Thursday, December 23, 2010
Home > Policies > EU governance > Council of MinistersRoma programme is bid to stop a swing to the right
By Thomas Escritt
16.12.2010 / 04:22 CET
Hungary has decided to make Roma integration a centrepiece of its EU presidency programme.
Hungary's decision to make Roma integration a centrepiece of its EU presidency programme is as much a reflection of its government's domestic political needs as it is a response to the urgent problem of Roma exclusion throughout the region.
Fidesz's major rival to the right is Jobbik, a racist party that has notched up major electoral successes with its promise of a firm response to the “gypsy crime problem”.
On gaining office, Viktor Orbán, the prime minister, promised to focus on law and order and chose as his interior minister a former policeman, Sándor Pintér.
Somewhere between 5% and 10% of Hungary's 10 million citizens are ethnic Roma, making the population smaller in absolute and relative terms than in Bulgaria or Romania.
But the issue is no less pressing for that. The country's Roma spent the summer of 2009 living in fear as a gang of killers, allegedly far-right skinheads, roamed the country killing Roma, including children, who were living in isolation at the edge of remote villages.
Equally, with low levels of education and few employment opportunities, Roma undoubtedly play a role in petty and organised crime and are a growing burden on the budget in a country where the ratio of the active to the inactive is already too low.
“Fidesz needs a success on this,” says Virág Kaufer, an opposition member of parliament specialising in Roma affairs. “That's the one area where Jobbik has an advantage over them.”
Zoltán Balogh, the Calvinist minister who is responsible for Hungary's Roma programme, says: “Emigration is not the solution: we need to integrate Roma into society where they are.”
In fact, Hungary's Roma have been relatively sedentary. It is the Roma of Bulgaria and Romania who have received such frosty responses in France and Italy.
But Orbán thinks this could change. “If Europe doesn't make an effort to ensure Roma living in one place get adequate education, work and standards of living, then they will migrate, and...nothing can stop them going to countries with better standards of welfare provision.”
Posted by Morgan at 2:34 PM