It was 26 years ago, on December 18, 1992 that the General Assembly of the United Nations Organization adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Persons Belonging to National or Ethnic, Religious and Linguistic Minorities. Commemorating this decision, which was a milestone from the aspect of international law and for society too, the Day of National Minorities has been celebrated on December 18 every year since 1995. In addition to the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, which was adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe in 1992, this UN declaration was the first comprehensive international document which specifically called the attention of the states to the protection of the identities of national minorities as a value to be held in high esteem. It made provisions, among others, on the right of national minorities to their own culture and education in their respective mother tongues, on their meaningful participation in the decision-making on matters affecting the national minorities, as well as the possibility for them to keep contact with their mother countries freely and across borders.
The process of recognizing the rights of national minorities in international legal instruments continued in 1994, by the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities adopted by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, which plays a critical role among the international mechanisms that are available in Europe for the protection of national minorities. During the control of the implementation of the provisions set out in the convention, the Advisory Committee that was entrusted with the task of monitoring established such frameworks and standards of interpretation which are regularly and increasingly often quoted by other international organizations and institutions in making their decisions.
As the deputy commissioner for the rights of national minorities and as a member of the above-mentioned Advisory Committee, I find it important to stress that the fundamental rights of national minorities are the indispensable building blocks of democracy. Almost all the general fundamental human rights have their respective special national minority aspects: the violation of the right to dignity may often be put down to the presumed or actual nationality of the injured party, the right of national minorities to the use of their mother tongue or the cultivation of their national identity are closely related to the freedom of speech and expression, while the right to national minority education is the special sphere of the enforcement of the fundamental right to education and culture, which is also ensured in the Fundamental Law of Hungary.
Act CLXXIX of 2011 on the Rights of Nationalities stipulates the following as a fundamental principle: each national minority is entitled to exist and survive as a national community. In order to ensure this, the individuals who belong to the national minority communities have their own rights, and the communities themselves have cultural and political rights for the cultivation and preservation of their national cultures and identities as well. For practicing democracy, the establishment of national minority self-governments is an important form of exercising national minority rights, which ensures the national minorities the possibility of collective participation in public life. Thus, the extent of rights ensured to disadvantaged or simply, minority groups is an important measure of the level of democratic development of a society.
Thus, on the Day of National Minorities, I would hereby like to greet all those citizens of Hungary who belong to one of these national minorities, including those who cultivate both their national minority and Hungarian identities.
Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay, Prof. HC