Horn Blasted Over Roma Issues 5082-horn-blasted-over-roma-issuesHorn Blasted Over Roma Issues15 March 1998 The Hungarian government has made a very public effort to show its willingness to improve the life of the country's Romani minority and outlined a plan last year. That said, a group of Hungarian human-rights organizations--including the European Roma Rights Center and Hungarian Helsinki Committee--recently circulated a letter protesting comments made by Prime Minister Gyula Horn, whom they accuse of reinforcing Gypsy stereotypes. Horn's office responded by calling the accusation entirely false and unfair and saying that certain nongovernmental organizations consciously misinterpret the statements of a prime minister who took sides with the Gypsy issue in a way that is unique in Europe. Below are excerpts from one of Horn's most controversial speeches, made at the Szolnok meeting of the Lungo Drom Romani organization on 16 January.

I want to stress again: the situation of the Gypsies is a grave challenge for both the Roma and the majority of society. If we do not treat the problem intelligently, with programs, it may endanger the whole society. ... It must also be said outright that a significant portion of society has an unfavorable experience regarding Gypsies' work willingness, abuse of public goods, and observance of community norms and rules. Of course--and we have to admit it just as openly--we can encounter many prejudices, but the minority cannot get along opposed to the majority, and the same thing applies vice versa. ... We have to state some basic principles, and we have to realize them in practice. We do not think it acceptable--I hope that the Gypsies agree--that for Romani families the only form of making ends meet is the allowance received for the children, and this could be helped only if they [the parents] started working. It is harmful for the ethnic minorities as well, if masses of families build their lives, or are forced to build their lives, on an unemployed existence. We have to change this, first of all by creating workplaces, but also by looking for workplaces.

In this field, we can already observe the traces of a change: in 1997, more than 100,000 Roma were given employment opportunities through the work programs for the public good, 25,000 through public work, and about 30,000 Roma through the support of small regional programs and small entrepreneurs. I wish to make it quite unambiguous that positive discrimination is not the same as favoritism. It would be unacceptable if layers of a similar social situation received less support than the Romani needy. One's otherness, one's origins, does not give any right to social partiality. ...

It is a well-known fact that Romani society has well-organized local communities, and that inner solidarity is very strong among them. This fact has several positive results. Unfortunately, for historical reasons, this solidarity is often extended to offenders of the laws as well. Today, however, such phenomena are unacceptable even for an ethnic minority. It is my conviction that this phenomenon results in grave damage in the moral reputation of minorities. This is why I believe it is very important for the Gypsies to face this problem and to separate themselves from the criminals.

Translated by David Olah. 5082-horn-blasted-over-roma-issues

You have reached a premium content area of TOL. To read this entire article please login if you are already a TOL subscriber.

Not a subscriber?

Subscribe today for access to:
Full access to the website, including premium articles videos, country reports and searchable archives (containing over 25,000 articles).

You can subscribe here to gain access to the entire website.