Brussels, May 26 (MTI) – The European Commission has launched an infringement procedure against Hungary over the segregation of Roma children in schools, the commission announced on Thursday.
The commission has sent a warning letter to Hungary calling on the government to bring Hungarian legislation on equal treatment and education in line with EU directives on racial equality, commission spokesman Christian Wigand told a press conference. The enforcement in practice of these education policies should also be ensured.
The commission has expressed concern over Hungarian legislation and administrative practices on several counts, as it found that based on these regulations Roma children are placed in segregated special needs classes in disproportionately high numbers in Hungary.
The statement said that the aim of the procedure was to ensure that Roma children can take part in high-quality education under the same conditions as other children, as this determines their participation in work opportunities which is necessary for the full social integration of the Roma population.
Answering a question, Wigand said similar procedures had been launched against the Czech Republic and Slovakia in the past two years.
If Hungary does not provide a satisfactory response to the commission’s official request within two months, the procedure could be taken to the next level, the issuing of a “reasoned opinion”.
The opposition Dialogue for Hungary (PM) welcomed the EC’s decision to “take firm action against the situation” in school segregation. Benedek Javor, the party’s MEP, said in a statement on Thursday that changing the law is only one step in the right direction, but it is far from enough, the government should also support practices which effectively help the integration of Roma children.
The leftist opposition Democratic Coalition (DK) called on Zoltan Balog, the minister for human resources, to resign, as it is “now official that Roma students are being severely discriminated against” in Hungary and are deprived of an equal education. Peter Niedermuller, the party’s MEP, said in a statement that school segregation is one of the worst forms of discrimination which has grave social and economic consequences. Balog has on several occasions openly voiced views in favour of segregation and the state agency for schools (Klik) continues to ignore court orders for the elimination of segregation among schoolchildren, he said.
Government office chief Janos Lazar said it is not clear what the European Union means by its warning, as there is no registration of the ethnic background of children in Hungarian schools. “I have no idea where the European Commission gets its information about which child is Roma and which one is not,” Lazar said, adding that the infringement procedure was launched based on reports by Hungarian civil organisations.
The ruling Fidesz party said in a statement that Brussels was trying to punish Hungary over its stance on migration by refusing to spend integration funding on immigrants.