Open Letter to the EU about Climate of Racism in Hungary

 

Brussels, 18 February 2020: We  the European Roma Rights Centre – would like to express our deep concern at the recent statements made by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán concerning the school segregation case in Gyöngyöspata. We call on the European Parliament to resolutely condemn the rhetoric of the Hungarian government, which exacerbates inter-ethnic tension and anti-Roma racism; delegitimises the work of human rights organisations yet again; and further undermines the rule of law.

In January, Prime Minister Orbán suddenly turned his attention to a four-month-old court decision by the Debrecen Court of Appeal, which awarded criminal damages to Romani families in Gyöngyöspata, whose children were forced to learn in segregated settings for a decade. The Romani children testified that they were educated in separate classes on a separate floor; they were not allowed to take part in celebrations or school trips; and they were denied IT and swimming lessons. The reality of segregation was that many Romani children Gyöngyöspata were unable to graduate, and so poor was the quality of education that many barely learned to read or write.

In a succession of provocative broadcasts to the nation, Orbán stated that the court’s decision “violated the people’s sense of justice”; and stigmatized the local Roma as workshy, their children as violent, unruly and un-educatable. In a radio broadcast, Orbán said,

“I am not from Gyöngyöspata, but if I were to live there, I would be asking how it is that, for some reason, members of an ethnically determined group living in a community with me, in a village, can receive significant sums of money without doing any work, while I toil every day.”

The prime minister described the court’s ruling as deeply unfair and he stated “I don’t yet know exactly what to do now but this cannot remain like this for sure. We need to give justice to the Gyöngyöspata people”.

On February 11th the Prime Minister announced a new ‘national consultation’ on the Gyöngyöspata case, and declared “we take the side of the 80 percent who are decent, working Hungarians.” In a radio broadcast, Orbán dismissed “the whole thing as a provocation”, with Soros organizations everywhere, and stated that “there is a boundary that a Hungarian will never cross, or believes cannot be crossed. That boundary is giving people money for nothing.”

This announcement has prompted widespread protests across Hungary, including nearly 200 psychologists who have signed a declaration that this proposed consultation must not go ahead as it will incite further hatred, reinforce discrimination, and send a message to the nation that segregation is acceptable.

Over the last ten years, the regime has repeatedly resorted to national consultations as part of propaganda campaigns against imagined enemies of the nation, including migrants, refugees and George Soros. These consultations, with their leading and loaded questions, have triggered international criticism for fuelling anti-foreigner hatred; Prime Minister Orbán characterises them as “demonstrating the power of national consensus”.

The leading question on Gyöngyöspata will concern “whether it is helpful if the compensation awarded disturbs the peace of a given community.” The government stated that it already has clear answers to this and other questions that have provoked social debates, “however, it needs a robust social mandate in order to represent them in the international arena as well as within Hungary.”

We maintain that the prime minister’s statements display not only contempt for the rule of law, but amount to a drive to scapegoat Roma for political gain. The proposed consultation is designed to discredit the rule of law, polarise the nation and further stigmatise the Roma community.

We commend the European Parliament and the European Commission for its recent condemnations of antigypsyism in general; we now call on the institutions to condemn this latest manifestation of antigypsyism in particular.

Viktor Orbán has crossed yet another ‘red line’ with seeming impunity. We believe that there should be no room in the European Union for hate speech targeting ethnic minorities; and that the rule of law must prevail within member states. We call for a prompt and proportionate response from the Parliament, and urge the Commission, as guardian of the treaties, to act on this issue in a manner that is consistent with ‘European Values‘.

The European Roma Rights Centre is an international public interest law organisation which monitors the human rights situation of Roma and provides legal defence in cases of human rights abuse. For more information about the European Roma Rights Centre, visit the ERRC on the web at: http://www.errc.org

God save us from the Italian Interior Minister

Predictably. Sooner or later we knew what would happen. We know very well the ways of Northern League of Italy. Its components are radically racist and its ideology is traced to that of the Nazi party of Adolf Hitler. An ideology that brought so much pain and despair to millions of people who ended up being exterminated in the extermination camps or in the gas chambers.

And we say that we knew that because we have already suffered in our own flesh the genocidal blows of the Italian government when, not too long ago, under the Berlusconi government, the separatist and nationalist Northern League took over the interior ministry of the government of coalition that ruled Italy in 2013. The list of aggressions of these miserable racists would be endless. One recent example, five years ago, the vice president of the Italian Senate, and member of the extreme right-wing Northern League, Roberto Calderoli, compared Minister Cecile Kyenge, a black woman, with a monkey. “When I see the images of Kyenge I cannot stop thinking, although I do not say that it is, in the features of an orangutan”.

Ten years ago, I reported that the situation was reaching unsuspected limits in Italy. Who was then Mayor of Treviso – a city of more than 100,000 inhabitants, capital of the province of the same name and belonging to the Veneto region of northern Italy- , Giancarlo Gentilini, said at a rally with thousands of people, that “Roma children must be eliminated – does it mean to kill them?”. This miserable man shows off to have destroyed two camps of Roma people and boasted that in his city “there are no Roma!”. He proclaimed himself the sheriff of Italy, and he became famous proclaiming that against the Roma should practice “double zero tolerance”.

Today we witness the embarrassing spectacle offered by the current interior minister of the Italian government, Matteo Salvini, who is following in the footsteps of the person who held the same department in the last coalition government of the Northern League with Berlusconi’s party: Roberto Maroni (2008-2011). This racist politician, who has been president of the rich Lombard region until March of this year, in which he was succeeded by another member of the Northern League, Attilio Fontana, proposed to take the fingerprints of Roma children, as was done in Nazi Germany in the years of the pre-World War. We did not allow it and I participated in Brussels, together with a large group of Italian Roma people, in a demonstration in front of the Commissioner of Justice of the European Commission to denounce this horrible disposition.

Matteo Salvini is a dangerous racist

And it is because he has never been worried to hiding it and not even concealing it. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to face him personally as I have on many occasions against the racist members of the European Parliament, because when Salvini was elected to the Strasbourg Chamber I was no longer a member. However, I just saw a video recorded in 2009, when Salvini was member of the European Parlament, where he appears singing in chorus with a group of Nazis. He was holding a glass of beer while he sang: “It smells bad, so much that even the dogs run away. It’s because Neapolitans are coming and they do not know what soap is because they have never washed”.  Imagine: if he says that about his Italian countrymen, what will he say about those who are not?

Well, he says, and so he asked to the President of the Republic that same year, to reserve two subway cars in which citizens who did not belong to the European Union could not enter. Poisoned idea that the following year defended Erminio Boso and Sergio Divina, two provincial representatives of Trento, also of the League, giving as official reason for the request that “foreigners smell bad”. Let’s not forget that these Nazis belong to the same party as Umberto Bossi, the one who threatened to take the weapons to the streets. “The rifles are always ready”, he said, “we are ready. If they want confrontations, I have three hundred thousand men always ready”.

How the Italian Roma people live

I think I know how the Italian Roma people live. I have been many times in this wonderful country and I have had many meetings with its leaders and with the organizations that defend them. And I have participated, with the Italian authorities, in meetings in which we have tried to find ways to make possible the elimination of prejudices and the incorporation of the Roma community to the Italian society. It has not been easy, in the same way that it is not easy to exercise politics in a land that someone has said that “could work perfectly without any kind of government”. I have always said that, if I had to live outside of Spain, Italy would be, without hesitation, the land I would like to live on. What does not blind me to recognize that the problems facing the Roma community throughout the country are much more serious than those we recognize that still suffer a part of the Spanish Roma people.

The first news that shows the presence of Roma in Italy is from the first years of 1400. Twenty-five years later they made their appearance in Spain. Possibly they came from Greece through the Adriatic. Not many Roma live in Italy. The latest estimates put the population at about 180,000 people, of whom some 26,000 live in huts and settlements that Minister Salvini wants to close. I know the “campo sosta” in Rome and in northern Italy, especially in Milan and Florence. In this last city, I actively collaborated with the General Prosecutor of the region who insisted on improving the living conditions of the thousands of gypsies who had arrived in Italy, crossing the Adriatic Sea after the bloody wars of the ex-Yugoslavia. The truth is that between 1960 and 1967 there was a large mobilization of Roma from Eastern Europe. It is estimated that it was a mass of almost 300,000 people who moved, but it was in the wake of the fracture of the ex-Yugoslavia, after the death of Marshal Tito, when some 40,000 Roma entered Italy and a similar amount in Austria.

Some studies show that 50 percent of the Roma population resident in the country are Italians of origin. The rest are mostly from Romania and Bulgaria. These are the ones whom Minister Salvini has told them: “Hey, the good life is over. You can go pick up the bags”. But the racist Salvini pretends to ignore that most of these Roma have been living in Italy for almost 50 years and that according to Carlos Stasolla, president of the association that serves these people, “these gypsies are more Italian than many of our fellow citizens”.

Salvini, who, in addition to being Minister of the Interior, is vice-president of the Italian Government, was the main promoter of the refusal to disembark in Italy of the 629 immigrants of the ship “Aquarius”. And when the ship arrived in Valencia he celebrated it saying that, at last, Italy had ceased to be “the doormat of Europe”. Then, already from Milan, in an act with his faithful, trying to be funny, he said he hoped that Spain would welcome “66,629” more emigrants.

Now we live with the soul in suspense because the hard hand of Salvini against immigration and against the Roma people can be reflected in the fulfilment of one of the threats that appears in his government program signed with the anti-system formation Five Stars: remove his parents children when the authority so provides.

European Roma associations are mobilizing to give an adequate response to this unspeakable barbarism.

Juan de Dios Ramírez-Heredia

Lawyer and Journalist, Vice President of the International Romani Union

EUFAJ 1 – 2 / 2013 is online: Here is the content

Please find here the link of  another issue  of the European Union Foreign Affairs Journal (EUFAJ),  1/2-2013, which is now online:

http://www.libertas-institut.com/de/EUFAJ/no1_2_2013.pdf

With

– an article on the Macedonian party system (compared to Slovakia),

– a breathtaking article about child marriages among the Roma,

– an article about the Elders of the Indian tribes in Canada (First Nations),

and contributions on

– migration and security issues,

– the LLDC character, and conflict prevention in South Sudan,

– the 24 official languages of the EU

– an EU study on protectionism

The Homepage of the Journal is http://www.eufaj.eu.

National Minorities in Europe and Their Protection: Two Events in Flensburg and Budapest

Flensburg, European Center for Minority Issues:
Monitoring the Council of Europe Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities

On July 5, 2013 the European Centre for Minority Issues (ECMI) organized a high-level experts‘ conference on „Shaping the Frame Across the Cycles“, on Monitoring the European Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities (FCNM), in Flensborghus, Flensburg, Germany.

The conference sought to present the experts’ views in the Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention  (ACFC) for the first 15 years of its existence. In the frame of the conference the ECMI staff as well as the invited professionals provided the chronicles of the ACFC; its launch, activities, actions,  achievements as well as impediments it faces.  It is to be mentioned that the ECMI managed to gather the most outstanding experts in regards to the ACFC, among them being the first president of the ACFC, Prof. Rainer Hofmann.  The conference was divided into three sections. To begin with the mandate of the ACFC was described, afterwards the enforcement mechanisms were discussed and lastly, the monitoring systems were under discourse.

The conference was also a tribute to Rainer Hofmann. Moreover, the outcomes of the conference are to be published in a „Festschrift“ in honor to Hofmann for his dedicated excellent experience in the Advisory Committee.

In the end it is to be mentioned that the conference, full of scholastic  and pragmatic analyses regarding the minority issues, their protection and the protection structures, strengths and weaknesses (among which the „monitoring fatigue“ of the Council of Europe Member States) was also spiced with warm opening  and closing words as well as pleasant coffee breaks which provided an excellent floor for further discussions and debates.

The European Centre for Minority Issues, see also under www.ecmi.de, is funded by the Danish and German governments as well as by the one of Schleswig-Holstein state in North Germany. It has also very efficient outlets in the Caucasus (Georgia) and Kosovo and has an excellent record in any European minority issue, running also an outstanding standing and electronic library.

Tom Lantos Institute, Budapest: Norms and Practices of Minority Rights in Central and South-Eastern Europe

In the same token, acknowledging the primacy of ensuring non-discriminatory and tolerant environment for the diverse national minorities as the basis for the societal development and secure atmosphere, the National University of Public Service and the Tom Lantos Institute organized International Summer School on Minority Rights: Norms and Practices in Central and South-Eastern Europe in Budapest, Hungary, from August 4-10, 2013. To the point, the Summer School was organized very painstakingly and meticulously, taking into account the interests and priorities of all and each of the participants. The Budapest-based Tom Lantos Institute is under the direction of Anna-Maria Bíro.

During the widely comprehensive, academic and at the same time interactive lectures it was highlighted that inclusion and participation are the forces contributing to raising the national minorities’ awareness of their duties, responsibilities as well as rights and privileges. Additionally, it was argued that solidarity is an inseparable component for having civic society as well as encouraging pluralistic democratic systems. The whole programme of the Summer School could be divided into two parts. Firstly, the international norms, practices and mechanisms in managing the ethno-cultural diversity in Europe were presented. In the second part of the programme the implementation of minority rights were analyzed. To fulfill the objective various case studies were deployed, among them being Muslim Turks of Western Thrace in Greece, Jewish life and Anti-Semitism, the Hungarian minority protection system, the Serbian system, the Romanian practice as well as the situation in Kosovo. Additionally, the implementation of the Roma rights was discussed.

The Tom Lantos Institute was launched in the context with the long-time US Congressman Tom Lantos, who as Hungarian had survived the Holocaust and was among those American Congressmen who knew perfectly what was going on in different European countries, what led him also to chair the US Delegation for the inter-parliamentary talks with the European Parliament. So it was logical that in the frame of the Summer School, the participants paid a visit to the Jewish Community House in Budapest, where they received the hospitability of the Hungarian Jews, enjoyed an interesting and also entertaining presentation on “Jewish Communities in Central Europe: Revival and Inter-Ethnic Relations Viewed Through Jokes” as well as walked to see the two Synagogues in Budapest. It is to be mentioned that this was not the only occasion to have a meeting with the national minorities’ communities in Hungary.

There was also a field trip to Szentendre, a small town not far from Budapest. Here, an informative and exciting meeting was waiting for the participants. The representatives of the Serbian community presented the history, activities and life of the Serbs in Hungary. Moreover, a Serbian museum and two Orthodox churches were visited.

What is to be added is that the Summer School provided an excellent ground for the experts in the field to have very comprehensive and all-inclusive discussions and debates on various issues related to the minorities, their rights, implementation structures, fatigues as well as successes. The programme was a unique occasion to enrich academic knowledge and skills with the help of the scholars as well as the participants who were all open-minded and sensible specialists of the field, as post graduates or Ph.D. candidates, or in public administration, NGOs or journalism. It was interesting to have discussions with them both in the realm of the lectures as well as during informal meetings.

All in all, the Summer School provided wonderful memories to all of the parties. It enabled to enlarge the scope of knowledge on national minorities, establish new contacts as well as have a nice time and sightseeing in the wonderful capital-city of Hungary, Budapest.

OS_2_130817_at_Serb_Museum_BUD

Both the conferences „Shaping the Frame Across the Cycles“ held by ECMI and the Summer School on Minority Rights organized by the National University of Public Service and the Tom Lantos Institute were covered by Ofelya Sargsyan, M.A.,  Junior Editor at the European Union Foreign Affairs Journal (EUFAJ).

This article is also – with several other photos – published on the EUFAJ Website: www.eufaj.eu