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Diaspora Day Marked with a Conference on Aiding Hungarians Abroad

By Fanni Kaszás // 2017.11.16.

The development of education is key to maintaining and further developing institutional systems for ethnic Hungarians abroad, state secretary in charge of Hungarian communities abroad said at a conference marking Hungarian Diaspora Day.

Árpád János Potápi said that the event is focusing on legal protection for ethnic Hungarians in the Carpathian Basin.

He added that the Petőfi Sándor program has been successful, resulting in the re-opening of Hungarian schools, more opportunities for language training, and opening of diaspora centers in the area.

There are plans to set up new school centers and for the harmonization of the operation of the existing 213 weekend and Sunday schools. Those living in regions with large ethnic Hungarian communities should have the opportunity to study all subjects in Hungarian even in secondary school, Potápi added.

Government funding for Hungarian communities beyond the country’s borders has grown tenfold since 2009, and exceeded 73 billion forints (235 million euros) last year.

Bence Rétvári, state secretary for the Ministry of Human Resources, said the “Without Borders!” has attracted over 183,000 participants since 2013. It helped seventh grade students from Hungary to visit areas with large ethnic Hungarian communities in neighboring countries, while it also supports secondary school classes to run joint projects with classes of ethnic Hungarians abroad.

Rétvári added that, since the start of the program, a total of 8.7 billion forints have been spent on the project, including 4.1 billion forints last year.

photo: MTI / Máthé Zoltán

Miklós Soltész, Minister of State for Church, Nationality and Civil Society Relations, said that in the first year of the program only 349 schools applied successfully, while there 1411 schools with more than 50,000 participants this year.

Soltész also presented figures on the expected results of the program. They expect that 45 percent of the seventh graders will participate in a 2-6 day long “Beyond Borders” excursion by the end of 2017/2018.

Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén said in an interview with public TV channel M1 that Hungary’s constitution clearly states that the country undertakes responsibility for all Hungarians around the world, which demonstrates a much stronger commitment than in the past regarding the state’s responsibility.

The government has fulfilled this undertaking in every respect by, for instance, offering Hungarian citizenship in a fast-track procedure, he added.

He said: “There is a full consensus in Hungarian society and in the Hungarian parliament” that ethnic Hungarians abroad have the right to autonomy and citizenship, adding that voting rights are inseparable from the latter and their right to vote is a guarantee in their hands to force the government to take their interests seriously.

The deputy PM also said that Ukraine’s new education law was a “brutal attack” by nationalist leaders against the ethnic Hungarians’ institutional system there. Hungary used to be a flagbearer for Ukraine’s visa-free status in the European Union. Since Ukraine had acted wrongly, Hungary would now block “everything that’s important to them” until the law is withdrawn, he added.

Péter Ungár board member of the opposition party LMP said at a press conference on Wednesday that the rights of Hungarians beyond the borders – including their right to vote – cannot be taken away and condemned the initiative of the Democratic Coalition to withdraw their voting rights. However, he added that the possibility to vote by mail should also be provided to those who have migrated abroad because of economic reasons.

Rózsa Hoffmann of the co-ruling Christian Democrats emphasized the importance of protecting minority languages as this would promote peace and stability in Europe. She stressed that the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages ​​has only been ratified by 25 of the 47 member states. 70 million people from the European Union’s 500 million residents belong to a linguistic minority, so it concerns more nations, not just Hungarians, she added.

via Hungary Matters, MTI