Conference of the European Ministers of Culture - 20 - 22 October 2003 - Opatija, Croatie 

(To be checked against delivered speech)

Speech by Lajos Vass, Parliamentary State Secretary, Ministry of Cultural Heritage, Hungary

Opatija, 21 October 2003

Working session 3: Governance and inter-sectorial co-operation

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The tenth anniversary of the drafting the 1993 Act on the Rights of the National and Ethnic Minorities has recently been commemorated in Hungary. So, at first, may I say a few words about an important practical achievement in this Act, vz. about the system of the local self-government bodies of the national and ethnic minorities in Hungary.

Each of the 13 registered national and ethnic minorities’ communities living in Hungary has the right to establish its local board of self-government. Since the right is up to each of the national and ethnic minority community living at the given settlement, it is not a rarity that more than one local national and ethnic minority self-government board is established at one settlement. An increasing cooperation among these bodies can be observed in more and more fields.

The local national and ethnic minority self-government bodies are acting in close cooperation with the local self-governmental board, in general, as integral parts of these bodies. They are not entitled, however, to take up the tasks of authorities, but they have a number of important rights, e.g.the local minority self-governments have got a veto right concerning all local decisions in connection with the communities they represent as a national or ethnic minority. According to the law, all of their initiatives must be put to the agenda of the local self-governments within 30 days, for discussion and decision.

The budget of their own, is an important instrument for the local national or ethnic minority self-governments, enabling them to establish institutions of education, printed press, electronic media, institutions for non-formal education and for safeguarding their own heritage. Due to the own financial sources, the activity of the local national and ethnic minority self-governments is growing, so these bodies contribute to the fruitful and effective cooperation with the public authorities, especially in the field of culture, heritage and education. Further, the right of the local national and ethnic minority self-governments to launch enterprises in order to manage with their tasks, raise dynamically their cooperation with the private sector. Their efforts for safeguarding their own tangible and intangible cultural heritage give an impetus to the cooperation with the local and regional civil society, too.

The case of the Radio C, established in 1999 by private persons and a civil organization, for broadcasting programmes on Roma issues, may be another interesting example for good practice of intersectoral cooperation. The radio station got into a financial crisis situation in 2003. Understanding the risk of discontinuation of the broadcast so popular among the Roma people, a number of government organizations offered transitional financial assistance to preparing the programmes, e.g. the Ministry of Cultural Heritage granted support to making programmes in the Roma language and on authentic Roma music. The extarordinary direct support served the survival of the radio station presenting Roma culture, as, regretfully, the advertisers do not consider the Roma population as a target group, due to its usually modest purchasing power. The problem of the Radio C has not yet come to an end. A dialogue is in process in order to find suitable solution for all, on long run.

I wish to mention, as my last example for good practices, the annual Jewish Festivals in Buda- pest, launched three years ago. The event is organized by the religious community of the Jewish people, the local authorities and the cultural government grant support, and the Minister of Cultural Heritage opens the festival. The various cultural manifestations are obviously made open also for the non-religious audience. The fine art exhibitions and the klezmer band music concerts became especially popular among the wider audience. According to surveys, it is also due to these festivals, that a slow, gradual the decrease of antisemitic actions like graffitti or vandalism in old Jewish cemeteries, can be observed in Hungary.