The city of Miskolc is ready to pay its Roma inhabitants to leave town

Today we are moving to Miskolc just as one of the ministries may do sometime in 2015 if the Orbán government disperses its ministries all over the country, as currently planned.

This is Hungarian Spectrum‘s second trip to Miskolc, a city that has fallen on hard times in the last twenty-five years. Miskolc and environs was one of the most important centers of Hungarian heavy industry in the socialist period. In the 1970s almost 80% of the workforce of the county of Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén worked in that sector. After the change of regime, with the disappearance of heavy industry, the area became one of the most impoverished in the country. Miskolc, the county seat, had a population of almost 200,000 in the 1970s; today it is around 160,000.

Understandably, given this economic background, the population of Miskolc and other smaller towns in the county heavily favored the socialists, at least until 2010 when Miskolc for the first time elected a Fidesz mayor, a Transylvanian import, Ákos Kriza. Before he moved to Hungary Kriza completed medical school in Târgu Mureş/Marosvásárhely. Readers of Hungarian Spectrum already encountered Kriza in connection with a scandal involving the Canadian government and the Roma refugees whom Ottawa sent back to Hungary because the Canadian immigration did not consider them to be bona fide political refugees. Since most of the Gypsies who tried to emigrate to Canada came from Miskolc and its surrounding area, it was clear that once they returned to Hungary they would most likely go back to Miskolc. It was at that point that Kriza declared that ” Canada will not send its refugees to Miskolc.” As you can see, Dr. Kriza is no friend of the Roma.

Kriza, Miskolc, and the Roma minority have been in the news again since May 8 when the city council voted for the “liquidation of ghettos and slums” in Miskolc. A large area will be razed. If one didn’t know Kriza’s attitude toward Gypsies one could actually praise him and the city council for providing decent housing for these poor people elsewhere. But, of course, we would be wrong in assuming such a benevolent move from a city council with a very large Fidesz majority. Out of twenty-eight city fathers there are only 6 MSZP, 2 DK, and 3 Jobbik members.

The deal presented to the affected Roma inhabitants is that if they just move out of their dwellings and move to another house or apartment in town they will not get any compensation. Anyone who decides to leave town will receive 1.5-2 million forints, though only if he spends this money on the purchase of another dwelling. In some other town or village, of course. All the Fidesz members of the city council voted for the proposal, MSZP representatives abstained. Only DK and Jobbik voted against it, the latter because they objected to giving any compensation to Roma forced out of their homes.

Miskolc street scene in the district to be raised soon to give place to a stadium/

Miskolc street scene in the district to be razed soon to provide room for a stadium/

It didn’t take long before one could read in Népszabadság that the mayor of Sátoraljaújhely (Fidesz) feels sorry for the Gypsies of Miskolc but “they shouldn’t come here.” Therefore the city fathers contemplated passing an ordinance to the effect that anyone who has purchased a dwelling from money received from another municipality for the express purpose of buying real estate will not be able to get public work or welfare for five years. Sátoraljaújhely was not the only town to complain. Kazincbarcika’s mayor labelled Miskolc’s move a “poverty export.”

Those affected by the ordinance, at least 400 families, were outraged. Most of them want to stay in Miskolc and, instead of compensation, would like to receive another piece of property in exchange. These people consider the Miskolc city council’s decision “deportation” pure and simple.

By mid-June Fidesz began collecting signatures in support of the city council’s decision and at the same time Jobbik organized a demonstration with the usual skinheads in black T-shirts and frightened Gypsies. The Fidesz initiative was a great success. “Within a few hours … several thousand signatures were collected. The people of Miskolc overwhelmingly support the decision reached by the city council.” At this point, Jobbik also decided to collect signatures to deny monetary compensation for the properties currently used by Roma families.

The lack of any interest in the affair on the part of Zoltán Kovács, undersecretary in charge of Roma affairs, is glaring. In parliament Sándor Pintér, minister of the interior, already informed a member of parliament who inquired about the scandal in Miskolc that he and his ministry have nothing to do with this strictly local affair. That is, the Orbán government has no intention of putting an end to such discriminatory initiatives. The only active political forces in defense of the Miskolc Roma are the Hungarian Solidarity Movement and the Demokratikus Koalíció. Solidarity organized a demonstration in which a rather large crowd of Roma and non-Roma marched together today.

The irony of this whole affair is that the razing of the Roma ghetto and slum serves only one purpose:  building the new stadium Miskolc received as a gift from Viktor Orbán. He has his priorities.

Four years ago when Hungary took over the presidency of the European Union one of their most important contributions was supposed to be working out something called the “Roma strategy.” Apparently, it was a great success, at least on paper. But what I just described is reality.

And here is the most recent piece of news on Hungary’s contribution to the Roma strategy. There is a European program called Roma Matrix that aims to combat racism, intolerance, and xenophobia towards Roma and to increase integration through a program of action across Europe. Today Roma Matrix held a conference in Budapest at which one of the vice-mayors of the city extolled all the effort the city has made for the Roma community of Budapest. Magyar Nemzet‘s headlined the article describing the conference: “One must decrease the level of discrimination.” Not eliminate it, just decrease it. Well, we can start in Miskolc and Sátoraljaújhely.


  1. Based on this article it seems that if an “Eichmann” of today, specialized in the “final solution” of the “Roma Question” would show up, the Hungarian authorities would gladly put all the Roma in stock cars and hand them over for extermination.

  2. Of course, next door to the Gypsies, there are white people in a very similar mess.
    Low income, low education, low civilization.

    While many well adjusted assimilated Gypsies live in better areas, where the people have higher standard of living.

    It not a question of race. It is a function of neglected corners in the political map.

    In East Hungary, the social development of the Roma people was hampered by gross mismanagement of local and central governments.

    The responsibility lies with the political leaders.

    Orban is supposedly from Roma background, and overcame the handicap under Kadar.

  3. @cseresznyepalanta, Yes, of course, there are non-Roma in the same predicament but the the percentage of Roma people in deep poverty is much larger than in case of non-Romas.

    As far as Orban’s family background is concerned we don’t know whether he is of Gypsy origin on his father’s side or not. But his followers find such talk outright blasphemous. As if it were the greatest shame. Rather sad. We do know that his family was very poor but his grandfather and father managed to make a decent living eventually. No one should be ashamed of either his family’s poverty or its origin.

  4. Eva, in this matter you sound like a kind person.
    I have always loved and always will, the misunderstood and poorly appreciated Roma people.

  5. Miskolc calling.

    @Edith Polak

    Please come to Miskolc and try to live in an area surrounded by Gypsy families.
    Years ago, Roma families were moved into two-room apartments in what is known
    as panel-buildings. They left incredible filth behind making those units occupied by
    them practically unliveable.
    Moving Roma families to the countryside seemed like a better solution. More space,
    a garden to cultivate, etc. Trouble is, no one wants them. If there is a solution, it will
    take decades to educate them as to how to live responsibly.

  6. There was an interview with the oldest man in Felcsut about a year ago who stated that no, as far as he knew the Orban family were not of Roma origin. Of all the things that you could accuse the Roma, Orban is not one of them. The same tactic was used in the 1990s in Romania to label Ceaucescu a “Gypsy” as if removing him from the ethnic body would somehow absolve or explain his excesses.

    As concerns Miskolc, the Roma community there has always been one of the better organized ones, and in years past aggressive acts of right wing provocation were sometimes met with the sudden appearance of their own “muscle men.” I can’t imagine anything that could drive the local Mayor and Police chief more to distraction than a well organized, confident, Roma community ready to defend itself.

  7. When Czechoslovakia split into two countries in the early ’90s, both tried to deport a good number of their Roma to the other side. There was even talk for awhile – from the Czechs, if I recall correctly – of building a border fence. And if that had ever come to pass, guess who would have provided most of the manual labor?

    The “Gypsy Question” really is a NIMBY [“not in my backyard”] conundrum: even those with good intentions won’t want them as neighbors. It’s a total clash of cultures.

  8. Whether you have to integrate asylum seekers from Somalia, refugees from Syria or Roma in any country, the approach is basically the same. First the mayor has to decide that he wants to change the situation and do something proactive to integrate these “foreigners”. Then he has to convince the city council and get some funds (the EU will gladly provide them).

    You have to treat those to be integrated with respect. Make them elect representatives (male and female). Take some of them (male and female) and make them bilingual and give them special training as social workers. Make the community literate and teach them salable skills. Ask volunteers of the hosting community to be mentors helping kids getting their homework done, helping adults to learn a trade. Provide proper housing. Organise clubs and events where people mingle, etc.

    This has been successfully done in several places in Italy, Spain, Germany, Canada. But the initial impetus has to come from the hosting community that has to overcome –or taught to overcome – its prejudices and xenophobia.

  9. “All the Fidesz members of the city council voted for the proposal, MSZP representatives abstained.”

    Well, since no one seems likely to mention it…. shame on the MSZP.
    A *socialist” party? I don’t think so.

  10. Oh my. To read comments here you’d think the Roma have always been (and still are) poor, downtrodden people of impeccable efforts to better themselves but have been opposed by
    ‘whites’ every step of the way. Nonsense, and political correctness at its abject ‘best’.

    The problem is considerably more complicated, or ask why Canada re-applied visa restrictions to Hungary after some 30,000 Roma arrived there. Or write the mayors of a few towns in central England why they no longer make Roma groups welcome. (All they did was steal electricity and water; and soil wherever they decided to camp en masse.)

    Can we leave political correctness behind for a few moments?
    Gypsies–ok, Roma–as a group practice an adversarial culture–that is, all others are dupes who toil day and night while they, the Roma, live a frolicking, singing and dancing life who steal and trick for whatever they need. (Kusturica’s films are helpful here.) They, the Roma/gypsies are practiced, expert, self-victimizers. Think of the Palestinians who carry seemingly dead figures before the CNN cameras…that is, until they round the corner and then the ‘dead’ suddenly jumps up and runs. Of course, the Palestinians have run a wonderful 70 year gaff wherein they received monstrous sums from Europe and the US of which Arafat and his cronies took 20% off the top. Did people really wonder why Arafat demurred about signing a peace deal with the Israelis?)

    But back to the Roma: how many people know that those few Roma who succeed in extricating themselves from the traditional lifestyle and go on to lead normal, productive lives are black-balled by their communities. Mind you, those escapees, on their side, want nothing to do with their fellow Roma, either. This is common.

    The problem of the Roma has to be attacked piecemeal: those who seek help; who would want to educate their children; who wish to live in a peaceful surroundings…should be sought out and help extended to them in every form. But the sifting process has to be undertaken by hardcore pros, not Roma reps. Once you’ve started weaning some elements away from the mass of Roma, you might be on the way to achieving some changes. But it has to be a concentrated,
    incremental, process. And it has to be undertaken by non-Hungarians.
    Peace Corp, where are you?

  11. To my knowledge Petofi there are only Peace Corp volunteers left in Romania teaching English as a second language, the ones in the Ukraine were withdrawn at the start of the civil war. That is it in all of Central Europe, the European Commission is proposing something called the European Voluntary Humanitarian Aid Corps. But there is little funding for it coming out of the Commission.

    Eva’s succinct deception of the decline of Miskolc with the end of “real” socialism in Hungary reminds me a lot of the decline of Dunaujvaros or as it was once called Sztalinvaros. Krisztina Fehervary wrote an amazing book about that city in English titled “Politics in Color and Concrete.” The tragedy of the heavy industrial cities in Hungary is overwhelming and no doubt targeting the Roma somehow alleviates the pain in the minds of some.

    Rasszista beszéd (racist talk) towards the Roma is unfortunately all over the nation and not just in Miskolc. I got a good doze of it when I was back, in the USA even if one is a racist they are more cautious in such expressions in relation to minorities.

  12. “Can we leave political correctness behind for a few moments?”
    There is a classic lyric by the English-Asian rap group, ADF which runs:
    “Seriously, black people are not the cause of your problems..Stop. Observe,”

    Point being poverty not ethnicity is why those at the very lowest rung turn to criminality.
    There are places in the N England or Belfast, Glasgow or Cork where you would struggle to find a *black* or even E.European *gypsy* criminal.
    But you still stand a very good chance of having your car nicked or being mugged walking home from work.

  13. 1.
    Universal Affirmative action based on economical parameters, and not on racial background, can be the path to rehab.
    The German Lastenausgleich can be the model for general repair of economical grievances.

    A social rehabilitation of villages would require efficient management, reduced corruption/ cronyism.

    It can include an educational rehabilitation.

    Gipsies can not live a normal life because the village mayors and administrators oppress them.

    A Gipsy leadership team must be shaped to organize a massive rehab policy. We need accountable incorruptible leaders

  14. @Kukorica. The trouble is that Gypsies don’t have well educated and capable leaders. Those who managed to break out from that society don’t rush to the help of others. Instead they try to forget about the family heritage and would pass themselves off as non-Roma.

  15. Petofi said it well.
    However, in the States we see a British show called “Gypsy brides”, it does show even with 2 nd generation in Britain, the spirit and joie de vive they have.
    Leadership, education, tolerance is needed.
    I take them over murderous, lazy “Palestinians” anytime.

  16. THe Canadian example only shows that with a few years of work how Roma families can be integrated, and how the Roma youth can be thaught. It is s sad to see that MSZP did not stand up for the Roma in Hungary. In Canada the liberal population and many conservatives stood up for the Roma. THe Canadain conservative government failed the Roma people just like the Hungarian conservatives did. The difference is that in Canada the actions of the government came with the general disapproval of the liberals and democrats, why the so called liberals and democrats of Hungary mainly keep their mouth shot or agree.
    It is also sad to see that just as in Hungary the MSZP did not stand up for the Roma, the readership of this blog doe snot stand up to protect them here with the exception of couple commenters.
    THe Romas have been chastised as much through history as the Jewish communities were. Some from the jewish community also commit crimes but the same Jewish people who do speak up for the Jewish people go out with full vengeance against the Roma.
    You have no right to apply double standards just because you belong to one of the group.
    Kudos go out to D& Democrat and kukoricaMag who took time to post something productive.

    For the highly uneducated people of Roma issues:
    “As a result of what many in the refugee advocacy community believe to be a time of social cruelty here in Canada, government policy in our country has turned its back on those from other lands who face mortal discrimination in trying to find a safe harbour in Canada.

    Not since the days immediately prior to World War II when Canada became infamous for a refugee policy that purposely excluded Jews fleeing Eastern Europe have we seen such a state of affairs. Canadian historians, Irving Abella and Hesh Troper documented our government’s dark refusal to admit Jews as an antisemitic policy. Indeed an unnamed bureaucrat when asked in 1938 how many Jews should Canada allow into the country replied “None is too many”.

    Sadly racism and discrimination have a tendency to be muscular. As Jews we are all too familiar with refugee discrimination, indeed the memory of suffering we have endured as a result of being powerless is long and deep. Tragically it appears that our government believes “None is (once again) too many” when it comes to refugees most especially the Roma.”

    Read it further here:

  17. Some1
    Anti-Roma racism one comes to expect from the Fidesz-Jobbik majority, I have no idea how one even starts to change the mindset of the typical Fidesz, never mind Jobbik politician.
    But once self-styled socialist politicians pander to the dirty racism which pollutes every level of Hungarian society, then we are pretty much stuffed.

    The Roma are going nowhere so their situation needs to be addressed; the Fidesz-Jobbik favoured solution we know fine well and it runs basically along the lines how their fathers and grandfathers sorted out the “Jewish Problem” in the 40s. But the liberals and self-styled “socialists” of the MSZP? What do they plan to do? Shush, that is the sound of embarrassed silence.

    (I am D& Democrat by the way, just forgot my shift button last night!)

  18. Dear friends! Let me remind you! We are( gypsies) not homogen, as you. The basic human rights in the 21.century in the Europian Union , the individual assessment, and the free migration law.. The miskolci-an romas are same like the other nation, some of them deviants, some of them follow the norms and they are the best neighbours.. Some of them able for social life, some of them antisocial. Like in the all minorities in the world. Miskolc is the first example( probable precedent) as the collective punishment for one minority and the enough rich city councils could do the same process in the future. First time they could dislodge us from the town, later they want to dislodge from the country, at the and they want to dislodge us from the planet…This is the 1. Law( lex) Gypsy, totally similar like the the 1.Law Jewish before second world war, the historical situation is similar as well(world economic crisis) .This is the test for the hungarian society and the europian countries. If they ” swallow” it, could come the 2, , 3, 4. …..Of course,the society has a lot of problem with us, like with the all marginalized people in the world and we are not innocent( the survivors usually not), but the solution should come from the majority. It should to be pragmatic solution in the all social subsystem. In the politics, economy, culture and societas together , in the same time. With true will, not just on the screen. It is complex, but not impossible :). Focus on the real job and not for the ethno-business, like the last 24 years! The ethno-business organizers not gypsies!!

  19. D7 Democrat
    June 27, 2014 at 9:11 am
    …The Roma are going nowhere so their situation needs to be addressed; the Fidesz-Jobbik favoured solution we know fine well and it runs basically along the lines how their fathers and grandfathers sorted out the “Jewish Problem” in the 40s. But the liberals and self-styled “socialists” of the MSZP? What do they plan to do? Shush, that is the sound of embarrassed silence.

    Attila Orsos
    June 27, 2014 at 9:22 am
    ……. Like in the all minorities in the world. Miskolc is the first example( probable precedent) as the collective punishment for one minority and the enough rich city councils could do the same process in the future. First time they could dislodge us from the town, later they want to dislodge from the country, at the and they want to dislodge us from the planet…This is the 1. Law( lex) Gypsy, totally similar like the the 1.Law Jewish before second world war, the historical situation is similar as well(world economic crisis) .This is the test for the hungarian society and the europian countries. If they ” swallow” it, could come the 2, , 3, 4. …..

    My exact thoughts. We as a society must protect the vulnerable from the “collective punishment”, and from stereotyping.

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