Washington, DC – November 10, 2010
On Friday, November 5, 2010, the Ninth Hungarian Standing Conference (MÁÉRT) was held in the Hungarian Parliament. Nineteen delegations of Hungarians from all over the world and representatives of Hungarian political parties gathered to discuss the plans of the Orbán government to assist Hungarians outside the country’s borders to strengthen their identity and to prevent further assimilation in the Carpathian Basin and the Western Diaspora Hungarian communities.
Representatives of the Hungarian American diaspora included Edith Lauer, Chair Emerita of the Hungarian American Coalition, László Hámos, President of the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation and Executive Committee member of the Hungarian American Coalition, and Frank Koszorus Jr., President of the American Hungarian Federation.
The Conference, reconvened after a six-year pause, provided an opportunity for participants to report on the challenges facing their own Hungarian communities and institutions and to suggest programs that the Hungarian government needs to address.
In opening the Conference, Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén stressed the significance of the Orbán government’s commitment to grant dual citizenship to ethnic Hungarians outside Hungary. “We must stop the assimilation that threatens Hungarians outside our borders, and for this the granting of citizenship is necessary to provide the legal framework for uniting our nation.” He announced a website that provides information on the simplified naturalization process to potential applicants for Hungarian citizenship. (allampolgarsag.gov.hu)
Short presentations of their goals and major programs were given by Ministers János Martonyi, Miklós Réthelyi, György Matolcsy, Bence Rétvári and János Fónagy.
Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s speech focused on his new strategy to position Hungary for the new “post-industrial” age defined by technology and globalization. “In the future, we need to implement realistic national policies, based on the fact that now there exists a unified Hungarian nation.” He stressed the advantage of having a large majority in government, which makes it easier to steer Hungary into the new age.
Next, EU Vice President László Tőkés asked Conference attendees to take full advantage of the positive attitude of the Orbán government toward Hungarian minorities, in contrast to the policies of the former government of Hungary in the past eight years. He welcomed the presence of leaders of the Western Diaspora and urged their involvement in reuniting the Hungarian nation.
Leaders of the four large historic Hungarian communities followed, as each spoke of his community’s particular situation and challenges. In Romania, the conflict caused by the potential defeat of the new education law endangers the ability of the Hungarian party, RMDSZ, to remain in the government coalition. In Slovakia, legal sanctions and penalties for Hungarian language use are still in force. Of all of Hungary’s neighbors, only Slovakia strongly opposes the granting of Hungarian citizenship to Slovak citizens, and has threatened annul the Slovak citizenship of those who apply for Hungarian citizenship too. In Serbia, the recently achieved personal autonomy through the establishment of a National Council is considered a major achievement. The situation of the Hungarian community seems most dire in Carpatho-Ukraine, where during recent elections some Hungarian voters literally sold their votes to Ukrainian parties, and thereby endangered their own representation.
For the first time ever, the MÁÉRT extended invitations to a group of leaders from the Western Diaspora, including Western Europe, Sweden, the United States, Canada, South America and Australia. In her remarks Edith Lauer commended the Orbán government for offering the possibility of dual citizenship to all Hungarians outside the borders, including those who live in the U.S. She expressed her hope that those who became Hungarian citizens would be able to vote. She stressed the long-standing need to institutionalize relations between Diaspora Hungarians and Hungary. “I was glad to hear of the government’s intent to establish a National Registry for all Hungarians. Similarly important, in my opinion, would be to collect data on all major donors and donations, and the projects and institutions that receive them.” The Conference closing statement included her suggestion that the Hungarian Government organize an inspired celebration of the 55th anniversary of the 1956 Revolution involving Hungarians from all over the world.
Through the use of rhetorical questions in his remarks, László Hámos asked if we were at last witnessing a true paradigm shift in Hungary-Diaspora relations? Are the years of the diaspora being treated as “stepchildren” finally over? He described a vision in which Hungary provides educational materials to double the number of Hungarian speakers in the U.S. in the next 10 years; in which English-language material and instruction are available to those who no longer speak Hungarian; and in which “Hungarians in Hungary and the Carpathian Basin finally recognize and are able to take advantage of the immeasurable potential that exists in Diaspora Hungarians, and has never been utilized.”
Frank Koszorus Jr. commented that the Hungarians in the U.S. – even though they do not suffer the discrimination experienced in the Carpathian Basin – are decreasing in number. The time when 300 Hungarian churches existed in the United States is long gone. He urged the Hungarian government to reach out to the next generations: “Let’s not forget those Hungarian Americans who cannot speak Hungarian.”
At the end of the day-long Conference, participants issued a closing statement (Hungarian version attached) that included major decisions made throughout the day’s discussions.