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Hungary: Minorities have most to loose from crisis

Budapest, 18.7.2010 23:25, (VITAeurope)

Interview with Angela Kocze, one of Hungary’s most outspoken Roma rights advocates.

Angela Kocze, 40, is one of Hungary’s most outspoken Roma rights advocates. Born in a poor, rural Hungarian village, she is herself a Roma and put herself through school, first by working in a factory and then winning a university scholarship. In a country where only 0.2% of Roma people go to college, Kocze’s story is the exception to the rule. A degree in human rights and ethnic and minority studies and an interest in gender identity took her to becoming the first executive director of the European Roma Information Office (ERIO), an NGO lobbying EU institutions. She is also the former director of the human rights education programme at the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC).

At the moment she is primarily a researcher and finishing a PhD investigating the intersectionality between gender, ethnicity and class of Romani women as well as their political participation in Europe.

How has the economic crisis hit Hungary?

Economically speaking, the situation for NGOs is very fragile here and civil society has been hit harder than any other sector. After Hungary joined the EU in May 2004, a lot of structural funds became available for NGOs but Hungarian laws prevented these funds from making a real impact on most NGOs. Here the money is allocated only afterwards, so NGOs have to front all of the costs of any new projects first. Many organizations including the Romani ones I work with find this prohibitive. At the same time, the few philanthropic organizations that exist here, like the Open Society Institute, have been less willing to invest in local NGOs since Hungary became part of Europe. Of course Roma people will be most affected economically and socially.

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by Cristina Barbetta
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