The Hungarian 'Status Law' on Hungarians Living in Neighbouring Countries

In: European Yearbook of Minority Issues Online
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  • 1 Researcher at the European Academy of Bozen/Bolzano, Minorities and Autonomies; Law Degree; Postgraduate Diploma in Romanian Private Law (University of Bucharest).

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  • 1 See e.g. Government Decree 71/1989 (VII 4) on Official Geographical Names in Hungary; Act LXIV of 1990 on the Election of Local Municipal Government Representatives and Mayors; Act LXV of 1990 on Local Governments; Government Decree 34/1990 (VIII 30) on the Office for National and Ethnic Minorities. as amended by Government Decree 128/1998 (VII 15); Act LIX of 1993 on the Ombudsman (Parliamentary Commissioner) for Civil Rights: Act LXXVII of 1993 on the Rights of National and Ethnic Minorities; Act LXXIX of 1993 on Public Education; Act LXXX of 1993 on Higher Education; Government Resolution 1121 1995 (XII 7) on the establishment of the Public Foundation for the Gypsy minorities in Hungary; Government Decision 2187/1995 (VII 4) on the Establishment of the Public Foundation for National and Ethnic Minorities in Hungary; Ministry of Culture and Education (MKM) Decree 32/1997 (XI 5) on the Issuance of the Guidelines for the Pre- School Instruction and School Education of National and Ethnic Minorities; Government Resolution 1047/1999 (V 5) on medium-term measures to improve the living standards and social position of the Roma population; and Government Resolution 1048/1999 (V 5) on the Establishment of an Inter- Departmental Committee on Roma Affairs. For further details, see the website of the Office for Ethnic and National Minorities in Hungary, at http://www.meh.hulnekh. 2 Declaration on the Principles of Co-operation between the Republic of Hungary and the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic in Guaranteeing the Rights of National Minorities (31 May 1991 ) and Treaty on the Bases of Good-neighbourhood and Co-operation between the Republic of Hungary and Ukraine (6 December 1991 ); Treaty on Friendship and Co-operation between the Republic of Hungary and the Republic of Slovenia (1 December 1992) and Convention on Providing Special Rights for the Slovenian Minority Living in the Republic of Hungary and for the Hungarian Minority Living in the Republic of Slovenia (6 November 1992); Treaty between the Republic of Hungary and the Republic

  • of Croatia on Friendly Relations and Co-operation (16 December 1992) and Convention between the Republic of Hungary and the Republic of Croatia on the Protection of the Hungarian Minority in the Republic of Croatia and the Croatian Minority in the Republic of Hungary (5 April 1995); Treaty on Good-neighbourly Relations and Friendly Co-operation between the Republic of Hungary and the Slovak Republic (19 March 1995); Treaty between the Republic of Hungary and Romania on Understanding, Co-operation and Good Neighbourhood (16 September 1996); and Memorandum of Understanding between the Government of the Republic of Hungary and the Government of Romania concerning the Law on Hungarians Living in Neighbouring Countries and Issues of Bilateral Co-operation (22 December 2001). For further details, see also the website of the Government Office for Hungarian Minorities Abroad, at http://www.htmh.hu. 3 The Framework Convention was signed by Hungary on 1 February 1995 and ratified on 25 September 1995. The Convention entered into force in Hungary on 1 February 1998. ' The European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages was signed by Hungary on 5 November 1992 and ratified on 26 April 1995. The Charter entered into force for Hungary on 1 March 1998. 5 Art. 1(2). 6 In Romania, for example, there is no express legal acknowledgment of minority 'collective rights', the official position being that individual rights may be exercised by persons belonging to a national minority in community with the other members of the group. On the other hand, in the 1991 Constitution of Slovenia, for example, Article 65 mentions "Special Rights of the Autochthonous Italian and Hungarian National Communities in Slovenia".

  • 7 For a full description of the main tasks of the Government Office for Hungarian Minorities Abroad (GOHMA), see at http://www.htmh.hu/office.htm. 8 Article 6 of the Governmental Decree 90/1992 (V 29) on the Government Office for Hungarian Minorities Abroad, as amended by Article 1 of the Governmental Decree 222 2001 (XI 21), states: [t]o effect a co-ordination of the implementation of the provisions contained in Law LXII of 2001 on Hungarians living in neighbouring countries, the Office: (a) takes part in the organisation of the collection and forwarding of the data required for the issuance of the Hungarian identity card and the Hungarian dependent identity card; (b) promotes the establishment of the public organisa- tions participating in the judging and disbursement of the supports available through competition determined by the Law on Hungarians living in neighbouring countries, and promotes the creation of the legal frameworks for their co-operation; (c) co-ordinates the support policy of the central administrative bodies providing the support and of the participating Hungarian public organisa- tions; (d) attends to central registration of the applications for support submitted and of the relevant decisions; (e) executes a continuous evaluation of the effect of the provisions of the Law on Hungarian minorities living in neighbouring countries from the viewpoint of the preservation of the identity, language and culture of the Hungarian national communities living in the neighbouring countries, and initiates decisions on the basis of the findings. 9 Such organizations included the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, Hungarian Coalition Party, Alliance of Hungarians in Vojvodina, Hungarian Democratic Party of Vojvodina, Hungarian Cultural Association of Subcarpathia, Democratic Community of Hungarians in Croatia, and Hungarian National Self-Governing Community of Muravidek.

  • 'o East European Constitutional Review "Constitutional Watch: A Country-by-Country Update on Constitutional Politics in Eastern Europe and the ex-USSR", 10(2-3) East European Constitutional Review (2001), at http://www.law.nyu.edu/eecr/vollOnum2_3/constitutionwatch/hungary.html. " The full text of the report is available on the Venice Commission website, at http:// www.venice.coe.int/docs/2001/CDL-1NF(2001 )019-e.html.

  • 12 For the full text of the Memorandum, see Appendix 2. 13 April 2002.

  • " Final Statement of the Fourth Session of the Hungarian Standing Conference, Budapest, 26 October 2001, at http://www.htmh.hu/archivum/hsc4.htm. 'S Eugen Tomiuc "Hungary/Slovakia: Negotiations Reach Impasse Over Minority Law", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (10 January 2002), at http://www.rferi.org/nca/features/2002/01/ 10012002090441.asp. 16 Opinion expressed by Valeriu Stoica, President of the Romanian Liberal National Party. See "Raportul Comisiei de la Venetia - pretext pentru aprinse dispute politice", 42 Divers - Reporting Ethnic Diversity (25 October 2001), at http://www.divers.ro/ARHIVA/Divers42.htm#7. " Memorandum, Part 1, Point 3. 18 Ibid.

  • '9 Gabi Moroianu, "Nastase a facut praf legitimatiile de maghiar", Ziua (24 December 2001), at http://www.ziua.ro/archi ve (200 1 1 12/241 docs(6 78 39. h tml. 20 Opinion of Valer Dorneanu, President of the Chamber of Deputies, "Legea privind statutul maghiarilor de peste hotare - subiect de disputa nationala si internationala", 25 Divers - Reporting Ethnic Diversity (28 June 2001), at http://www.divers.ro/ARHIVA/DIVERS25.HTM#10. 2' Art. 13. 22 Art. 17(2): "The Republic of Hungary shall provide for the production and broadcasting of public service television programmes for the Hungarian communities living abroad ...." 23 Art. 18(l): "The Repubhc of Hungary shall support organisations in neighbouring countries and promoting the goals of the Hungarian national communities living in neighbouring countries." 24 Art. 25. zs Art. 2(2).

  • 26 See Venice Commission Report, Chapter D, Point a (i). 27 Ibid., Chapter E. ze Art.4(1)(a). 29 Art.4(1)(b). 'o Art.4(1)(c). 31Art. 4(2). 3z Art.4(1)(d). See also: The Convention on the Protection of Individuals with Regard to Automatic Processing of Personal Data (Strasbourg, 1981). ).

  • 33 Art. 6(2). 34 Memorandum, Part 1, Point 2. 'S Furthermore, amendments to the Agreement on seasonal workers as included through a bilateral letter-exchange are to include matters relating to seasonal workers. "These amendments shall concern supplementary advantages reciprocally granted in case the work permit is issued only for three months (and not for six months as provided in the Agreement on seasonal workers). A mutual obligation of non-discrimination on ethnic criteria during the implementation of the Agreement shall be also included." In all cases, applications for reimbursement must be submitted to the public benefit organ- ization established for this purpose. See Memorandum, Appendix 2.

  • 36 Act LXXX of 1993 on Higher Education.

  • 37 Art. 14( 1 )(a). 38 Art. 14( 1 )(b). 39 See the meaning of "recommending organisation" within the context of Article 20. 40 Romanian Government objections as regards the Status Law, "Ungaria va analiza propunerile Romaniei la Legea Statutului", 46 Divers Reporting Ethnic Diversity (22 November 2001), at http://www.divers.ro/ARHIVA/Divers46.html#l. 1. 41 Art. 16. 42 European Commission, "2001 Regular Report on Hungary's Progress towards Accession", Brussels, 13 November 2001, at http://europa.eu.int/comm/enlargementjreport2ool/hu_en.pdf. In its last report

  • on Hungary's progress towards accession, the Commission specified on page 91 that: While the objective of the Law is to support Hungarian minorities in neighbouring countries and to maintain their cultural heritage, some of the provisions laid down in this Law apparently conflict (emphasis added) with the prevailing European standard of minority protection, as determined in a Report adopted on 19 October 2001 by the Council of Europe's Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission).... Also, as foreseen in its Article 27(2), the [Status] Law will need to be aligned with the acquis at the latest upon accession, since it is currently not in line with the principle of non-discrimination laid down in the Treaty (Articles 6, 7, 12 and 13). " Venice Commission Report, Chapter D, Point d. " Levente Szocs "Obiectiile partii romanesti in legatura cu Legea Statutului", Kr6nika (23 November 2001), at http://www.gordian.ro/html/next.php7subject =trans&rowid= 164. 45 Memorandum, Part I, Point 2. 46 "Hungary Begins Implementing Status Law While Opposition Criticizes Agreement with Romania", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, RFE/RL Newsline (3 January 2002), at http://www.rferl.org/news- line/2002/O1/3-CEE/cee-030102.asp. " Interview with Laszlo Kovacs, chairman of the opposition Hungarian Socialist Party (HSP), broadcast by Hungarian television on 27 January 2002. '8 Gallup Institute Hungary published the results of a poll from 19 and 20 January 2002 on both the Status Law and the Memorandum signed with Romania. The poll concluded that 53 per cent of Hungarian citizens were in favour of the Status Law with 47 per cent against. As regards the Memorandum, 18 per cent considered that the agreement was a serious mistake, 32 per cent considered

  • that it was a wrong measure but that it would not jeopardize Hungary's interests, 30 per cent considered the Memorandum a rational compromise, 6 per cent considered it a success and 14 per cent had no opinion. It is interesting to note that 47 per cent of those interviewed expressed worries about the fact that foreign workers will be employed in Hungary whilst 46 per cent expressed no anxiety on such an issue. See for further information, Gallup Institute Hungary, at http:/,i www.gallup.hu/Gallup/release/statust02O2l I.htm. '9 See "Kijev is bejelentkezhet", Nepszabadsag (12 January 2002), at http://www.nepszabadsag.hu/ Default.asp?DocCollID = 31740&DocID = 32558. so Eugen Tomiuc "Romania to Closely Monitor Law Granting Benefits to Ethnic Hungarians", Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (16 January 2002), at http://www.rferi.org/nca/features/2002/01/ I6012002090020.asp. 51 Articles 17(1) states that the purpose of such a provision shall be: (a) the transmission of Hungarian and universal and spiritual cultural values; (b) the forming of an unbiased picture of the world, of Hungary and of the Hungarian nation; (c) the preservation of the awareness of national identity, of the mother tongue and the culture of the Hungarian minority communities. 52 Art. 17(2). 5 Memorandum, Part I, Point 10.

  • 54 Art. 19(2). 55 Art. 20. sb Currently eighteen years of age, Art. 21(l)(a). 57 Art.21(l)(c). s8 Art.21(5)(a). 59 Art.21(5)(b). 60 Art.21(5)(c). 61 Art.21(5)(d). 62 Art.21(5)(e). 6' Art.21(5)(f). 6' Art.21(5)(g).

  • bs Venice Commission Report, Chapter D. Point c. Ibid. 67 Ibid. Ibid., Chapter C and discussion on the scope of ratione personae. 69 Ibid., Chapter D, Point a (ii). 70 Ibid.

  • " Ibid. 72 Ibid. " Memorandum, Part I, Points 6 and 7. " It was considered that membership of the main political organization of Hungarian in Romania - Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (DAHR)/Romaniai Magyar Demokrata Szovetseg (RMDSZ)/Uniunea Democrata a Maghiarilor din Romania (UDMR) - would be sufficient for such purposes. 'S Memorandum, Part I, Point 8. '6 Ibid., Part I, Point 3. " Ibid., Part I, Point 5.

  • z Ibid., Part I, Point 4. '9 Arts. 24 (5) and (6). 80 Art. 25 ( 1 ). 8' Art. 25(2). 82 Art. 26(1). ).

  • 83 Art. 26(4). 84 Art. 26(5). 85 Tomiuc, "Hungary/Slovakia ...". 86 Memorandum, Part I, Point 11.

  • 87 Venice Commission Report, Chapter D. $$ Memorandum, Part I. Point 9.

  • 89 The full text of the Status Law is available in English on the website of the Government Office for Hungarian Minorities Abroad, at http://www.htmh.hu/law.htm.

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