State Secretary: Foreign-funded activism is sowing division in Hungary

Zoltán Kovács said segregation in any form is bad, and Hungary is fighting it. But the case in the town of Gyöngyöspata is not as simple as that.

Zoltán Kovács, State Secretary for International Communication and Relations, has highlighted how foreign-funded activism is sowing division in Hungary and education is not the issue in an important Hungarian court case.

In a letter to the editor of Politico, Kovács points to Zeljko Jovanovic’s opinion piece “Orbán’s next move: Overpowering the courts,” where he takes issue with the government’s intention to challenge a recent court ruling that would compensate members of the Roma community in the Hungarian town of Gyöngyöspata for school segregation.

According to Jovanovic, director of the Roma Initiatives Office at the Open Society Foundations, which is funded by George Soros, an outspoken opponent of the Hungarian government — this is just the latest attempt by Prime Minister Viktor Orbán to exert “total control” by “overpowering the courts.”

Kovács highlights how he omits several important facts.

The case began in 2003, under the Socialist-Liberal government. The Debrecen Court of Appeals decided that the municipality and the school district should pay compensation of HUF 100 million (EUR 300,000) to 62 children and their families for each year spent in segregation — an astronomical sum that is twice the annual budget of the town and would jeopardize its ongoing operations.

Kovács said the decision handed down by the court offends the sense of justice of many in Hungary. It also ignores the question of whether the students involved in the case have lived up to their obligations. Between them, the students missed a startling 500 classes and had to repeat an entire school year. Only 16 obtained a high school diploma.

In a democracy based on the rule of law, Kovács said certain rights (in this case, to compensation) and obligations (to attend classes) go hand-in-hand; one cannot exist without the other.

The government and municipality had offered an alternative solution: a compensation that included both financial award and education and training. But the so-called victims refused this opportunity offered to them for a better life. With training, they could have achieved better jobs and higher pay, providing both themselves and their families more security.

Kovács said segregation in any form is bad, and Hungary is fighting it. But the case in the town of Gyöngyöspata is not as simple as that.

The case was pursued by activist lawyers contrary to the wishes of the families involved. They are affiliated with the Chance for Children Foundation, which — like the author of the opinion piece — receives funding from the Open Society Foundations. By pursuing a course of action that would drive the municipality into bankruptcy, the group is showing little concern for the people of Gyöngyöspata or their children's education. Their foreign-funded rights activism has brought only division — not greater justice.

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