Minority’s status laws in the European Union and in Hungary

Osamu Ieda: Ideological Background of the Amendment Status Law Controversy in Hungary.
Three years have passed since the Hungarian Parliament established the highly controversial Status Law on 19 June 2001 under the initiation of the Orbán government. The law was hardly accepted, or simply rejected by the neighbouring countries and the European community. It was only 23 June 2003 when the Hungarian Parliament could adopt the new Act on amendment of the status law under the socialist cabinet, though the adoption did not mean full consensus at all among the partners. Slovakia, among the neighbouring countries of Hungary, had been rejecting the law, the amended one as well, to implement in her territories. Within the domestic politics of Hungary, on the other hand, the opposition parties, especially, the Fidesz-Hungarian Civic Alliance categorically disagreed with any amendment of the original version of the status law. Hungary, however, had no choice other than to amend the law in accordance with the ‘external pressure’. The political division in Hungary seemed quite obvious in the voting for and against the amendment law between the socialist-liberal camp and the nationalist camp. However, the division is not so clear when we examine the details of the discussions on the amendment law. The paper, examines the ideological background of what the major four political parties disagreed and agreed on in the amendment of the law. In other words, the logics and the perceptions of the Hungarian political parties will be analysed which were formulated between the two on-going regional integrations; the European integration and the national integration of the Hungarians beyond the state borders in the post-communist reconstruction of the nation states in Europe.

György Schöpflin: Hungary and the EU: the Status Law and After
The starting assumption is that these minorities have definitely not abandoned their political and cultural aspirations to be Hungarian and this necessarily places them in a relationship with Hungary. Minority Hungarians may well construct their identities in part against or in collaboration with their home states, but their wish to remain Hungarian is incontrovertible. The central difficulty was and is how to give protection to minorities as collectivities when human rights were overwhelmingly structured by individualism. Indeed, given the shift in Western Europe towards definitions of self as ”post-national”, ethnic identities could be regarded as retrogressive, though their capacity to mobilise energies could not be disregarded. At the same time, a further difficulty was widely ignored. Before, during and after the Second World War, collective solutions were widespread. The Hungarians of Slovakia were explicitly subjected to very serious harassment based on an official declaration of collective guilt. The after-effects of these collective punishments live on, even while collective rights continue to be denied. The activity of international organisations (HCNM, OSCE, EU, Council of Europe) has been far more obviously focused on stability than ethnic rights, thereby privileging the short term over the long term. The new Constitution offers two major innovative contributions to citizenship. In the first place, it reaffirms the propositions that the EU enjoys dual legitimation, by the member states and by the citizens of the Union. The Constitution recognises for the first time in the history of European integration that individual members of ethnic minorities should not be subjected to discriminatory practices, but makes no mention of collective rights. Then, the entire European project is based overwhelmingly on the concept of soft power, power exercised on the basis of consent and not of coercion or the threat of it. Clearly, citizen members of ethnic minorities have the same rights as members of majorities. Thus, the Constitution offers ethnic minorities new forms of protection that derive from universal civic normativity in Europe.

Zoltán Kántor: The Concept of Nation in the ECE “Status Laws
The article focuses on the use and misuse of the concept nation in the East-Central European “status laws”, with a special attentiveness on the Hungarian law. East-Central European states redefined their polity in national terms after the breakdown of communist regimes. This was reflected in the first phase in the constitutions and in the laws on citizenship, while in the second phase one may observe this awareness in the framing of the so-called status laws. The author analyses the question within the framework of nationalism. Nationalism, in this approach is the institutionalization of societies on national basis, and it is uses as a neutral term. The status laws – besides offering several favors and benefits – brought in the center of attention the definition and redefinition of the nation. The debates around the status laws, especially around the Hungarian one, brought again into the center the two different – political and ethnocultural – conceptions on the nation. The dispute went parallel on domestic, bilateral – Hungary and its neighbors, and international level. Roughly, one may state that the discussion reflected the two conceptions on Europe: that of the states and that of the nations. The author suggests that it would be advantageous for a better understanding of the status law syndrome to refrain using the concept of political nation, and recognizing that – both in the “West” and in the “East” – societies, states are institutionalized on ethnocultural basis. The term political nation should be dismissed and replaced with citizenship.

Zsuzsa Csergő and James M. Goldgeier: Virtual Nationalism in Comparative Context: How Unique is the Hungarian Approach?
Contrary to expectations, kin-state activism in Central and Eastern Europe has increased despite a substantive improvement of minority rights in most societies in the region and the fact that most of these countries are now either part of the EU or expect to join in the near future.  This paper outlines the types of kin-state strategies that have emerged as popular in the region, with a focus on the Hungarian case but also a discussion of the strategies pursued by Romania and Russia.

Iván Halász: The Ethnicity and Territory in the Central and Eastern European Status Laws
The article focuses on the models of Kin-Minority Protection in Central and Eastern Europe. This question is very actually since the rejection of Hungarian Status Law. The crucial points of article are the relationship between the citizenship and ethnicity, the connection between ethnicity and territory, the role of language, religion and culture in the definition of national affiliation and the peculiarities in the contents of laws on co-nationals living abroad. The article states the problem of Kin-Minority Protection in the historical perspective too.

Balázs Majtényi: Utilitarianism in Minority Protection? Status Laws and International Organisations
The article focuses on the failures of international documents that have dealt with the Hungarian Status Laws, with a special attention on the underlying principle of international law. International organisations and the documents adopted within the framework thereof treat the international protection of minorities as a part of international human rights protection but they sometimes regard it as a security policy issue. Trying to find the reasons for the inconsistencies and theoretical failures of international documents responding to status laws, we can safely claim that they are rooted in the security policy approach. The organisations – whether rightly or wrongly – found possible sources of danger in these legal rules and subsequently looked for legal arguments which would support their opinion.

Balázs Vizi: The Evaluation of the ‘Status Law’ in the European
The article analyses the development of EU conditionality on minority protection and its articulation on the Hungarian Status Law. The EU has not developed a common approach on the normative standards of minority protection, and the evaluation of the Status Law in the Commission reflected a strongly state-centric position on the issue. While the Hungarian government has argued that the Law offers a new, transnational approach of
minority protection, the Commission focused much more on the political reception of the Law in neighbouring countries. The differences in the interpretation of the Law revealed that the concept of minority protection was rather contested between the parties, and besides legal analysis political considerations were determinant in the evaluation of the Law. Nevertheless the debate over the impact of the Status Law revealed also the different perspectives on the future of ‘transnational’ minority protection in the EU-context.