Hungary: Roma and Sinti Issue

http://hvg.hu/velemeny/20100428_roma_LMP_programoma population constitutes the largest minority group in the country. Since the majority of Roma come from the younger segment of the society, demographic tendencies and a low societal status of the majority of Roma population play a leading role in the conflict between Roma and non-Roma population in Hungary.

Jobbik- The Movement for Better Hungary

The radical nationalists, Jobbik, has ridden the issue from the ascension of the movement from a nationalist youth organization to a political party and built its political strategy on anti-Roma sentiments. Their invention was merely rhetorical: the party recalled the forgotten notion of  “gypsy crime” (i).1 The notion is used in a populist manner, claiming to be a scientific concept and its existence supported by statistical data. Jobbik proposes solutions to the situations like “aggravation of the penal law, re-introducing death penalty, fortifying police forces and establishing gendarmerie.”2 With such rhetoric, Jobbik tries to attract the poor countryside citizens living close to Roma communities.

The party’s leader Gábor Vona on the topic of gypsy crime:

  1. There are three main forms of crime in our country – one of them is gypsy crime, the other two are political and economic crime. They are all interconnected and keeping a stranglehold of the country and slowly ruining it."
  2. [Gypsy crime] is not a way of collective judgment but a criminological concept. There are specific kinds of crime that can be only observed in Roma ethnic group. Who would dare to deny its existence? Who would dare to say it is not rampant? That the statistical data does not show an increase of gypsy crime?3

In 2007 the party founded the Hungarian Guard, a volunteer nationalist organization for “defending a physically, spiritually and intellectually defenseless Hungary,” aiming to prevent „gypsy crime”.4  Hungarian Guard is often described as the paramilitary group of Jobbik, but leaders of Jobbik deny these allegations and regard the guard as an active cultural association.

LMP (Lehet Más a Politika; Politics Can Be Different)

The green party, LMP chose the liberal way to handle the social conflict between Roma and non-Roma people. In its 2010 electorate program, LMP took into consideration the tension and its causes of anti-Roma sentiments in Hungarian society, but rule out the operation of Hungarian guard and the proposals of radical nationalists (social card allowance, public work programs, segregation in education). The green party considers the problem first of all as a social issue which needs to be solved comprehensively (j).  Thus, LMP offers support for employment, adult education, jobs in the green sector and minimal wage for the poor. On the second place, LMP propose changes in educational system, kindergarten support for Roma families, anti-segregation education in primary schools. For mitigating conflicts between Roma communities and the majority population LMP offer a system of social mediation and strict regulation of the competence of police force.5 At the same time the LMP emphasizes that solutions should not be targeted ethnically but rather focus on all of the people in need (k). The party protested several times against the politics and parliamentary rhetoric of the radical Jobbik. In one of their campaign in February 2011, the leaders of the party said, Jobbik has nothing about solving social problems of Roma and non-Roma people, but only scapegoating.6 LMP is the only party in the Hungarian parliament which has a Roma politician in leading position in 2013.

According to one of the LMP’s MPs Ágnes Ostolykan

  1. integration of the Roma population cannot be taken as a separate problem but should be approached comprehensively."
    Another LPM’s MPs, Kristof Szombati stated that:
  2. “[w]e need to put an end to the approach which applies so called “ethnically targeted” programs. “Color-blind” programs inspired by the “American style” would be open to all people in need and create chances for all the poorest.7

1 Radical Change. A guide to Jobbik’s parliamentary electoral manifesto. 2010. p.11. (http://www.jobbik.com/sites/default/files/Jobbik-RADICALCHANGE2010.pdf)

2 The Speech of Gábor Vona, 13/02/2009 (http://alfahir.hu/node/24090)

3 http://alfahir.hu/node/24090

4 Founding Manifesto of the Hungarian Guard,17/07/2007 (http://archive.is/HDq4q)

5 Electoral Program of LMP, 2010 pp.75-86 (http://nezopontintezet.hu/files/2012/03/A-fenntarthat%C3%B3-j%C3%B6v%C5%91-a-befogad%C3%B3-t%C3%A1rsadalom-%C3%A9s-a-meg%C3%BAjul%C3%B3-demokr%C3%A1cia-strat%C3%A9gi%C3%A1ja-2010.pdf)

6  „We protest against hate speech on the Roma and Jew”, lehetmas.hu, 15/02/2011 (http://lehetmas.hu/sajtokozlemenyek/10744/tiltakozunk-a-nyilt-ciganyozas-es-zsidozas-ellen/

7 http://hvg.hu/velemeny/20100428_roma_LMP_program