of 1999 about the extent to which it has been able to meet the requirements laid down in the General Agreement on the Protection of National Minorities and in the European Charta of Regional or Minority Languages. The two momentous reports were prepared and presented on the specified deadline by the National and Ethnic Minorities Office. The organisation Euroepan Committee against Racism and Intolerance, which functions within the framework of European Council, issued a country report about Hungary in 1997. According to this, our country acknowledged the minorities in the Law on the Rights of National and Ethnic Minorities, their collective and individual rights, in a recommendable manner. It also welcomed the election of parliamentary ombudsmen, most notably the minority ombudsman, as the guarantee of the appropriate execution of the act.

The Law on Minorities obligates the government to report to Parliament on the situation of the minorities in every second year. The government discussed the report for Spring 1999 in April. This comprehensive document-not exactly a scholarly essay yet one that relies on the results of academic research-takes into account the changes that took place in the specified two-year period in the situation of minorities, providing a thorough analysis and evaluation. The first large chapter gives a thematic analysis on the demographic situation of the minorities, and on issues related to education, culture, religious life, mass communication devices, international relations and participation in public life. The second part takes the 13 received minorities in Hungary one by one, describing their current conditions.

Changes in the Conditions of Hungary's Minorities

The changes taking place in the lives of Hungary's minorities are basically divided into two classes. On the one hand they can be the results of general social processes, both favourable and unfavourable. They include aging and the reduction in the number of births, as well as favourable processes characterising society as a whole, such as democratisation, the gradual realistaiton of the principle of subsidiarity, all generating increasing local activity in the lives of minorities. On the other hand, there are those changes in the condition of minorities, which resulted specifically from the government's steps and measures introduced in minority politics.

I. Demography

According to the census of 1990, of the country's 10,374,823 inhabitants 232,751 people registered themselves as belonging to a national minority, of whom 137,724 gave the language of one of the national or ethnic minorities as their mother tongue. However, the minority organisations gave a much higher estimate for the population of various national and ethnic minorities, ranging from a few thousands to nearly half a million (Romany).

The census of 1990 provided three indications of national belonging: nationality, mother tongue and spoken language. The confession to a particular nationality is primarily based on emotional motives, without necessarily presupposing the command of that nationality's mother tongue. By mother tongue we mean the language acquired in childhood and spoken within the family; however, some of the people who speak a national minority's language confess to Hungarian nationality. Additional information about the nationality background can be gained from questions concerning the command of non-native languages in cases when the tongue of a given nationality is not a world language. In addition to minorities concealing their original nationality, these latter figures, however, also include the ethnic Hungarians who have moved to Hungary from the surrounding countries and can speak the language of that country.

No one can be forced to answer questions about his or her ethnic origins; due to the historical abuses of the enumeration of population, taking a census of minorities is always a difficult task. In preparation for the next census, due in 2001, extensive consultation with between the minorities and the Hungarian Statistical Office have been taking place in order to make possible to take a survey of Hungary's minorities' double bounding. On the basis of society's growing trust and the competent phrasing of the questions, hopefully we shall gain a realistic picture of the population of Hungary's minorities in 2001.

Generally speaking, the age composition of Hungary's minority population is rather unfavourable, even in comparison to the aging population of Hungary's total population.

The dynamism of confessing to a minority varies from nationality to nationality. The strength and type of bounding also vary according to generations and age groups. In the case of the elder generations, the mother tongue is the strongest indication of ethnic origin. The decrease of the population who give a minority language as their mother tongue can reflect a genuine demographic decline (the natural decrease of the population who regard the dialect as their mother tongue), but it can also indicate psychological factors, such as assimilation due to the large number of mixed marriages. The population increase as shown by the inquiry of nationality-for example, the tripling of the number of people confessing to a German identity-is explained not by an actual increase in absolute numbers, but by changes in society, economy, politics and also in people's mind, as a result of which the motivation to confess to a given nationality have strengthened.

II. Education

In most of the minority families the process of passing on the mother tongue has broken, with the Hungarian language becoming dominant. The various dialects spoken by the minorities are incapable of continuous renewal, and therefore have a decreasing role in social communication. The importance of schools in passing on the mother tongue has grown, along with the responsibility of educational institutions.

The re-acquisition of a language and the widening scope of its usage can result from the changes taking place in education. In accordance with the prescriptions of the Law of Public Education, the National Curriculum was introduced in 1998, along with the Guidelines to Minority Education. Still in the same year, and in conjunction with the changes in its structure, the government set out to create the conditions necessary for reforming minority education.

As part of the Hungarian public education system, minority education must guarantee all those services that public education in general offers. Its additional task is (save a few exceptions) not simply to provide these in the nationalities' mother tongue, but to create the preconditions that are necessary for minority students to be able to learn both the mother tongue and their culture and history. The guaranteeing of the material preconditions necessary for running the educational institutions is a central task of the government. In the first half of the 1990s the school facilities of minorities were developed in a system of earmarked grants. The building of several 12-grade minority schools of nationwide enrollment, complete with dormitories, were built with central funding in that decade (Slovak, Croatian, Serb, German), while the construction of a similar Romanian college approaches completion and a Bulgarian one will start in this year.

The minority figures of the past two academic years show that the proportion of those receiving minority education was 5.3 per cent of the total population for that age group in the school year of 1996/97, rising to 5.5 per cent for the schools year of 1997/98. Between 1992 and 1998 the number of kindergartens decreased 1 per cent nationwide, while the number of minority kindergartens grew by 8.2 per cent. Within the average 0.9 per cent increase in the number of primary schools the number of minority schools grew by 8.6 per cent. Even more spectacular is the increase in the area of secondary schools, where the national figure of a 20 per cent increase is to be contrasted with a 166 per cent increase in the number of minority secondary schools. A similar tendency can be discovered from studying the figures of the number of pupils in kindergartens, primary and secondary schools: against a background of declining national figures, the number of children in minority institutions have increased.

The statistical average is deceptive, however. The apparently positive tendencies in the past decade's figures conceal some unfavourable processes, with the exception of the German minority. Today in about 70 per cent of the bilingual minority schools German is the language of education, with the Slovak, Croatian, Romanian, Slovene and Serb languages accounting for the remaining 30 per cent.

A special form of minority education is provided by the so-called "Sunday schools", generally organised and run by the local governments and financed by the Ministry of Education. The minorities maintaining the Sunday schools make great efforts in order to standardise the curriculum in their schools; to specify the detailed requirements of the subjects taught there; and to integrate with the system of public education usually by using one of the settlement's schools as their base.

With the introduction of the system of normative financing in higher education the conditions of faculties with small number of students-primarily the minority faculties-suffered a setback, despite the fact that the decrees of financing allowed for certain additional norms. In addition to the possibilities of education and further education in Hungary, the young people belonging to a national minority (with the exception of the Germans) have access to various grants in the country of their mother nations for training, partial training and linguistic/methodological continuing education.

III. Civil Society, Religious Life

In the past years the processes of self-organisation and self-awareness have been gaining strength among the minorities. The large number the minorities' various civil organisations, societies, clubs and groups is a telling sign of the realisation of the rights to assemble and to associate, beside indicating the high level of self-organisation.

The cultural institutions of the public in settlements inhabited by minorities are obliged to meet the minorities' cultural demands. The independent institutions of public culture in minority settlements have been going from strength to strength in recent times. In the Serb minority's case, the Serb National Self-government is at the moment carrying out the tasks of a national cultural centre. The cultural institutions established specifically for the minorities have appeared-the Bulgarian Cultural Institute and Library, the Gypsy and the German community centres, the National Gypsy Centre of Information and Culture, The Ukraine Cultural Centre, the Armenian Cultural Centre, The Slovakian Culture's House, the Slovakian Cultural and Education Centre, the Lenau House, etc. Some of the community centres have been supported financially by the Ministry of Culture.

In the religious lives of national and ethnic minorities the Hungarian Catholic Church plays an important role. The members of the Croatian, Polish and Slovenian minorities very nearly all confess to the Roman Catholic faith. The majority of the German minority and a substantial part of the Slovak minority (in the hills of Trans-Danubia) are also Roman Catholic, along with the large majority of Hungary's Gypsy population. In the Szabolcs region there is a sizeable Gypsy population of the Greek Catholic denominaiton, who have already erected their own church in Hodász. The Armanian have their own Armenian Catholic clergy. Among the followers of Hungary's Evangelical Church we find the Germans living in Western and Southern Trans-Danubia and a large Slovak population.

The Bulgarian, Romania and Serbian Orthodox Church have their own ecclesiastical organisations integrated with the churches of the mother countries. The seats of the Central and the Western European Metropolitan are in Budapest. Three years ago a Greek Orthodox church was built in the village of Beloianisz. The Synod of Hungary's Romanian Orthodox Church inaugurated its first bishop in Gyula on February 21, 1999. The conditions of practicing religion in ones mother tongue vary from minority to minority and from denomination to denomination, with the chronic shortage of priests causing difficulties in some cases.

The minority research institutes gradually established by the minorities have been studying the traditions, history and present conditions of minorities ever since the early 1990s. They have very different structural framework; in some cases they were established on civil initiative, and in some cases they are associated with a national self-government or a university. This diversity makes their financing more difficult. The Slovak Research Institute was established first in Békéscsaba in 1989. This was followed by the German research centre in Pécs, ELTE's Germanism Institute in Budapest, both carrying out serious work in the academic life of Hungary's German population. The research institute of Hungary's Romanian community was established in Gyula in 1993, with the Croatian Research Institute following suit still in the same year. The Research Institute of Hungary's Bulgarian minority works within the framework of the Bulgarian National Self-Government; the Ruthenian Research Institute is governed by the Ruthenian Society. In addition to the Romany Research Institute, which was founded in Budapest in December 1995 and is presently affiliated with the National Romany Self-Government, the Romanology Institute was established in Szekszárd in March 1997. The National Polish Minority Self-Government founded the Museum and Archive of Hungary's Polish Minority.

IV. Minority Self-Governments

In the past years it has become increasingly clear that the minority self-government can be equal partners of the local government in the protection of minority interest.

The number of minority self-governments formed after the minority self-government elections of 1994 and 1995 were 822. By October 1998 this number fell to 738 as a result of closures. One of the reasons of the closures was that the elected representatives had no experience in administration. Another equally important factor was that their cooperation with the mayor and notary of the given settlement often ran into difficulties.

The results of the minority elections in October 1998 have clearly proven that a growing number of citizens demand the minority self-government system. Of the 1554 initiatives registered, the elections returned 1360 local minority self-governments, along with 9 self-governments in Budapest. This means an increase of 65.5 per cent in comparison with the previous election. A total of 658 minority self-governments were formed in settlements, where there had been no such institutions previously.

The largest increase was registered in connection with the Romany self-governments, but the number of German, Slovak and Croatian minority self-governments also grew spectacularly. The number of Bulgarian self-governments tripled, the Polish ones doubled.

The type that combines local and minority self-government deserves special attention. The Minority Law, which mainly builds on personal autonomy, also allows for the realisation of regional autonomy. The status of minority self-governments is on equal par with that of local governments. In comparison to the earlier election period, when 46 minority local governments were in office, the number of minority local governments after the elections in October 1998 grew to 63. The German and the Polish minorities headed the list of such self-governments.

At the election of minority local governments, abuses associated with the lack of registration and the freedom of choosing identity were found in two per cent of the cases. This phenomenon was the most worrying amongst the Romany population, where forty per cent of the electoral basis were unknown to the local population, who had taken no part in the public life of the minority before. Their absence from both the first and the second electoral assembly of the Romany minority led to the adjournment of the meeting. In this way, of the 13 minorities only 12 could form their national self-government.

In Autumn 1998 nearly fifty mayors were elected who had stood as minority candidates. The German minority has 30 mayors, the Croatian and the Slovak each has 8, and the Gypsy and the Romanian population both have one. Nine minorities have a total of 653 representatives with a local government mandate.

The regional problems presented during the functioning of minority self-governments necessitated the establishment of county-level self-governments. This demand was first of all put forward by the German and the Gypsy minority, as they are the ones who live in large numbers in various regions of the country (despite their scattered location) and who constitute a majority in several settlements. As a grass-root initiative, the minority self-governments in the counties formed county-level associations. The national minority self-governments also have their own regional offices in the counties.

In the past five years the minority self-government system has unequivocally justified its existence. It has become an effective platform of lobbying in the interest of minorities, which can guarantee the participation of minorities in local and national issues that affect them. At the same time, however, the legislators had to take the past experience, most notably the anomalies witnessed at the October 1998 election, into account in working out the cornerstones of the amendment to the bill. In addition to minimizing the abuses of the rights, they had to make sure that competent and credible people be elected to represent the given minority with a broad popular support.

To improve the system of minority self-governments, the competence of the minority self-governments and local governments must be clarified; also, in addition to cooperating with the local governments, the minority self-governments must improve the liaison with the national minority self-governments and the local minority self-governments. The system of financing the minority self-governments should be revised. The feasibility of introducing project-centred financing to complement the financing of overhead costs must be studied. In order to strengthen cultural autonomy, the minority self-governments' efforts to found or take over cultural institutions should be encouraged. The laws regulating the management of local minority self-governments must be amended, and the legal supervision of national minority self-governments must be established.

To prepare the amendment of the Minority Law, an ad hoc committee has been formed under the Parliament's Human Rights, Minority and Religious Affairs Committee. The National and Ethnic Minorities Office is also involved in the work of codification and co-ordination.

The National Minorities Forum, an electoral party established before the May 1998 elections by some of Hungary's Croatian, Slovak and German minorities, made an attempt to solve the problem of the minorities' parliamentary representation. For shortage of time and lack of funding, the Forum was able to put together a national electoral list; however, it failed to reach the limit necessary to get into Parliament.

V. The Situation of the Romany Communities

In the case of Hungary's largest minority, the Gypsy population, the greatest problems do not have a linguistic or cultural character; in their case the problems of social, employment, vocational training, education and discrimination markedly appear. The self-organisation of Gypsy communities have lately been dynamically developing, and a Gypsy middle class has been emerging. To improve the chances of the Gypsy minority's integration, society must, however, focus its attention on the tasks. But it takes a very long time to overcome social prejudices, and discrimination against Gypsies is frequently observed. We must consistently stand up against the various forms of discrimination. Effective legal protection must be made available in cases of injuring the minority rights.

In kindergarten and school education separate educational programs guarantee equal opportunity and talent care for the children of the Romany minority. The program contains elements to acquaint children with information of minority life. In addition to creating the conditions of primary and secondary minority education, it is also necessary to help the adult Gypsy population still without appropriate school education. This is an indispensable precondition of receiving vocational training and finding jobs. The Law on Adult Education, presently in the making, will probably find remedy for this problem, also.

The effectiveness of kindergarten and school education, which is to secure equal opportunity, is largely dependent on the professional standards of teacher training and further training. It is important that teachers be acquainted with specific information about the Romany culture and tradition. Courses on Romanology have been introduced, either as part of the regular curriculum, or in the form of special colleges and separate programs, in several higher education institutions. In view of the low percentage of Gypsy students in higher education, preliminary courses have been started at many higher education institutions to increase the chances of these students. The Ministry and public foundations hand out grants to aid the further education of Gypsy youth.

The Ministry of Education wants to obtain PHARE support for the task associated with the education of Gypsy children, as part of a program developed jointly with the Ministry of Social and Family Affairs, entitled "Helping the Social Adjustment of Cumulatively Disadvantaged, Primarily Gypsy Youth".

To improve the Gypsy minority's living conditions, the government revised and evaluated the middle-term package of measures adopted in 1997. On this basis, the modification of the package is under way.* The middle-term measures of the new package will have fit into the government's long-term strategy of social policies and minority policies, which were devised on the basis of earlier, valuable research with a wealth of information. In connection with the new, middle-term package, the Minority Office proposed the establishment of a Gypsy Inter-Ministerial Committee, the professional competence of which should be used in executing the package.

Hungary's policies towards the Gypsy population are in the focus of international attention. The European Committee against Racism and Intolerance has concluded that Hungary is aware of the problems concerning the Gypsy minority, and she is making notable efforts in certain areas-housing, education, employment-to improve the situation and to investigate and reduce racial discrimination against the Gypsy population. With the support of the European Council's Gypsy Coordination Group there were four conferences between 1996 and 1998 to study the possibilities of the Gypsies' social integration and inclusion in the decision-making process, as well as their self-governments and the revision of the formation of long-term governmental strategies.

At the same time, however, those chapters of the documents published in connection with Hungary's admission to the European Union that focus on minority rights and the protection of minorities, call attention to the fact that, besides the considerable progress mentioned above, Hungary's Gypsy population often struggle with serious problems, and their situation poses several problems. The documents appraise the middle-term package of measures approved by the government in 1997 to improve the Gypsy minority's living conditions, yet they also point out that despite the improving education figures of the Romany population, the difference between the opportunities of Gypsy and non-Gypsy population has grown. Hungary meets the political criteria laid down in Copenhagen, but she has to continue her efforts to improve the living conditions of the Gypsy minority.

In summary, Hungary wishes to continue along the lines of her earlier minority policies based on consensus. The determination of minority political tasks cannot be envisaged without the involvement of the minority self-governments and minority interest groups. Hungary is resolved to develop a minority-friendly environment, in which all the minorities living in Hungary feel free to enjoy their rights laid down in law.

 

Vissza