Report on Xenophobia and Radical Nationalism in Hungary, January-June 2015
The legislation concerning minorities did not change between January and June 2015. Discriminatory practices concerned mostly people of Roma origin, and the main areas of discrimination were segregation in education, discriminatory measures concerning housing, discriminatory practices of the police.
In case of school-segregation the government plays a double-game. On the one hand Zoltán Balog Minister responsible for Education said that the government “rejects and condemns illegal school segregation and is committed to quality education that develops the conditions for equal opportunity.” On the other hand the government implemented such changes in legislation what makes segregation possible in some schools, operated by the Church or other religious organizations, and exempted from the requirements of the Equal Opportunities Act. Of course, if we play with words than there is no contradiction whatsoever, since Zoltán Balog did not say that the government condemns all kind of school segregation, only “illegal” ones. It seems that this new regulation already has had severe consequences, since local governments have been using it as a camouflage for segregation and the establishment of “non-Roma” schools, even against the will of the government and authorities of education.
In the area of discriminatory practices the most severe one was the forced displacement of families, mostly Roma in Miskolc, coupled with the offering of monetary compensation to only those purchasing a property outside of Miskolc and not selling it for at least five years. Although courts, even the Supreme Court of Hungary ruled the regulations of the Fidesz-led local government discriminatory, the government has done nothing to enforce the court’s decision, and to stop this ongoing practice.
Roma people are stopped by police significantly more, than non-Roma living in the same area. They also report on large scale that they were treated disrespectful by police officers. Hungarian National Police was accused many times of ethnic profiling, and also using disproportionate and extreme fines against Roma people.
Hungarian criminal law identifies two forms of hate crimes: violent offences committed against a member of a group and incitement to hatred against a community. Moreover the new Civil Code penalize hate speech under certain circumstances. The Civil Code also details the crime of the public denial of the crimes of National Socialism (and also that of Communism), and the distribution, use before the public at large and public exhibition of symbols of totalitarianism. In connection with the Roma the most important case was the trial of the so-called “Roma murders”. Three of the defendants received life sentences without parole, while the fourth defendant, who was the driver, got a 13-year prison sentence. Action and Protection Foundation, an NGO founded in 2012, filed complaints for anti-Semitic hate crimes in many cases, especially for the denial of the Holocaust.
The misuse of anti-extremist legislation can be observed on various levels in Hungary. It includes underclassification, meaning that the investigating authorities disregard a possible prejudiced motivation, omissions by police. Action and Protection Foundation experienced these deficiencies both in law enforcement, and also in courts. Although laws against different kind of hate crimes are in effect, courts often fail to make an award. In many cases the practices of Hungarian courts inconsistent with pertaining EU directive. One of the most important among these is that law enforcement in Hungary consistently equate incitement to hate with incitement to crime.
The public discourse in Hungary in the first half of 2015 was dominated by the issue of refugee crisis, in which the government took a harsh stance in order to exploit the topic politically. The government launched a communication campaign against “immigrants” in January, right after the Charlie Hebdo attacks. Fidesz’s aim was to stabilize the party’s electoral support and prevent the far-right party Jobbik from taking the initiative and setting the tone. The anti-immigration rhetoric of government officials and leading Fidesz politicians was very much similar to far-right argumentation generally heard in other EU countries (.e.g., linking refugees with crimes, terrorism and diseases and present them as an economic, cultural and security threat to Hungary and the EU). Despite the government’s rhetoric most members of state authorities responsible for immigration and Human Rights matters maintained their professional status and remained on the ground of expertise and official terminology. However, director general of the Office of Immigration and Nationality made statements using the same terminology as the Prime Minister and the public media, generally the speaking tube of the government echoed the messages of Fidesz and reported on the refugee crisis in a biased and one-dimensional way that was suitable to incite hatred and xenophobic sentiments.
Due to the government’s harsh anti-immigration stance that was decided upon solely on the basis of political and communications considerations, no government representatives and leading politicians of the governing party made statements against xenophobia and radical nationalism during the first half of 2015. It was opposition politicians and representatives of NGOs who demonstrated against the government’s rhetoric, which was suitable to incite hatred against refugees.
Even though authorities prepared a draft bill to amend the refugee law due to the changes of respective EU laws already at the end of 2014 and the governing party Fidesz proposed various legislative measures many times during the first half of 2015, only one bill on the amendment of Act LXXX of 2007 on Asylum was passed within the time period in question. The regulation aimed at easier expulsion of migrants by considering Serbia a safe country.
The law enforcement practice of authorities (e.g., actions of the police) was mainly dependent on political decisions of the government that considered the refugee crisis a political issue and was mainly interested in exploiting the situation politically rather than solving the humanitarian crisis and ease the situation on the ground for the sake of Hungarian citizens and refugees alike.
Due to the increasing number of refugees and the government’s demonstrative approach, Hungarian authorities mainly failed to provide sufficient assistance and information for both Hungarian citizens and asylum seekers. It was mainly individuals and spontaneously formed civil groups and official NGOs that provided assistance to refugees in order to cover their basic needs (e.g., food, water, clothes, blankets, information in their own languages). The first groups were formed in late June. Official charity organisations were largely inactive in the first half of 2015, partly because they were not requested by the government to provide aid.
The majority of the Hungarian public have traditionally negative attitudes towards foreigners and certain ethnic groups. According to a research, openly-admitted xenophobia reached a record high in April 2015 with 46 percent of the adult population saying that asylum seekers should not be allowed to enter Hungary at all. Research shows however, that the negative attitudes towards immigrants (and foreigners) is independent from the actual number of refugees entering the country. Already in June 2014 47 percent of the adult population thought that too many migrants arrive from countries outside the European Union. In November 2014, the ratio of extremely anti-Semites stood at 21 percent, and 11 percent could be considered being moderate anti-Semites.
It is impossible to give full account of all the cases of hate speech and incitement of religious and ethnic hatred. These crimes and incidents are severely underreported, moreover internet, the main domain of them, cannot be fully monitored. Hungary is also lacking official statistics about them. According to EU Surveys Roma people not only perceive discrimination very often, but they also do not report it to authorities for various reasons. Despite of lack of clarity in many cases some came out committed by high officials, officers. According to Action and Protection Foundation, the only NGO monitoring anti-Semitic hate-crimes and hate incidents following a strict methodology, reported on many cases of hate speech and incitement. There were two cases of Jobbik officials, and many other committed by ordinary people.
Although the mainstream mass media do not call for ethnic and religious hatred, there is a small TV Channel (Echo TV) where these are not rare at all. Another very important media for spreading far right ideology, is the new site, Kuruc.info having around 100,000 daily readers.
In Hungary the so-called national rock is closely connected to the far right ideology. These bands are very active. They frequently have concerts, often in pubs and clubs, and they have considerable number of fans. Many of them are closely connected to Jobbik, and even acceptable by Fidesz.
By the beginning of 2015, far-right party Jobbik had become the largest opposition party in Hungary. The increase in Jobbik’s support has mainly been a consequence of three phenomena: the increasing dissatisfaction with the government’s performance; the nonexistence of a potent opposition force within the democratic camp; and the rebranding strategy of Jobbik. While on the national level the party restrains from racist and anti-Semitic statements, Jobbik’s policy proposals and the rhetoric of the party’s local politicians remained extreme. Beyond the party landscape there are two major far-right organisations in Hungary, each with close ties to Jobbik. One is the Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement, which advocates revision of the Trianon Treaty and reestablishment of “Greater Hungary”. The movement is mainly active on the local level, spreads anti-Roma, anti-Semitic and nationalist messages and unofficially functions as the radical wing of the party. An even more radical and extreme paramilitary organisation is the Outlaws’ Army, which consists of around 200 members. The organisation is openly racist and advocates white supremacy. Since many members of Outlaws’ Army are former officers of armed forces and because the organisation basically functions as an arbitrary security force, the Army poses a real threat to Hungary’s domestic security.
In the first half of 2014, 14 settlements (including 5 towns and 9 small settlements) were governed by a Jobbik mayor and further 14 mayors worked with the support of Jobbik. The local policy of Jobbik and other far-right players is based on strict rules, administrative burdens and intimidation of residents who do not fit to the standards and are not “useful” for the community (meaning Roma). Jobbik’s main topics on the local level are public security, social policy, education, employment (public works) and housing policy. In all these fields the policy measures proposed or implemented by Jobbik aim at segregating members of the Roma minority with reference to their cultural differences, behaviour schemes and alleged breaches of law.
Jobbik has had a significant influence on the government and legislation since 2010. While to many Jobbik seems to be the only potent and credible opposition force and a possible challenger to Fidesz in the 2018 general elections, Fidesz has mainly been following the tactics to ignore Jobbik on the surface and, at the same time, attract their voters by using similar rhetoric and incorporating Jobbik’s policies into governmental action. In the time period in question, the influence of Jobbik on the government became very visible through the topic of the refugee crisis.
In recent year not only international, but national football association also have paid close attention to racism on football matches. Educational programs have been implemented and serious measures were taken to fight against racism. These programmes seems to have visible results, since the number of such incidents decreased for 2015.
There were no physical attacks committed against Jews, but there were against the Roma. A Roma man was shot dead by a police officer under unclear circumstances, and biased motivation seemed also possible. In two other incidents no authorities were involved, although in one of the cases the far-right organization, the Outlaws’ Army played a decisive role. There were also cases of vandalism in Jewish cemeteries and monuments.
The glorification of German National Socialism and its collaborators in the mainstream media, and the glorification of German National Socialism and/or its collaborators in the decisions made by the authorities are practically absent in Hungary. However, extreme hate-groups following neo-Nazi ideology exist in Hungary. Holocaust denial is also present, and it has increased in the recent years. In a survey carried out in 2014 on a nationally representative sample revealed that 10 to 15 percent of the Hungarian population deny the Holocaust, while 23 percent of the respondents relativize it. . Action and Protection foundation detected cases of Holocaust denial and relativisation, and also pressed charges in many cases.
Unlike in 2014 that was dominated by the government’s political campaign and the authorities’ restrictive measures against Human Rights NGOs, the topic was almost completely dropped (or at least put temporarily on ice) by Fidesz in 2015. However, some investigations imposed by certain authorities still continued in the first half of 2015. Even though at the end of 2014 PM Orbán announced a possible legislation, which would require organisations that receive funds from foreign donors to register at Hungarian authorities, no further announcements were made in this regard. Confrontation between the government and HR organisations took place in the first half of 2015 in connection with the refugee crisis (e.g., arrest of non-partisan anti-government activists and activists of opposition parties who damaged the government’s anti-immigration billboards).
The complete study can be downloaded from here (pdf, 2,321 kB).