Hungary stands firm on rights for minority groups

12-12-2003

While defence and the preservation of its neutral status was important to Austria - Hungary had another priority - it wanted the preamble to the constitution to refer to the importance of minorities within Europe's boundaries. It's specific concern - the large Hungarian ethnic minorities in neighbouring countries like Slovakia and Romania. Endre Barcs is a Brussels based Hungarian Television correspondent

"Well up to now Hungary is very satisfied with the result because one of the main concerns of Hungary is to get the minority law into the constitution. We got something, which is not what we wanted, we wanted this law to be mentioned in the preamble of the constitution, it's not there but somewhere between the human rights you can read one sentence in which you can find the minority law. So that's why Hungary is very satisfied."

What signal does this send to the Hungarian population?

"We are not talking any more bout the Hungarians living in Slovakia because Slovakia will be a full member of the European Union at the same time as we will be. And it will solve a lot of problems for instance there will be no border any more among us. Our Prime Minister is signing an agreement with the Slovakian Prime Minister on culture and cultural exchange and education and so on."

So does it remove the tension between Slovakia and Hungary over the Hungarian minority in Slovakia and in other neighbouring countries like Romania?

"Yes that's exactly what Hungary wanted to have in the European Constitution."

Would that have happened anyway with all of these countries coming into the European Union or did it need something in the constitution?

"Well to be in the constitution it makes clear that the European Union is for the minority law. Of course it doesn't mean anything if the countries behave another way but the main solution is really to be a member of the European Union sooner or later."

12-12-2003