Hungarian Minority Leaders Discuss Status Law at Budapest Conference

On Friday, January 25, the Hungarian American Coalition and Duna Television co-sponsored a round-table discussion and press conference in Budapest on “The Hungarian Status Law: Historical Perspective and Current Ramifications.” Seven Hungarian minority leaders each spoke about the Status Law as it affects their respective communities. The audience included officials from eleven foreign embassies in Budapest, and members of the international and Hungarian press.

Duna Television President István Pekár opened the conference and welcomed the participants. Hungarian American Coalition Chairman Edith Lauer, who served as moderator, underscored the purpose of the conference as a forum for Hungarian minority leaders to clarify misunderstandings about elements of the Status Law caused by the heated debate, and in some cases deliberate misinformation, both in Hungary and outside its borders. Ms. Lauer reminded participants that most of the Status Law is devoted to supporting educational and cultural programs.

Each of the seven ethnic Hungarian leaders stressed that the Law’s greatest significance is primarily psychological and spiritual: it is the first open declaration in 80 years that all Hungarians are part of the Hungarian nation, wherever they may live.

Several emphasized that the controversial provisions regarding work permits in Hungary are a secondary issue, and that they consider the debate on this issue to be fueled by political reasons.

They expressed hope that with the assistance of the Hungarian government for their educational and cultural institutions, further migration and assimilation will be stopped, and ethnic Hungarians will at last have the opportunity to live and succeed in the countries where they live.

Miklós Duray, Vice President of the Hungarian Coalition Party of Slovakia, noted that the Status Law came about at the urging of Hungarian minority leaders, who participated in every phase of the law’s development and provided legal expertise to ensure that the law would not conflict with the legal systems of the surrounding countries.

Moreover, Duray stated, the Status Law is entirely in accord with European Union principles and norms.

László Tőkés, Bishop of Nagyvárad and Honorary President of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, said that, contrary to what some critics allege, the Status Law is not discriminatory. Rather, Tőkés said, it is the measures invoked by regimes in Rumania, Czechoslovakia and the former Soviet Union over the past 80 years, which are discriminatory.

Implementation of the Status Law is proceeding smoothly in the Yugoslav province of Vojvodina, saidJózsef Kasza, Deputy Premier of Serbia and President of the Alliance of Hungarians in Vojvodina. The Status Law serves to strengthen national unity and will discourage migration.

Árpád Pasza and György Tomka, representing the Hungarian communities in Croatia and Slovenia, respectively, reported that Croatian and Slovenian authorities are responding positively to the Hungarian Status Law.

Both Pasza and Tomka discredited allegations that the Status Law’s provisions for work permits would result in ethnic Hungarians taking jobs away from Hungarian citizens. “It’s simply not true,” said Pasza, citing the Croatian Podravka firm,which probably employs more Hungarian citizens than the number of ethnic Hungarians from Croatia who would take jobs in Hungary.

László Brenzovics, Vice President of the Cultural Alliance of Hungarians in Subcarpathia, reported a high level of interest among ethnic Hungarians in Subcarpathia in applying for Status Law benefits. However, Brenzovics added, the press campaign underway in Hungary is not helping matters.

Károly Dudás, President of the Concordia Minoritatis Hungariae, an association established in Yugoslavia to implement the Status Law, expressed the opinion that many Hungarians who left Vojvodina during the war may now choose to return because of the positive prospects for Hungarian education and culture provided by the Status Law.

The Hungarian American Coalition is a nationwide non-profit organization that promotes public understanding and awareness of Hungarian American issues. One of its goals is to provide U.S. government officials with objective and timely information on topics of interest to the Hungarian American community.

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