Hungary has achieved greater equality under its Christian Democratic government since 2010, ensuring better care for the disadvantaged in society, a lawmaker of the ruling Fidesz party said, opening a three-day international conference on Roma integration in Budapest on Wednesday.
Hungary took over the chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (CoE) for six months in May, Zsolt Németh, member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), told the event.
The chairmanship provides an outstanding opportunity for Hungary to enforce its interests, especially in the field of national and ethnic minority rights, including the rights of the Roma minority, Németh said, adding that this was a priority.
Németh said Hungary’s national Roma integration strategy adopted in 2011 was the country’s most comprehensive strategy aimed at fighting poverty and integrating its Roma community. He underscored the government’s commitment towards fulfilling these two objectives.
Addressing the opening, Snezana Samardzic-Markovic, Director General of Democracy at the Council of Europe, highlighted among the tasks defined in the CoE’s 2020-2025 action plan combatting the discrimination of the Roma and measures against hate crime. She called providing quality education to Roma children and equal rights to Roma women key objectives.
“School programmes for Roma and non-Roma children raise awareness that the Roma are an integral part of national and European societies and highlight that they have contributed to common European history and our common cultural heritage,” she said.
László Felkai, the interior ministry’s state secretary for security policy, said the CoE should play a role in presenting the national Roma integration strategies of the member states so that they can learn about each other’s good practices.
Attila Sztojka, government commissioner for Roma relations, said a job is what gives back members of the Roma communities self-esteem, noting that the employment of Roma people had gone up by 50 percent over the past ten years.
Péter Sztáray, the foreign ministry’s state secretary for security policy, said the conference aims to raise attention to minority issues and the importance of inter-religious dialogue.
“Hate speech, racism and anti-Semitism has been on the rise again in many parts of western Europe which is why more frequent dialogue is needed,” he said.
featured image: Zsolt Németh; via Szilárd Koszticsák/MTI