Washington, DC – On October 8, 2012, the Hungarian Diaspora Council held its second session at the Hungarian Parliament, bringing together leaders and representatives of Hungarian organizations from the Western diaspora.
The day-long conference provided Hungarian government officials an opportunity to communicate their vision and programs for strengthening relations between Hungarians in the diaspora and their homeland.
In his opening remarks, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán stressed the economic and political challenges Hungary has faced since 2010. Among economic goals, he mentioned the need to reduce Hungary’s crippling debt, to increase Hungary’s exports, to divide burden sharing among citizens and companies, and to strengthen the chances of lower middle-class Hungarians to become successful members of society. He contrasted Hungary’s present path with that defined by the “spirit of the ‘68 generation” which currently prevails in the EU, and declared his commitment to place religion above secularity, family above the individual and national values above internationalism. Other major goals he mentioned were the reversal of demographic loss in Hungary and increased support for reconnecting Hungarians in the diaspora to the nation.
Zsolt Semjén, Deputy Prime Minister for communities abroad, then explained the government’s commitment to rebuilding a balanced and united Hungarian nation in which Hungary, Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin and Hungarians in the diaspora overcome the division of borders to rejoin the Hungarian nation. Foremost among major initiatives of the government is the policy of granting Hungarian citizenship, with voting rights, to all those who possess Hungarian ancestry and wish to regain their citizenship. A system of voter registration for Hungarians who reside outside Hungary will enable new Hungarian citizens to vote by mail for a party list in the 2014 national elections.
Mr. Semjén presented several important programs initiated and supported by the government. These include the Julianus program, which will collect data on objects of Hungarian cultural heritage in the diaspora; the maintenance of the National Register’s list of individual and organizational members; continued communication in both Hungarian and English with those registered; outreach to Hungarians who no longer speak the language but maintain their Hungarian identity; and increased support by the Bethlen Gábor Fund for Hungarian Scouts Abroad and other diaspora organizations.
Following the morning session, Council members were transported to a nearby boat on the Danube where Foreign Minister János Martonyi hosted the group for lunch. In his remarks he expressed the nation’s gratitude for the spirited defense mounted by diaspora Hungarians when the Hungarian government faced widespread, unfair and often unfounded attacks in the international media.
An afternoon session followed, at which participants were grouped by geographical region. Discussion focused on plans for the coming year under the leadership of Zsuzsanna Répás, Deputy State Secretary for Hungarian Communities Abroad, Attila Kocsis, Department Head, and the Diaspora Council’s North American Region President, László Hámos.
The North American Region made the following proposals:
Information – Hungarian government and civil organizations should be informed about the existence and activities of the Diaspora Council; correct and timely information should be provided by Hungarian officials to diaspora members so they can credibly and effectively refute unfair criticism of Hungary;
Julianus Program – Each regional group should be charged with listing and documenting the Hungarian heritage of its own area;
National Register – Establish sub-portals to assist Council members in encouraging and facilitating sign-ups for the Register;
Cultural programs – Encourage and support the wide dissemination of Hungarian culture through cultural programs in the U.S.;
Citizenship – Council members should assist the diplomats and honorary consuls in encouraging persons who are interested in becoming Hungarian citizens.
A plenary session followed, at which regional Presidents presented their reports. László Hámos shared updated information on the number of Hungarians in the United States, which according to the 2000 census was 1,398,724; but a more accurate count, based on a sampling compiled in 2012 by the Census Bureau, showed that the actual number is 1,537,205.
The session was concluded by remarks from Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén.
The day ended with a reception hosted by László Kövér, President of the Hungarian Parliament, and attended by Zsolt Németh, Parliamentary State Secretary. Mr. Kövér expressed his appreciation for the loyalty and deep interest members of the Hungarian diaspora have demonstrated for their homeland throughout many years.
Among the 15 organizations represented in the Diaspora Council were many Coalition members: the Hungarian American Coalition was represented by Chair Emerita, Edith K. Lauer; Bishop Béla Poznán (Calvin Synod), Bishop Sándor Szabó (Hungarian Reformed Church of America), László Hámos (Hungarian Human Rights Foundation), Imre Lendvai-Lintner (Hungarian Scouts in Exteris), Balázs Somogyi (Connecticut Hungarian Cultural Society), László Varjú (Chicago Hungarian Cultural Council) Ágnes Virga, (Massachusetts Hungarian Society), Csilla Grauzer (Minnesota Hungarians), and Andrea Lauer Rice, Coalition Vice President, representing the Atlanta Hungarian Meetup Group.
Newly invited organizations introduced themselves at the plenary meeting. These included the following Coalition Members: the Cleveland Hungarian Heritage Society, represented by Edith Lauer; the Hungarian Communion of Friends, represented by Peter Kovalszki; and the William Penn Association, represented by Barbara House.
Below we reproduce the Diaspora Council’s closing statement in Hungarian and in English, as well as the 2012 American Community Survey (ACS) results showing the Hungarian Ancestry population in the United States.
Hungarian Diaspora Council
Second Session Closing Statement
The Hungarian Diaspora Council held its inaugural session on November 17, 2011, with the aim of enabling the Hungarians of the diaspora, as members of the unified Hungarian nation, to express their opinions, submit recommendations and make decisions in the interest of promoting Hungarian-Hungarian relations and the further development of Hungarian national communities. The Diaspora Council represents a historic cooperation among the Hungarian organizations of the diaspora, a community which includes representatives of the churches, civic and cultural organizations and associations, and the Hungarian Scout Associations.
At its tenth meeting, the Hungarian Standing Conference, with the agreement of the Diaspora Council’s Executive Committee, approved the document entitled: “Hungarian National Policy: Framework for a National Political Strategy”, whose principles serve as the guidelines for the work of the Hungarian Diaspora Council. At the Council’s current meeting, its member organizations are united in their commitment to continuing their work on behalf of strengthening national identity and deepening national integration.
The Government of Hungary expressly relies upon the communities of the Hungarian Diaspora: upon their intellectual potential accumulated in their new homelands and upon their cultural heritage, which serve to reinforce appreciation for and the competitiveness of Hungarians around the world.
The members of the Hungarian Diaspora Council agree upon the following principles and goals:
They welcome the new members of the Council and express their openness to deeper and wider forms cooperation.
- They welcome the launch of the Julianus program, which aims to create a detailed registry of objects that compose the Hungarian heritage [abroad] – buildings, works of art, memorials, plaques, streets, libraries, archives and museums – in the interest of making Hungarian culture widely accessible. They agree that the resulting collection, systematized, presented and made accessible in state-of–the art fashion, will demonstrate to the wider world the capacity of the Hungarian nation to create enduring value.
- They believe it is important to deflect and lessen the impact of the often politically motivated attacks [in public forums] against Hungary, and to contribute to restoring a credible assessment of the country.
- They declare that they will continue to monitor the situation of Hungarian communities in the Carpathian basin.
- They agree to continue to emphasize strengthening the identity of Hungarian youth. They cite, as a positive example for the youth living in the diaspora, the ‘ReConnect Hungary – Hungarian Birthright Program’, which aims to connect Hungarian young people living in the West with the country of their ancestors so as to better understand the history of their families and their own identity. In the Carpathian Basin, the Hungarian heritage camping tour is a similar positive example.
- They support the cooperation between the Hungarian Scout Association in Exteris with the Hungarian Scouting organizations in the Carpathian basin and with Hungarian youth organizations in the West, aiming to strengthen the moral character and Hungarian identity of future generations.
- They urge the umbrella organizations of each continent to focus special attention on countries experiencing recent influxes of Hungarian immigrants.
- They acknowledge and support the work carried out by the diaspora churches to strengthen the Hungarian communities.
- They propose the establishment of a clearinghouse of information on all scholarships available to Hungarian youth.
- They support the strengthening of the coordinating role of the Regional Sessions, to aid and inspire practical cooperation among organizations active in the various diaspora communities.
- The organizations state that they will assist the Consuls in their information campaigns to popularize the advantages of Hungarian citizenship and how to apply for it.
- They believe it is important that economic relations should be strengthened along with cultural relationships, thus supporting the development of the Hungarian economy.
Budapest, October 8, 2012
Hungarian Ancestry in the United States
2012 US Census Data*
Alabama 4,869 Montana 3,432
Alaska 2,671 Nebraska 3,420
Arizona 30,350 Nevada 14,122
Arkansas 3,909 New Hampshire 4,074
California 131,741 New Jersey 109,305
Colorado 21,113 New Mexico 4,935
Connecticut 40,489 New York 154,465
Delaware 4,921 North Carolina 25,192
District of Columbia 2,196 North Dakota 2,728
Florida 106,462 Ohio 210,608
Georgia 19,963 Oklahoma 5,046
Hawaii 3,216 Oregon 14,213
Idaho 4,009 Pennsylvania 144,444
Illinois 55,195 Rhode Island 2,662
Indiana 38,908 South Carolina 10,608
Iowa 4,143 South Dakota 1,303
Kansas 4,340 Tennessee 12,297
Kentucky 6,878 Texas 36,107
Louisiana 5,280 Utah 4,409
Maine 4,207 Vermont 3,115
Maryland 27,773 Virginia 29,610
Massachusetts 21,035 Washington 23,840
Michigan 104,987 West Virginia 9,727
Minnesota 13,958 Wisconsin 26,169
Mississippi 2,297 Wyoming 1,951
* Note: Data is based on sampling compiled by the US Census Bureau and published every two years in its American Community Survey (ACS).