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Minority Protection and “People’s Diplomacy”: Minority SafePack Initiative Enters Final Week of Signature Collection

By Fanni Kaszás // 2018.03.28.

The Rákóczi Association, one of Hungary’s oldest and best-established civil society organizations, has been committed to the struggle of preserving Hungarian identity and cultural traditions both domestically and in neighboring Hungarian-populated countries since its foundation in 1989. Here, Csongor Csáky, the Association’s Secretary-General, explains the significance of the Minority SafePack Initiative as the EU-wide signature collection effort nears its end and provides insight into the organization’s diverse fields of operation.

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Nowadays, the Minority SafePack Initiative is a priority for the Rákóczi Alliance. Little over a week ahead of the deadline, how is the collection of signatures going?

We are amidst a period of excited expectation, if I may say so, as we see that we are already certain to have roughly 400 000 signatures. As we have a multitude of cooperating partners, including the historical churches, the National Conference of Student Associations, the National Chamber of Agriculture, political parties, civil society organizations, libraries and municipalities, a number of signature collection sheets are yet to arrive. We encourage everyone to sign the initiative on the website minority-safepack.eu because this is an all-Hungarian cause. It may take us only two minutes, but for ethnic Hungarian communities, it holds the future. On the whole, we are optimistic and hope to write history on 3rd April.

 

Why would it be genuinely important for the European Union to attend to the Minority SafePack?

The Minority SafePack, or National Minority Protection Initiative as it is known by its Hungarian name, is important not only for us Hungarians but also for other autochtonous national minorities in Europe who have lived here in their homelands for centuries and created value with their culture and traditions. Though the EU regulates a vast number of things, even cucumbers’ curves, it fails to do so on whether autochtonous national minorities are allowed to use their symbols and language in their homeland or whether they can operate schools. Such issues are exposed to the capriciousness of the government of the day: in some countries, minorities are positively discriminated, while in others, such as Greece, their mere existence is denied. Therefore, the acknowledgement of the value embodied by these communities also at EU level would be important, as would guarantees for their long-term subsistence.

Several prominent politicians, including Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (pictured signing the initiative online), have urged citizens to support the Minority SafePack

What will be your next step if the initiative will incidentally prove unsuccessful?

The initiative’s European sponsor is the Federal Union of European Nationalities, abbreviated FUEN. The Rákóczi Szövetség undertook the coordination of the signature collection effort in Hungary. The form in which the proposal will be presented to the European Union after the signatures are submitted, as well as the subsequent legislative decisions to be adopted, will be dependent upon several actors. However, I believe that no self-professedly democratic European politician can disregard the will of a million people.

Fact

As the SafePack is officially a European Citizens’ Initiative, if more than 1 million European support it, the European Commission must officially respond to the proposal.

What is the next project to keep the Rákóczi Alliance busy?

Thank God, the Alliance has an abundance of tasks; on the one hand, we organize some sixty events annually, attracting over 50 000 attendees, mostly young people. The second, immensely important task of ours is to encourage parents in Hungarian-populated regions outside the country’s borders to choose Hungarian schools for their children, because this is the alpha and the omega of the local ethnic Hungarian community’s survival. The third large chapter of our work encompasses a diaspora program. In the running year, this will see 1000 young people between the age of 10 and 29 arriving to Hungary from the wide world for a ten-day study visit, all of whom counting Hungarians among their ancestors, in order to create a link between them and the Hungarian nation through invigorating their identity.

What can the Rákóczi Alliance do to improve the situation in Transcarpathia?

The Alliance fundamentally attempts to strengthen everyday, people-to-people relationships, or “people’s diplomacy” so to speak. We encourage parents to choose Hungarian-language education for their children also through our numerous youth organizations and local branches operating in Transcarpathia. We also run a highly successful programme launched in cooperation with István Grezsa, the Hungarian government commissioner responsible for the region, after the practical collapse of tourism in Transcarpathia in 2015. In the framework of the scheme, we provide travel support in the value of HUF 250 000 to groups visiting the region, thanks to which 5000 people travelled to Transcarpathia over the past year and 4000 in 2016. While the Alliance appropriated HUF 25 million to the programme both in the past and in the running year, last year’s groups spent HUF 60-70 million at ethnic Hungarian businesses in Transcarpathia.

A particular area of focus for the Association is the situation of ethnic Hungarians in Ukraine, Hungary’s northeastern neighbour plagued by war and economic collapse. Pictured, ethnic Hungarian students in Uzhhorod/Ungvár (photo: János Nemes / MTI)

What are the Rákóczi Association’s more distant objectives?

It comes without saying that tasks served by the Alliance require continuous activity and attention. We trust that opportunities open to the Alliance will remain present because this work requires not only enthusiasm but also a large swath of background resources. We are confident that the values professed by the Rákóczi Association since 1989 will stay important even at governmental level, allowing our work to continue.

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If you are an EU citizen, you can give your support for the Minority SafePack Initiative here.

via Magyar Hírlap (27th March 2018)

featured photo: Csongor Csáky, Secretary-General of the Rákóczi Association responsible for coordinating the signature collection campaign In Hungary (photo: Péter Gyula Horváth / pestisracok.hu)