Open letter to Zoltán Kovács, State Secretary of Communications, who in New York, in response to the American Foreign Ministry’s Country Report said ’In our minds, there is no disrimination against the Roma in Hungary.’
Dear Mr. Secretary,
On May 25th, the Hungarian public was informed through the media that according to the government, ’discrimination against the Roma does not exist’.
Mr. Secretary made this absurd statement in reply to the American Foreign Ministry’s Country Report, which was made public the previous day and which claimed that Hungary’s major human rights problem is the societal discrimination and exclusion of the Romani population and violent right-wing extremism.
A series of studies from recent years confirm the high degree of prejudice of Hungarian society, and as a result the discrimination against the Roma, mainly in the fields of labor, healthcare, education and housing.
One could mention observations of human rights organizations on how Roma people are discriminated against in Hungary, for example, in the provision of goods and services, access to justice, or in validation of their various fundamental rights. Staff of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union, who are in direct contact with Roma communities of more than 25 settlements in Northern Hungary densely populated by Roma, could discuss our daily experiences. We could talk about discriminative fining practices of the police for minor offences, a practice that results in the criminalization of the Roma community by the police. We could cite the Hungarian Helsinki Committee’s research, which found that a person of Roma origin is three times more likely to be subject to identity checks by police than would be reasonable based on the rate of Roma within the population. One could also mention lawsuits won by another human rights organization, in which the courts have repeatedly found and established the existence of segregated education of Roma children.
One could note the April, 2012 report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Racism on his mission to Hungary, which found that Roma people are still subject to structural and institutional negative discrimination in labor, education, healthcare and housing.
Last, but not least, Roma people themselves could also be asked how they feel about discrimination.
Obviously, the answer to the above would be that researchers, sociologists, human rights defenders, the UN Special Rapporteur and the Roma who are subject to discrimination on a daily basis are all only interested in discrediting the nation. In short, they are all lying.
Let us cite a few quotes from the Fidesz government’s adopted National Social Inclusion Strategy. We suggest that you, as the State Secretary of Communications, read the situation analysis of the Strategy - which in contrast to other sections of the document – is close to reality, at least once. We also suggest that members and politicians of the government - who have not dissociated themselves from the Secretary’s absurd remark in New York – do the same and read the Strategy.
Before we begin citing the Strategy, it is worthwhile to visit the website of the Hungarian Presidency of the Council of the European Union, especially its post titled ‘Creating a European roma policy’, where we can read the below:
‘The size of the Roma population in Europe, is estimated to be 10-12 million. Therefore, the Roma constitute the largest ethnic minority in the continent. Although there is a Roma community living in all the 27 Member States, the largest live in Romania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Spain. The situation of the Roma is still characterised as prevailing discrimination, social and often economic exclusion.’
Below, please see quotes taken from the Strategy:
“By international comparison, the employment rate is low, education is not competitive and the population are accumulating a dangerous level of debt. These processes have a multiplied effect on the Roma population. Segregation and discrimination are simultaneously the cause and consequence of these processes. In other words, it is a cyclically regenerated phenomenon that is passed down from one generation to the next.”
“Gender-based discrimination in the case of Roma women is aggravated by ethnic discrimination. In some problem areas, almost exclusively Roma women are present, and in these cases concentrated interventions are required.”
“The results of the „Discrimination in the European Union 2009” Eurobarometer survey show that discrimination on racial/ethnic grounds, on grounds of age, disability and gender occurs more frequently in Hungary than in the other EU Member States, and there is an 11 to 21% difference compared with the average discrimination rate. As regards discrimination at the work place, most disadvantages are suffered on grounds of skin colour/ethnic origin, age and gender.”
3.2.4. Roma women may be regarded as a social group affected by multiple discrimination for sociocultural reasons; at the same time, by virtue of their role played in the traditional family structure, they may constitute a priority target group of programmes targeting families.
3.2.6. We need effective measures to combat discrimination and prejudice against the Roma.”
“In addition to financial and motivational circumstances, institutional discrimination, too, has a deterrent effect. The means currently at our disposal for the fight against discrimination are insufficient for the resolution of the problem on its merits.”
“Based on the research of the European Union’s Fundamental Rights Agency concerned with minority discrimination, the Roma in Hungary are the worst affected by labour market discrimination in the European Union. In the last 5 years 68% of them, while in the last 12 months, 47% of them felt that they were negatively discriminated in the course of their efforts to find a job. The problems affecting the Roma population have been left unresolved for many years, and their deficiencies in education and employment have remained preserved.”
“Access to health care is also hindered by ethnic discrimination. According to a study of the Fundamental Rights Agency, in the past one year, 18% of Hungarian Roma have experienced discrimination in health care.”
“In the interest of reducing the extent of educational exclusion, we must reduce the selectivity of the educational system. Institutions must have effective tools against discrimination and need major methodological support for promoting the integration of pupils encumbered with socio-cultural disadvantages; this is also the way to reduce the out-migration of non-Roma pupils from certain schools.”
“Inclusion is not possible without the desire to include on the part of the majority society. Therefore, it is essential to raise the awareness and shape the public opinion of the majority as regards inclusion and the excluded strata of society (naturally, beyond the application of the legal guarantees against discrimination). Mentality shaping is a complex and lengthy process which is most effective in childhood, that is, in the field of education. Regardless of this, it is likewise essential to shape the mentality of adult society towards a supportive attitude in the interest of the attainment of the targets of social inclusion.
Naturally, the most fundamental cure to the problem is the attainment of inclusion itself, desegregation according to the possibilities, as well as the reduction of institutional discrimination in the areas of education, employment, housing and health care.”
In addition to reading the National Social Inclusion Strategy, we suggest you also review recommendations submitted by member states and adopted by Hungary during the UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR), which call upon Hungary’s leaders to the fight against discrimination of Roma people.
Dear Mr. Secretary, according to news reports, you were quoted in New York saying ’In our minds, there is no discrimination against the Roma in Hungary.’
In light of the above, please be kind enough to inform us and the general public about the government's perception of the subject and also please inform us what else is needed in order to state that Roma people suffer discrimination in Hungary.
Please also inform us how the above conception relates to the self-created and proudly proclaimed National Social Inclusion Strategy’s sections on Roma discrimination, to the UPR recommendations or to the Hungarian government’s communication on the initiation of the EU Roma integration strategy.
UPDATE: To this day, we have not received any reply to our query.
 For example:
- Sik Endre – Simonovits Bori: Egyenlő bánásmód és diszkrimináció. In: Kolosi Tamás – Tóth István György (szerk.) 2008: Társadalmi Riport 2008. Budapest: TÁRKI
- Diszkrimináció az Európai Unióban 2009, Eurobarometer http://ec.europa.eu/public_opinion/archives/ebs/ebs_317_fact_hu_hu1.pdf
- European Union Minorities and Discrimination Survey (EU-MIDIS), Fundamental Rights Agency, 2009 http://fra.europa.eu/fraWebsite/eu-midis/index_en.htm
 The Chance for Children Foundation (http://cfcf.hu/index_en.html)
 Report of the Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance, Githu Muigai (http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Racism/A.HRC.20.33.Add.1_en.pdf)
 http://romagov.kormany.hu/download/5/58/20000/Strategy%20-%20HU%20-%20EN.PDF , page 25., last paragraph
 Ibid, Page 26. Para. 2
 Ibid, Page 29. Para. 4
 Ibid, Page 30. Para. 4,6
 Ibid, Page 37. Para. 5
 Ibid, Page 44. Para. 1
 Ibid, Page 49. Para. 3.
 Ibid, Page 74. II. Para. 2, 3
 Ibid, Page 97. VI.2, Para 1, 2
 United Nations, General Assembly, Human Rights Council, Universal periodic Review, Report of the Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review – Hungary, recommendations: 94.12, 94.16, 94.29, 94.40, 94.43, 94.44, 94-58, 94.60, 94.93, 94.101., 94.102, 94.103