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Hungarian report
by Euro Reporter
2014-03-25 10:24:02
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Foreign minister calls for concrete steps to strengthen Hungary-Poland relations

Concrete steps are needed to strengthen Hungarian-Polish relations; there is still plenty of potential in bilateral economic cooperation between the two countries, Hungarian Foreign Minister Janos Martonyi said in a radio programme early on Sunday.

Speaking on public Kossuth Radio’s Vasarnapi Ujsag programme, Martonyi said one cannot disregard history when talking about Hungarian-Polish friendship. Poland is a large country, but the core of emotional and cultural ties between the two countries can be found in Cracow, this is why the Hungarian consulate-general has been reopened here, he said. In addition to the symbolic message, the move also has great importance for the economy as well as trade and tourism, he said.

The minister said the consulate-general in Cracow has very important duties since tourism and economic and trade relations must be expanded. Hungarian-Polish economic relations still hold great opportunities; trade statistics show two-way trade remains behind its potential, he said. Education and cultural ties should also be strengthened further, he said.


Hungary law requires photographers to ask permission to take pictures

hungary_400Those planning a weekend break in Budapest take note. From 15 March anyone taking photographs in Hungary is technically breaking the law if someone wanders into shot, under a new civil code that outlaws taking pictures without the permission of everyone in the photograph. According to the justice ministry, people taking pictures should look out for those who are aware they are about to be photographed and are not waving in protest, nor trying to hide or run out of shot. Officials say expanding the law on consent to include the taking of photographs, in addition to their publication, merely codifies existing court practice. However, Hungary's photographers call the law vague and obstructive, saying it has left the country of Joseph Pulitzer and photography legend Robert Capa out of step with Europe. Ákos Stiller, a photojournalist at the weekly HVG, the New York Times and Bloomberg, says the new regulation is another unwanted complication for his profession in Hungary. "Can we take photos of strangers: say people looking at a shop window? Do we shoot first and ask permission later?" he asked.

Márton Magócsi, senior photo editor at news website Origo, said "having to ask for permission beforehand is quite unrealistic in any reportage situation". Meanwhile, some judges who have overseen hundreds of such cases are privately saying they have no idea how to rule on cases under the new code. "This [regulation] is a nonsense and in my opinion impossible," lawyer Eszter Bognár said. "I don't think this is going to change the practice of photographing 'normal' people, because they don't have the possibility to ID the person taking the photo, but it's going to be more difficult to take pictures of policemen." Stiller agrees, noting that the code also misses an opportunity to specify normal police officers as 'public actors' and thereby scrap a much-maligned law that Hungary's media outlets must pixelate their faces. This legal requirement is unparalleled in Europe, although it applies for special forces in countries including France, Spain and Belgium. Stiller says: "The majority of police officers are doing great work, but they chose to have a public identity and this law puts a huge distance between the state and the citizen. I find it visually disgusting, and as a citizen I find it absurd," he adds.

Even László Székely – who co-ordinated the eight-volume Civil Code and has since become ombudsman for fundamental rights – has publicly endorsed scrapping the need to pixelate police officers' faces in photographs. Magócsi rues the lack of genuine consultation over these regulations: "There was dialogue after the drafting stage that seemed constructive, but not a single suggestion of ours was added to the code," he says, referring to a letter signed by nearly all of Hungary's senior photo editors two years ago. Another section of the code equates privacy infringements with grievances. "We are afraid that it could start a landslide of lawsuits," Magócsi says. "If people on the street start citing this legislation, it will make it even harder for photojournalists to work.


Mind your language, says Hungary’s government

Hungary’s feisty leader, heading toward a re-election in April, since 2010 has given his nation a new constitution, a revamped central bank, new regulators and even a new way to buy tobacco. His latest idea: a new institute for the Hungarian language. The Hungarian Language-Strategy Institute will start to operate April 1 and is supposed encourage correct use of the language. Hungarian belongs to the Uralic language family, making Finnish and Estonian the only relatives in Europe. It’s spoken by about 10 million people in Hungary and a further three to five million living abroad, mostly in territories held by Hungary before World War I. In 1920, the Treaty of Trianon, still often lamented in Hungary, awarded more than two thirds of “Greater Hungary” to neighbouring countries, leaving a third of native Hungarian speakers outside the country’s present borders. The establishment of a new language body is part of the Fidesz-party government’s much-criticized drive to set up new institutes. The new bodies have followed Fidesz’s preferred understanding of a given subject and exist sometimes side-by-side or on top of other organizations already engaged in the same realm.

Since coming into power in 2010, the government has founded the Hungarian Academy of Arts, the Veritas–or Truth–History Research Institute to study Hungarian history of the 150 years leading up to the 1989 fall of Communism, the RTKI–an institute to study the history of the 1989 regime change, the Institute of National Heritage to cultivate historically significant sights and memorials, and the Nation-Strategy Research Institute, which is to help the survival and enrichment of “the historical Hungarian nation” at home and beyond Hungary’s current borders. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, a lawyer by training, is to oversee the new body through the head of his office. Mr. Orbán looks slated to win a second consecutive term at the helm of the country at April’s parliamentary elections. Nurturing the Hungarian language and cultivating sciences were already behind 19th-century statesman István Széchenyi’s initiative in 1825 to found the Hungarian Academy of Sciences, or MTA, said József Pálinkás, the MTA’s head. The new body will be not more than an administrative arm of the government, he said. “To me, the government decree means that the 20-strong institute will operate not as a home for scientific research but as a central bureau of the Prime Minister’s Office which coordinates the preparation of materials to be written at the government’s order for its decisions on language policy and language cultivation,” he said in a written response to questions.

The government has declined to comment beyond what it said in the decree, according to which the institute is to establish and monitor a medium-term strategy for the Hungarian language, research the language’s structure, characteristics, and functioning, and implement findings in public education. Mr. Pálinkás said public duties of the MTA’s Research Institute for Linguistics include helping develop the Hungarian language, support research into its history, lexis, grammar and use in various sciences. The MTA is mostly financed from state funds. “It’s hard to draw a parallel between an institute that functions as a state office and an institute that conducts scientific research,” Mr. Pálinkás said. Géza Balázs, head of the Hungarian Linguistics department at Eötvös Lóránd University, or ELTE, welcomed the government’s decision. The Hungarian language needs to be protected and improved since it is in regression, in contrast to other languages spreading globally, Mr. Balázs said in his research paper ‘Outline of a Possible Language Strategy’ at end-2011. Currently, “the society-wide degradation of culture is making an impact on language as well. Vocabulary has been narrowing, language use is becoming simplistic, and stylistic differences are disappearing. Low-quality language is becoming the norm,” Mr. Balázs said. Mr. Balázs is widely tipped to be behind the government’s move and that he may take a position at the new body. He said he hasn’t received a request to join the institute, although “that may change.”

But most linguists received news of the government decree with raised eyebrows and disapproval, said Ádám Nádasdy, a professor of linguistics at ELTE in Budapest. “The government may decide what it is willing to dish money out for, but that doesn’t make it linguistics. We are not the Soviet Union of the 1930s, where Stalin decided what makes science and what not. This is not Francoist Spain,” said Mr. Nádasdy, who has also translated several plays of Shakespeare into Hungarian and is working on a new translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy. “There’s no need for an institute in the outlined form,” he added. Stalin had a peculiar interest in linguistics and wrote a controversial work about “Marxism and Problems in Linguistics” in 1950. In Francoist Spain, hegemony of the Spanish language was forcefully promoted and the arts had to align with the official line.


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Emanuel Paparella2014-03-25 14:11:06
It all goes to show the importance of language as cultural identity and why soccer games are no substitute for one's cultural identity. The paradox is that while the EU gets more and more integrated the center does no hold because people continue defending their own linguistic patrimony, as well they should. What remains to be done is to see what are the common things which make us all Europeans, but is anybody listening?

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