Prejudiced statements by the Hungarian Prime Minister

10 April 2001

In an open letter to the Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán on January 19, 2001, the Budapest-based non-governmental organisation, the Romani Civil Rights Foundation (RCRF), protested the Prime Minister’s recent statements regarding the government’s social housing construction programme for the Roma. The letter stated that the proposed 300 million Hungarian forints (approximately 1,130,000 euros) budgeted for the programme is “ridiculously low” as it will only solve the housing needs of around sixty of the approximately fifteen thousand Roma who currently leave in shanty towns. The letter also assails as prejudiced and offensive to the Romani community Prime Minister Orbán’s comment that “many new units in Hungary were doomed to the fate of being nicely built, then the Roma families moved in and the next year saw the units brought down, with the parquet floor broken up and the windows ruined.” Prime Minister Orbán’s comments were also criticised by the Legal Advisor to the US Senate’s Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (Helsinki Commission), Erika Schlager, as part of her presentation at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C., on January 26, 2001. In a letter of January 22, 2001, to the Ministry of Justice, the Chair of the Council of Europe Specialist Group on Roma/Gypsies Josephine Verspaget also criticised the Hungarian government for the implementation of the government’s medium-term strategy, stating that one of the major problems affecting Roma was evictions and the increasing number of homeless Romani families. The letter noted that despite governmental initiatives at national and local level, there remained “a strong feeling of disappointment and distrust among Romani representatives.”

(ERRC, Roma Press Center, RCRF)


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