On May 3, 1791, the Polish Great Sejm adopted Europe's first modern written national constitution, the world's second, after the United States Constitution. The progressive Polish constitution introduced the institution of constitutional monarchy, guaranteed the separation of legislative, executive and judicial branches of power, provided for equality before the law and propagated the principle of equitable governance. Through codifying, at the highest possible level, the values of good government and good governance, the Polish nation took a step far ahead of its time.
On the International Roma Day we celebrate the Roma culture that has been enriching European and Hungarian civilization with its values and diversity for centuries. At the same time, this day reminds us of the opportunities and obligations we have to take and fulfill in order to protect our Roma compatriots' equal treatment and equal dignity, to guarantee equal opportunities for them.
On the occasion of World Water Day, Ombudsman for Future Generations Marcel Szabó called attention to the preservation of the unspoiled, wild water status of the Drava river, and to the importance of the more rational use of rainwater in agriculture.
UNESCO proclaimed March 21 as the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in 1966, commemorating that, on that day, in 1960, police opened fire and killed 69 people at a peaceful demonstration against apartheid in Sharpeville, South Africa. As the fight against racism, intolerance and discrimination is gaining ground internationally, the series of programs held during the European Action Week Against Racism is organized around this day. Between March 12 and 21 this year, several governmental organs, civil communities, schools, local governments and private citizens will express their commitment towards building a more tolerant society through some direct action: organizing or participating in an event, or simply conveying the message of the importance of solidarity in the fight against racism.
Every time we recycle a ton of paper we save 12 trees, spare our water resources and contribute to mitigating the effects of climate change. The first day of March, the Day of Recycled Paper, now also marks the starting day of "Save@Work – Energy Teams at the Workplace", an EU-wide competition aimed at saving energy. The Hungarian patron of the competition is Marcel Szabó, Ombudsman for Future Generations.
In the Ombudsman's view, there are not enough qualified media teachers in schools, understanding media is not a discipline in its own right in the National Core Curriculum (NCC), the specified number of classes and the professional contents are but recommendations, handling online abuse and the dangers of the internet are not dealt with. As a first step, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights has requested the Minister of Human Capacities to commission a comprehensive study assessing and analyzing the efficiency of media education, to introduce specialized teacher training with a curriculum also covering the topic of fending off online abuse.
Following the holidays, referring to the extreme cold weather of recent days, Commissioner for Fundamental Rights László Székely pointed out that it is a moral obligation and legal duty of everyone to lend a helping hand to those who are vulnerable and in need. No one should be left without substantive assistance and a roof above their head in this cold weather. According to the Ombudsman, the winter crisis period is the touchstone of solidarity, showing whether we are capable to pay due attention to those who are in continuous danger out in the streets or in places unsuitable for dwelling.
Children of foreign nationality residing in Hungary may participate in pre-school education and, after reaching school age mandatory under Hungarian law, primary school education under the same conditions as their Hungarian peers do, pointed out László Székely in his report. In his report on the investigation conducted by him ex officio, based on media reports and alerts, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights called attention to the fact that the provisions of the Public Education Act, also regulating the education of children of foreign nationality, are not in accordance with the provisions of the sectoral acts, and their use of terms is not consistent, either.
The authorities responsible for the protection of children did not receive any information on the fact that some extremely vulnerable children in state care in Germany had been placed in foster care in Hungary. Thus the Hungarian authorities and service providers could not have taken the necessary measures even if the rights of those children, not speaking Hungarian and stuck in a foreign environment, had been infringed. In his report, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights has made a recommendation to the Minister of Human Capacities: the authorities responsible for the protection of children should be informed, at least at county level, on the placement of foreign children in Hungarian foster care.
The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights has joined the campaign of the Council for Europe for the protection of children against sexual harassment, abuse and exploitation; and he also calls for the importance of prevention. According to Ombudsman László Székely, such concealed issues and evading responsibility advise everyone - including legislators and citizens- for having task to do in the field of protection. Actions against sexual abuse of children is the most pressing and common task in child protection.
The Ombudsman received several petitions over the last year, in which parents complained that, due to the shortage of competent specialists, their children with special educational needs would not receive the care and education recommended by the education counsellor and the expert committee. In the report on his investigation, the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights pointed out several anomalies and made some recommendations.
Following a recommendation by the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and as a result of cooperation between the three competent ministries, a regulatory deficiency, related to the public workers' fundamental rights, has been eliminated with exemplary speed. The Ombudsman is confident that similarly quick results may be reached in other cases, related to the protection of other vulnerable groups, as well.