European Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová is coming to Hungary to gather information about the progress of the infringement procedures initiated because of the segregation of Roma children, reports Index.hu.
Some 60 percent of Hungarian Roma children are still educated segregated from other children, according to a report on the results of Member States’ Roma integration strategy since 2011 published by Commissioner Jourová. The report shows that the Member States had mixed results so far. According to the report, until 2016 the rate of Roma children in Europe who received childhood education increased and the rate of school dropouts decreased. However, during the same period the rate of Roma who are neither part of the education system nor the labor market increased from 38 to 51 percent.
Commissioner Jourová will come to Hungary to gather information on the legislation and enforcement of the laws regarding Roma integration. Infringement procedures were initiated against Hungary, following the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in 2016 because of the school segregation of Roma and the massive number of Roma children who were unjustifiably declared mentally disabled. Despite the known problems, Jourová welcomed the fact that the Hungarian Parliament had adopted the modification of the education law so as to prohibit segregation in church-owned institutions. However, the staff of the commissioner will also inspect the enforcement of the law.
“In total, there are no specific problems with the Hungarian legislation,” Chance For Children Foundation (CFCF) lawyer Adél Kegye told index.hu. “Moreover, compared to other European countries it is considered to be progressive since it explicitly forbids discrimination and segregation. However, there are numerous problems with the application and enforcement of the law.”
CFCF, which filed the segregation lawsuit that eventually led to the infringement procedures, has nine similar lawsuits pending. In one of the better publicized cases, the Ministry of Human Resources had to intervene to stop the Kaposvár Council and the Klebelsberg Institution Maintenance Centre (KLIK) from bypassing a final court ruling protecting the interests of Roma students. Sources of index.hu stated that the ministry had intervened with the ongoing infringement procedures in mind.
According to Kegye, the basis of the segregation in many settlements is the law allowing the free choice of schools. Although free choice of schools is welcomed in theory, in practice it is only good for the middle-class and better-off families. Kegye notes that in other countries the principle of free choice of schools has been limited to some degree. According to some professionals, launching a school bus program would be an essential tool in the fight against segregation.
The most successful desegregation program so far was implemented by Hódmezővásárhely during Minister Overseeing the Prime Minister’s Office János Lázár’s tenure as a mayor. After the initiation of the infringement procedures, Lázár made the following comment:
“When the European Commission calls Hungary to account about why many six-year-old Roma children are considered unfit for school or why must they attend a special school, I do not have a clue how the commission knows that they are Roma.”
Lázár’s comment underlines the fact that Hungarian authorities, including schools, are forbidden from registering the ethnicity of citizens. Because of this, Lázár argued, the procedures are incomprehensible.