On December 11, 2023, our group organized a workshop titeld “Ethnic and Religious Minority Rights in Central Europe: Political Bargain Chip or Genuine Human Rights Concerns?” The aim of the event was to address the violation of the human rights of ethnic minorities in Central Europe, more specifically the violation of the rights of ethnic Hungarian minorities in the region through the examination of three cases illustrating such human rights violations.
Speakers of the event were looking into questions whether minority rights are used as excuses for pursuing regional political interests, or there are indeed genuine human rights concerns that need to be addressed?
Firstly, Dr. Balázs Tárnok, co-founder of FICE, Director of the Europe Strategy Research Institute at the Ludovika University of Public Service and advisor at the Institute for the Protection of Minority Rights scrutinized the situation in Ukraine. Even though Kyiv inj the past few years claimed that Ukrainian legal framework on minority rights is sufficient, and Budapest is falsely accusing Ukraine with disregarding minority rights to undermine Ukraine’s western integration, the Venice Commission adopted numerous opinions in the past few years claiming that Ukraine indeed violates international minority standards.
Secondly, Imola Vass, Fellow at the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation investigated Romania’s ethnic-based religious restitution practices. Romania in the past years deliberately sabotaged the restitution of the confiscated property of churches that are traditionally linked to the Hungarian ethnic minority in the country.
Lastly, Dr. János Fiala-Butora, Lecturer at the School of Law, National University of Ireland Galway, Affiliate of the Harvard Law School Project on Disability, and Legal Officer at the Roundtable of Hungarians in Slovakia explained the contemporary application of the Benes Decrees, World War II-era laws that permitted the seizure of private property of individuals belonging to Hungarian and German ethnic minorities. Slovakia is currently still applying these decrees and confiscates the private property of individuals purely on an ethnic basis.
Representatives of numerous Washington-based think tanks and universities attended the workshop, including the Hudson Institute, the Atlantic Council, the Manhattan Institute, the Religious Freedom Institute, the George Mason University and the Indiana University. The presentations were followed by a lively discussion on the most recent and pressing issues addressed by the speakers after their presentations.