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Loránt Vincze: The need to preserve minority identity is not outdated

In the world and in Europe, there has been a regression in the field of minority rights in recent times, pointed out MEP Loránt Vincze, the President of FUEN, on Friday afternoon in Gyula/Giula/Jula, Hungary, at a conference of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and Andrássy University Budapest. Quoting the words of UN Secretary-General António Guterres, he said that countries that protect minority rights are more peaceful, economies that support minority participation are more prosperous, and societies that embrace diversity and inclusion are more dynamic. The United Nations adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities 30 years ago, but the world has fallen far short of its commitments to implement it, as have European countries failed to live up to their commitments made by ratifying the Framework Convention and the Language Charter, he pointed out. According to him, the huge differences between the various states justify the introduction of international and European standards for the protection of minorities.

At the conference on the importance of autochthonous minorities in the foreign policy and foreign economic relations of Germany and Hungary and in cross-border cooperation, the FUEN president denied that the ambition to preserve identity was outdated. "Every culture is unique and has its place in the public sphere. Languages are not only means of communication, but they are also unique assets, custodians and transmitters of universal human knowledge and cultural values – songs, poems, legends. Only a narrow-minded vision of society which aims to create uniformity and mass-manipulation would have such an ambition to delete all this heritage" he said.

Loránt Vincze said: the rigid perspective of some nation states is indeed narrowminded, based on the 19th century paradigm of one language - one society - one nation. The majority's ambition to assimilate is no longer reflected in legislation, but the determination still exists, as in many countries socio-economic advantages depend on knowledge of the majority language. "Minority communities need autonomous decision-making powers on education, mother tongue and cultural issues, and the framework they propose should be financed by the state from public funds – we are all taxpayers," he said.

In his view, the Minority SafePack citizens' initiative has fundamentally changed attitudes towards minority rights in the European Union, despite the European Commission's rejection. "By building this initiative, by collecting signatures, by gaining the support of the European Parliament, and then, following the Commission's rejection, the support of the parliaments and public figures of the various states and regions, we managed to give the Minority SafePack a life of its own. It is no longer dependent on FUEN alone but has become a common denominator for the aspirations of minorities. Today, the standardization of minority rights in the EU is a common demand," he said. In March 2021, the FUEN and the MSPI launched an action for annulment of the European Commission's decision before the General Court of the European Union – a decision in this case is expected on 9 November.

At the conference, Ibolya Hock-Englender and Olívia Schubert, President and Vice President of the Self-Government of Germans in Hungary (LDU) and Benjamin Józsa, Executive President of the German Democratic Forum (NDF) in Romania presented the challenges their communities are facing.

Loránt Vincze also visited the Romanian community in Gyula on Friday. The National Self-Government of Romanians in Hungary has applied for membership of the FUEN, which will be discussed at upcoming FUEN Congress in Berlin. György Kozma, president of the National Self-Government of Romanians in Hungary, Bertold Netye, vice-president, and Traján Kreszta, the Romanian nationality spokesman of the National Assembly, reported that the number of Romanians in Hungary is steadily increasing, with 36,000 people identifying themselves as Romanians in 2011, according to census data. However, this does not mean that the population of the historical Romanian community is growing, but that many people have moved from Romania to work in recent decades. They are also included in the statistics as they live in Hungary. Dr Ernő Görgényi, Mayor of Gyula, joined the discussion.

Afterwards, they visited the Nicolae Bălcescu Romanian High School, Primary School and College, where Dr. Mária Czeglédiné, head of the school, introduced the school, founded in 1949. It currently has nearly 500 students and 60 staff members providing bilingual education. Although there is a large difference in the level of Romanian language skills among the students enrolled at the school, the school has been able to show good results year after year, with a high percentage of students going on to university. The students also learn about the history and geography of Romania, the history of Romanians in Hungary, Romanian art, and the school aims to pass on a very rich dance culture, with one PE lesson a week in which students learn folk dance. During the visit, Loránt Vincze told the press that the Romanian high school is the focal point of the Romanian community in Gyula, as the education and the children who study there prove that it is a vibrant community that wants to survive and has a future.