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IdentifierCreatedClassificationOrigin
09BUDAPEST361 2009-05-14 11:45:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Budapest
Cable title:  

GAUGING THE HUNGARIAN PUBLIC'S TOLERANCE OF

Tags:   PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM PINS SOCI HU 
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VZCZCXRO4194
RR RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSR
DE RUEHUP #0361/01 1341145
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
R 141145Z MAY 09
FM AMEMBASSY BUDAPEST
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 4167
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
					  C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BUDAPEST 000361 

SENSITIVE
SIPDIS

DEPARTMENT FOR EUR/CE JAMIE LAMORE AND ERIC GAUDIOSI,
EUR/PGI JODY BUCKNEBERG, AND DRL

E.O. 12958: DECL: 05/06/2019
TAGS: PGOV PREL PHUM KDEM PINS SOCI HU
SUBJECT: GAUGING THE HUNGARIAN PUBLIC'S TOLERANCE OF
INTOLERANCE

REF: A. BUDAPEST 00360

B. BUDAPEST 00168

Classified By:
Acting Pol/Econ Counselor:Jon Martinson, reasons 1.4(b,d)



1. (C) Summary: Despite frequent admonishments by key
government and human rights leaders to respect the rights of
the Hungarian Roma, several indicators point to a growing
anti-Roma climate in Hungary. Two recent public opinion
surveys indicate an overwhelming majority of Hungarians
harbor strong anti-Roma sentiments, and some prominent public
figures have made anti-Roma comments that garnered no serious
societal rebuke. Evidence of the anti-Roma trend is further
reflected in the increasing popularity of the far-right
political party Jobbik. End Summary.

============================
STANDING UP AND SPEAKING OUT
============================



2. (U) In the midst of increasing attacks againt Roma, key
government figures have stepped up their show of support for
the Roma people while condemning acts of violence directed at
their community. In a meeting with police leaders on May 12,
Prime Minister Gordon Bajnai said attacks against "our fellow
Roma citizens" are, "an open assault on public safety in
Hungary." Later that day during an event marking the 61st
anniversary of the proclamation of the state of Israel, newly
appointed Foreign Minister Peter Balazs said Hungarians,
"must proclaim that discrimination never again gains ground
in Hungary." Others, including President Laszlo Solyom and
Justice Minister Tibor Draskovics, have also shown strong
support for the Roma community. Solyom recently said the
road was "littered with wasted opportunities to integrate the
Roma into society," while Justice and Law Enforcement
Minister Tibor Draskovics labeled the perpetrators of crimes
against Roma "shameful" and called on Hungarians to become
more tolerant.

=========================
PUBLIC OPINION SOLIDIFIES
=========================



3. (U) Yet despite these and other calls for tolerance and
Roma inclusion, two recent surveys show that the Hungarian
public has an overwhelmingly negative opinion of Roma. In a
survey conducted by the pollster Median released in early
March, over 80 percent of respondents said they were
prejudiced against Roma, saying that Roma "make no effort to
fit into society." Nearly 60 percent of those questioned
said that they thought "crime was in the blood of the Roma,"
and, alarmingly, 36 percent said that Roma should be
separated from the rest of society.



4. (U) A similar survey conducted by the Publicus Intezet at
the end of March found that 82 percent of Hungarians support
the forceful assimilation of Roma. Forty-six percent of the
respondents believed that certain crimes are committed
primarily by Roma and that separate criminal regulations
should be established to deal specifically with them.

====================================
PUBLIC MORE TOLERANT OF INTOLERANCE?
====================================



5. (C) News of the poll results coincides with a series of
controversial comments made by some key public figures in
recent weeks. The comments each individual made, while
widely viewed as objectionable, stirred little response from
the public before quietly fading out of the news.



6. (C) On January 30, Miskolc police chief Albert Pasztor
said in a press conference that "all of the robberies" in
Miskolc over the past two months had been committed by Roma.
He added that "Hungarian and Roma can't live together."
Reacting to the statement, Justice Minister Tibor Draskovics
temporarily suspended Pasztor while the actual comment was
reviewed. On February 1, Draskovic reinstated Pasztor after
he concluded that Paztor had not violated any law.



7. (C) On February 9, in an op-ed in the national daily
Magyar Hirlap, columnist Zsolt Bayer wrote, "regrettably,
many members of the Gypsy minority have given up on
co-existence and humanity." He added that Gypsies, "are not
human beings, but animals." In response to objections by the
Prime Minister's Office, Magyar Hirlap editor Istvan Stefka
said, "we are 100 percent behind Bayer and we see nothing

BUDAPEST 00000361 002 OF 002


objectionable with what he wrote."



8. (C) On February 11, Viktor Orban, leader of the main
opposition party FIDESZ, said, "It must be made clear that
the ratio of perpetrators of serious crimes of Gypsy origin
is increasing every day." He added, "Those who keep that
fact silent will only aggravate the problem." Roma leaders
quickly rebuked the statement, calling Orban's comments
"unfortunate," but there was no other public call for Orban
to retract his statement and certainly no research cited to
support it.



9. (C) On April 2, Parliament's Civil Rights Ombudsman Mate
Szabo said in an interview that he could "see the profile of
Gypsy crime." He continued, saying, "We are speaking of a
collectivist type of social, practically tribal, group that
is distinct from the predominantly individualistic crimes in
Hungary. If we see the profile of a criminal, we should warn
the population and name it clearly." The Hungarian Helsinki
Committee, the Roma Civil Rights Foundation, and the European
Roma Rights Center protested Szabo's comments in a joint
statement where they called for Szabo's resignation. The
Hungarian Civil Liberties Union called on Szabo to retract
his statement. Several Roma leaders also protested the
comments and demanded Szabo's resignation. The following
day, Szabo retracted his statement, saying he "composed his
words wrongly." He also said he would only leave office if
members of Parliament removed him. On May 4, the
Parliament's Defense and Law Enforcement committee rejected
Szabo's 2008 civil rights report, citing his anti-Roma
comments a month earlier.



10. (C) Comment: Despite several government officials' best
efforts to curb anti-Roma sentiment, the recent poll results,
coupled with the controversial statements that generated only
weak public reaction, reflect a troubling trend. Given the
rising popularity of the far-right, and overtly anti-Roma,
Jobbik political party over the past few months, there seems
to be evidence to support the polls' findings that the public
is becoming increasingly sympathetic to anti-Roma positions.
The results of the upcoming European Parliamentary elections
on June 7 may provide a better indication of how tolerant of
intolerance the Hungarian public has become. End comment.



Levine