1994 Annual Report on Human Rights by the U.S State Department.
Hungary is a parliamentary democracy with a freely elected legislature. Prime
Minister Jozsef Antall headed a coalition government formed after the 1990 nati
onal elections until his death in December 1993. He was succeeded as Prime Min
ister by Peter Boross.
The state internal and external security services report directly to a minister
without portfolio. The police are controlled by and are responsive to the Int
Transition to a market economy has proven harder than expected despite some suc
cesses. Hungary has attracted more than half the region's foreign investment;
three-fourths of its trade turnover is with advanced industrial countries, and
the private sector provides about half of the gross domestic product. But priv
atization has been slow; living standards have fallen for most of the populatio
n, a fourth of which lives at or below the poverty line. Hungary's per capita
debt remains Europe's highest, and unemployment shows little prospect of fallin
g below the 12- to 13-percent range.
Human rights and civil liberties are provided for in the Constitution and gener
ally respected in practice. The print media continued to flourish, with a high
degree of independence and variety of opinion. Parliament's continued failure
to pass a broadcast bill during 1993 left the broadcast media still dominated
by the state-owned Hungarian television and Hungarian radio, which were suscept
ible to increased pressure from the Government.
"Skinheads" perpetrated physical attacks on Gypsies, Africans, and Arabs. Alth
ough the overall number of assaults dropped for the first time since 1991, this
was probably due to the dramatic decrease in the number of foreign students in
Hungary and some increased police attention to the problem. There were also r
eports of police abuses against Gypsies, reflecting significant prejudice again
st the Gypsy population.
The Government has only marginally improved upon its initial lackadaisical resp
onse to the significant increase in racial incidents in post-Communist Hungary.
In 1993 the Supreme Court decided that the section of the law that deals with
racially motivated crimes is not applicable to skinhead attacks on foreigners,
Gypsies, or other members of ethnic minorities. Instead, those few skinhead a
ttacks that reach the courts are treated as simple hooliganism.
Parliament passed a law in July granting special rights to certain ethnic minor
ities living in Hungary. The law outlines general goals, permitting collective
rights and some local autonomy for specified ethnic groups, although the actua
l effects of the law remained unclear.
RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS
Section 1 Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedo
a. Political and Other Extrajudicial Killing
There was no evidence that political or other extrajudicial killings occurred.
Judicial proceedings continue in the case of a park ranger who killed two Gypsi
es, with the defense attorney attempting to demonstrate that the ranger is ment
ally handicapped. The two surviving Gypsies involved in the event were fined f
or stealing pears.
There were no reports of disappearances.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment
No known instances of torture occurred. Nongovernmental human rights groups an
d the press, however, regularly carried reports of police abuse against Gypsies
and abusive treatment of conscripts within the armed services.
Degrading treatment was reported in the case of an Ethiopian student accused of
murdering his Ethiopian girlfriend. The student, who was eventually acquitted
, spent more than a year in custody, during which time he claimed he was subjec
t to abusive treatment. The student still walks with a limp from an infection
which developed on his leg and which did not receive timely or adequate treatme
nt while he was in custody.
d. Arbitrary Arrest, Detention, or Exile
Upon arrest, suspects must be informed of the charges against them and may be h
eld for a maximum of 72 hours before charges must be filed. It is a requiremen
t, followed in practice, that persons be allowed access to counsel from the mom
ent they are suspects undergoing questioning and throughout all subsequent proc
The authorities must specifically provide counsel when a person is mentally han
dicapped, juvenile, or unable to afford counsel. There is no bail system; howe
ver, depending upon the nature of the crime, the accused may be released upon h
is or her own recognizance. Pretrial detention is based on a warrant issued by
a judge and is limited to 1 year while criminal investigations are in progress
, after which the accused must be brought to trial or released. There were no
known instances of incommunicado detention.
There is no exile.
e. Denial of Fair Public Trial
Under the Constitution the courts are responsible for the administration of jus
tice, with the Supreme Court exercising policy control over the operations and
judicature of all courts. There are three levels of courts in the current syst
em. Original jurisdiction in most matters rests with the local courts. Appeal
s of their rulings may be made to county courts or to the Budapest municipal co
urt, all of which also have original jurisdiction in some matters. The highest
level of appeal is the Supreme Court, whose decisions on nonconstitutional iss
ues are binding. There is no jury system; hence, judges are the final arbiters
. In the case of military trials, appeals also may be addressed to the Supreme
The Constitutional Court is charged with reviewing the constitutionality of law
s and statutes brought before it for review. The Court's 10 members are electe
d by Parliament to a 9-year term which may be renewed. (According to the law,
the Constitutional Court is to be composed of 15 members; 10 have been elected
to date, and the remaining 5 are scheduled to be seated by 1995.) No judge or
member of the Supreme Court or the Constitutional Court may belong to a politic
al party or engage in political activity.
The right to a fair public trial is provided for by law and respected in practi
ce. However, Gypsies and other minorities are reportedly not treated by the au
thorities in the same way as the majority of Hungarians. In some cases, judges
may agree to a closed trial if it is for the protection of the accused or the
crime victim, such as in some rape cases. This is also true for military trial
s, which follow civil law and may be closed if state, service, or moral grounds
justify a closed trial. In all cases, sentencing must take place publicly. D
efendants are entitled to counsel during all phases of criminal proceedings and
are presumed innocent unless proven guilty. Judicial proceedings are generall
y investigative rather than adversarial in nature. The judicial system has bee
n criticized for what human rights monitors and others have characterized as ex
traordinarily lenient sentences handed down to skinheads convicted of violent a
ssaults on members of minority groups (see Section 5).
f. Arbitrary Interference with Privacy, Family, Home, or Corresp
Under current law, search warrants may be issued independently by the prosecuto
r's office when there is probable cause. House searches must be carried out in
the presence of two witnesses. A written inventory of items removed from the
premises must be prepared. These provisions are observed in practice.
According to the law, only the Minister of Justice has the authority to approve
wiretapping for national security reasons and for legitimate criminal investig
Section 2 Respect for Civil Liberties, Including:
a. Freedom of Speech and Press
Freedom of speech is provided for in the Constitution and is generally respecte
d in practice. Although the Government exerts some control over at least three
Budapest dailies, the print media enjoy considerable freedom. The electronic
media, however, are subject to increasing political pressure.
Parliament's continued failure to enact a broadcast bill meant that there were
no institutional safeguards to protect the independence of radio and television
, and Hungarian Radio (MR) and Hungarian Television (MTV) continued to enjoy ne
ar monopoly status. Despite the lack of media legislation, the Government plan
s to issue up to 103 local television and radio licenses beginning in 1994, end
ing the frequency moratorium in effect since 1989. Critics charge that the lic
enses will be issued by government bureaucrats susceptible to political manipul
ation rather than by an impartial commission or body.
Besides MTV and MR, there is one private, commercial national radio; two privat
e, commercial regional radios in Budapest; a national, commercial FM radio owne
d by MR; and a national AM commercial radio jointly owned by MR and a private c
oncern. There are no private commercial television stations, though one privat
e television production company places 2 hours of programming per day on MTV.
One private television station was allowed to broadcast on the Budapest wireles
s cable channel for 3 days during the Christmas holidays, but the frequency has
not yet been permanently allocated. It is estimated that over half of Hungari
an households now have access to satellite television, cable, or both.
In January the presidents of MTV and MR resigned their posts, citing an edict t
hat went into effect on January 1, moving budgetary control of the state media
from MTV and MR to the office of the Prime Minister. They were joined by human
rights groups in pointing out that, without a broadcast bill, press freedom at
MTV and MR depended on the good faith of the Government. Indeed, some MTV pro
grams were canceled in 1993 for political reasons. Personnel changes were made
in senior positions, giving progovernment journalists more influence, and the
program mix at both MTV and MR was changed to present a more progovernment prof
ile. Following several unsuccessful attempts by the Prime Minister in 1992 to
remove Elemer Hankiss, the then president of MTV, the Government initiated a la
wsuit against Hankiss, charging him with mismanagement. Suspicions that the Go
vernment's action was politically motivated seemed to be confirmed when the law
suit against Hankiss was dropped after he resigned. Criminal investigations in
to allegations that two of his advisors were guilty of financial malfeasance we
re dropped for lack of evidence.
In another prominent case, MTV fired Andras Bano, editor in chief of "Esti Egye
nleg," an evening news program which maintained considerable independence from
the Government, and which the Government often claimed favored the opposition.
Bano was accused by MTV Acting President Gabor Nahlik of doctoring a videotape
so that it appeared skinheads forced President of the Republic Arpad Goncz fro
m the podium at a ceremony on October 23, 1992. Nahlik's assertion was that th
e skinheads were not present when the President began to speak. Bano maintaine
d that the tape was not doctored. A diplomatic officer who was present at the
rally confirmed that a large number of skinheads were among the crowd loudly he
ckling the President.
Bano was initially suspended for his alleged doctoring of the tape. Two of his
associates were also suspended in relation to the case. "Esti Egyenleg" then
went off the air when its staff protested Bano's suspension. Despite claims th
at he had "proof," Nahlik never produced conclusive evidence that the tapes had
been doctored. Nevertheless, in December a three-person MTV disciplinary pane
l--chaired by Nahlik himself --fired Bano. However, the chief investigator in
the case also resigned, saying that it had become clear to him that the intent
of the investigation was not to determine the facts of the case but only to bui
ld a case against Bano. "Esti Egyenleg" remains off the air as of the end of t
he year, leaving MTV with one news program, "Hirado," which is considered to be
In March, by majority vote, Parliament created a cultural foundation that asses
ses a 1-percent tax on newspaper revenue and up to a 20-percent tax on publicat
ions the Ministry of Culture deems violent or pornographic. The foundation may
distribute the money for cultural purposes to appropriate applicants. The pri
nt media objected to this, since the law gives the foundation (and hence, they
say, the Government) the right to distribute the money to applicants who meet i
ts political criteria.
The 1991 case against the weekly Szent Korona for incitement of anti-Semitic fe
elings was concluded with a fine for inciting ethnic hatred.
In May the President signed a law banning the wearing and dissemination of the
swastika, SS badge, arrow-cross (the symbol of the Hungarian Fascists), the ham
mer and sickle, and the five-pointed red star. Official symbols of states are
exempted, as are the use of such symbols for educational, scientific, artistic,
or historical purposes.
In a case involving charges of insulting the Government brought by Prime Minist
er Antall against Laszlo Lengyel, a well-respected political commentator, an ap
peals court found Lengyel guilty and sentenced him to 1 year's probation with a
$750 fine suspended. Lengyel, who called the Hungarian Government corrupt in
the course of an economics lecture in the town of Veszprem, plans to appeal the
case to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, saying he should fac
e no penalty whatsoever for his remarks.
b. Freedom of Peaceful Assembly and Association
Peaceful public gatherings are essentially unrestricted. In general, no permit
s are required for assembly, except in cases when a public gathering is planned
near sensitive installations such as military facilities, embassies, and key g
Police may sometimes alter or revoke permits, but there is no evidence that thi
s freedom is abused. Several mass demonstrations reflecting diverse political
views took place in 1993.
Any 10 or more persons may form an association, provided that it does not commi
t criminal offenses or disturb the rights of others. Associations with charter
s and elected officers must register with the courts.
c. Freedom of Religion
Approximately 65 percent of Hungarians are Roman Catholic; members of other fai
ths practice their religion freely. Religious groups may and do maintain inter
national contacts. There is no officially preferred religion, but only officia
lly approved churches receive state subsidies. The Government distributed near
ly $33 million in state subsidies among 36 churches.
Four small churches--the Jehovah's Witnesses, the Community of Krishna Believer
s, the Unifying Church, and the Church of Scientology--branded as "socially des
tructive" during parliamentary debate, were not included in the list of subsidi
zed churches but are allowed to function.
Legislation is being drafted, however, that would seriously restrict religious
freedom. The draft proposal would give the courts the right to deny registrati
on as a church for a group whose teachings the court determines would offend "g
enerally accepted moral values." In order to be registered, churches would als
o be required to have 10,000 members (as opposed to the current 100), although
churches that have existed in Hungary more than 100 years would be exempt.
Religious orders and schools have regained property confiscated by the Communis
t regime. In some small towns where government schools were transferred to the
Catholic Church, parents who do not want their children to receive a religious
education had little alternative. Even among many Catholic parents, there is
a strong preference for secular education, and parents in some cases were succe
ssful in blocking the transfer of schools to the Church. In towns where there
is only a church school, the state provides subsidized bus transportation to th
e nearest secular school.
d. Freedom of Movement Within the Country, Foreign Travel, Emigr
ation, and Repatriation
There are no restrictions on the movement of Hungarian nationals within or outs
ide Hungary, including on the rights of emigration and repatriation. Emigratio
n may be delayed, but not denied, for those who have significant court-assessed
debts or who possess state secrets. Foreign students from countries not havin
g a visa waiver agreement with Hungary must obtain exit visas every time they l
eave the country. Foreign minor children may not be allowed to travel to third
countries without a parent or legal guardian or the permission of the country
of the child's nationality.
The fighting in the former Yugoslavia resulted in a continued flow of refugees
into Hungary. While 8,500 refugees are registered within Hungary, the Governme
nt estimates that over 30,000 more are unregistered. Most of the refugees are
in private housing, with only 3,200 housed in refugee camps.
Hungary is a signatory to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugee
s and to the 1967 Protocol, with a caveat that it will grant refugee status onl
y to European nationals. Prospective refugees who seek only to transit to West
ern Europe are encouraged to return to their countries of departure.
Local and international human rights organizations have accused the Government
of detaining aliens in unacceptable conditions for excessively lengthy periods
at the detention center at Kerepestarcsa, which is operated by the police. Ali
ens who have entered illegally, mostly non-European, are kept at the center pen
ding their deportation or their qualification for resettlement in a third count
ry by the local office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UN
HCR). While the police seek the timely deportation of detainees who do not qua
lify for refugee status, a lack of funds and the detainees' lack of proper docu
mentation, such as passports, often result in lengthy stays. UNHCR reports tha
t conditions at the camp have improved moderately in the last year.
Section 3 Respect for Political Rights: The Right of Citizens to C
hange Their Government
Hungarians aged 18 and over have the right to change their government through n
ational and local elections required to be held at least every 4 years. The Pa
rliament's 386 members are elected through a complex voting procedure for indiv
iduals and party lists.
Currently, Hungary has a center-right coalition government, formed by the Hunga
rian Democratic Forum, the Christian Democratic People's Party, and a group of
independent smallholders' parties. The Free Democrats, the Alliance of Young D
emocrats, the Hungarian Socialist Party, and various independent members of Par
liament, sometimes joined by Istvan Csurka's breakaway Justice and Life Party,
constitute an active opposition in Parliament. Several parties have been forme
d recently; however, only those that attract at least 5 percent in the 1994 ele
ctions may be represented in Parliament.
There are no legal impediments to women's participation in government or the po
litical process, but there is reluctance to break from the women's traditional
role in the home and responsibility for the family; 27 of 386 parliamentary dep
uties are women, and there are few women in leadership positions in the Governm
ent or the political parties. Several minorities, including Germans, Gypsies,
Croats, and Slovaks, are represented in Parliament as members of one party or a
Section 4 Governmental Attitude Regarding International and Nongove
rnmental Investigation of Alleged Violations of Human Rights
Several human rights organizations operate in Hungary without government restri
ction or interference, including the Hungarian Helsinki Committee, the Wallenbe
rg Association for Minority Rights, the Hungarian Human Rights League, and the
Martin Luther King Organization, which was formed by the foreign and Hungarian
student community in response to the growing incidence of racially motivated at
tacks. A new legal nongovernmental organization, the Bureau for Minorities, is
being organized, and a 25-member parliamentary Committee for Human, Minority,
and Religious Rights also considers human rights issues.
Section 5 Discrimination Based on Race, Sex, Religion, Disability,
Language, or Social Status
Legally, women have the same rights as men, including identical inheritance and
property rights. While there is no overt discrimination against women, the nu
mber of women in middle or upper managerial positions is low. Women are heavil
y represented in the judiciary and in medicine and teaching, which are among th
e lower paid professions.
Women's rights groups, still in their infancy, have not had a major impact on s
ocietal attitudes. Groups, such as the Feminist Network, have become more acti
ve in lobbying with Parliament. While there are laws against rape, it is often
unreported for cultural reasons. Similarly, police attitudes towards victims
of sexual abuse reportedly are often unsympathetic. Abuse of partners is most
prevalent in families living below the poverty line and among unmarried couples
. Police reports are rarely made. Alcohol is often a factor in abusive relati
The Government is committed to children's rights. Education is mandatory throu
gh age 16, and employment is illegal below age 16.
The new law on ethnic and minority rights, approved by Parliament in July, lega
lly establishes the concept of the collective rights of minorities and states t
hat minorities need special rights in order to preserve their ethnic identities
. It explicitly permits organized forms of limited self-government in areas wh
ere ethnic groups constitute a majority and states that the establishment of se
lf-governing bodies must be made possible in localities where an ethnic group c
onstitutes less than a majority of the population. Further, the new law permit
s associations, movements, and political parties based upon an ethnic or nation
al character and mandates unrestricted use of ethnic languages. Only those eth
nic groups that have lived within the present Hungarian borders for at least 10
0 years and whose members are Hungarian citizens obtain recognized status under
the new law. On this basis, the law specifically grants minority status to 13
ethnic or national groups. Other groups may petition the Chairman of Parliame
nt for inclusion if they comprise at least 1,000 Hungarian citizens and have th
eir own language and culture.
Significantly, the law granted the status of a minority to the Gypsies, or Roma
s, Hungary's largest minority. Previously, they were not regarded as a nationa
l minority and thus were deprived of some of the special rights granted to mino
rities under the Constitution. Conversely, Jews are not 1 of the 13 minorities
listed in the law because they are considered a religious group. This was the
subject of much debate during the drafting of the law, and, although there is
no consensus in the Jewish community about whether Jews should be considered a
minority, it is believed that the majority oppose the idea.
The effectiveness of the law will depend on the mechanisms established to imple
ment it and guarantee its provisions. Many of its major provisions will not ac
tually go into effect until 1994 or even later. Minority representatives in Hu
ngary complained that the law failed to provide adequate legal and financial gu
arantees for expanding minority institutions. The chairman of Hungary's Roma p
arliament, an organization representing Gypsy interests that is not affiliated
with the Hungarian Parliament although its chairman is also a member of the Hun
garian Parliament, complained that the new law made no provisions for setting u
p specific institutions to guarantee minority rights and for providing minoriti
es with electoral ballots in their mother tongue.
Although the Constitution allows each minority group one parliamentary ombudsma
n to speak for its collective rights, the Government has not yet implemented th
On the local level, minorities have the right to establish self-governing bodie
s, and minority candidates need only two-thirds of the minimum number of votes
required of nonminority candidates for election to corresponding regional legis
lative bodies. A minority roundtable, at which all minorities are represented,
negotiates with the Government over the content of prospective legislation on
minorities and was actively involved in the drafting of the law on minority rig
hts. The Government established an Office for National and Ethnic Minorities i
n 1990 to address the needs of national and ethnic minorities.
Gypsies constitute the largest minority group, officially estimated at between
400,000 and 600,000 in a total population of 10.5 million. The second largest
group is the 210,000 Germans, followed by 105,000 Slovaks, 85,000 Croats, and 8
0,000 Jews. There are also Romanian, Polish, Greek, Serbian, Slovene, Armenian
, Ruthenian, and Bulgarian minorities.
To varying degrees, education is available in almost all minority languages. T
here are minority-language print media, and Hungarian Radio broadcasts 2-hour d
aily programs in the mother tongue of major nationalities. Hungarian Televisio
n carries a 30-minute program for the larger minority groups and plans to intro
duce programming for the smaller ethnic groups in 1994. Hebrew has been propos
ed as the 14th official minority language. Minority groups continued to be dis
satisfied with the broadcasting hours allotted them, complaining especially abo
ut early afternoon time slots for such programs.
Conditions of life within the Gypsy community are significantly poorer than amo
ng the general population, and they suffer from discrimination and racist attac
ks. Gypsies are considerably less educated, with lower than average incomes an
d life expectancy. The unemployment rate is estimated to be 70 percent, more t
han five times the national average of 13 percent. With unemployment benefits
exhausted and inadequate social services, there are reports that Gypsy families
, including young children, are forced to resort to stealing food to eat.
The Government sponsors programs both to preserve Gypsy languages and cultural
heritage and to assist social and economic assimilation. After a Gypsy youth w
as beaten into a coma in the town of Eger, a skinhead stronghold and site of 25
assaults on Gypsies since 1991, Gypsies held a protest rally. Strong police p
rotection was provided. For the first time in Hungary, a member of a Gypsy org
anization, though not a Gypsy himself, was elected mayor in the town of Kunmada
ras. Nonetheless, there is still widespread popular prejudice against the Gyps
ies. Gypsies are generally assumed to be untrustworthy and treated as such, in
cluding by police, which might partly account for the higher crime rate. (See
Section 1.c. for reported police abuse of Gypsies.)
The Jewish community in Hungary, although generally well assimilated, was the t
arget of occasional anti-Semitic expression, including the desecration in June
of a Jewish cemetery in Eger, for which several youths were arrested and charge
d. Jews are well represented in politics, the media, culture, and business. M
any Hungarians, however, are concerned that, while the Government does not acti
vely condone anti-Semitic activities, its failure to disassociate itself quickl
y and clearly from the anti-Semitic statements of Istvan Csurka reflected a lac
k of sensitivity. A rightwing populist, Csurka was able to retain his position
as vice president of the ruling party for several months after his statements
were published. Before the MDF could expel him, Csurka went on to form his own
new rightwing party and group in Parliament.
Skinheads and neo-Nazi sympathizers continued physically to assault Jews and pe
ople of color. Sentences in skinhead attacks are relatively light, especially
when the defendants are minors. In June three youths convicted of attacking an
d severely beating two Pakistani men in November 1990 were sentenced to 8 month
s in jail; the court then suspended the sentences and gave the youths 2 years'
probation. Although investigations of reported crimes were usually conducted,
convicted criminals were rarely sent to prison. The resulting perception of th
e judicial system's de facto tolerance of racist crimes creates an atmosphere c
onducive to further acts of skinhead violence. The Martin Luther King Organiza
tion (MLKO), which documents assaults on foreigners of color (but not anti-Semi
tic incidents), recorded about 20 separate attacks in 1993, down from 78 in 199
2. MLKO sources commented, however, that they believe many cases go unreported
, that police do not seem inclined to intervene, and that the decline in the nu
mber of attacks is primarily due to the lower number of foreign students in Hun
gary. The greatest decline has been in the number of African students; while t
here were 600 Sudanese students in Hungary 2 years ago, MLKO sources say there
are now barely 60.
Since 1955 the Penal Code has provided for stiffer sentences for crimes which a
re racially motivated. However, Hungary's Supreme Court has ruled that raciall
y motivated crimes cannot be prosecuted under the section of the law dealing wi
th crimes against humanity. In a case involving attacks on Gypsies and people
of color by 48 members of a skinhead gang, the court ruled that the defendants
could only be charged with hooliganism, and it reduced the sentences which lowe
r courts had imposed. The Hungarian Supreme Court's failure to recognize a qua
litative difference between premeditated attacks with a clear racial motivation
and simple hooliganism is a significant judgment. In effect, the Court has de
clared that as far as Hungarian law is concerned, hate crimes do not exist.
People of color continued to suffer consistent discrimination, including being
refused service in some stores and restaurants.
People with Disabilities
Services to the disabled are still limited, and many buildings are not accessib
le to wheelchair . MTV does have close captioning on some programs, and there
are programs that address issues of interest to the disabled.
Section 6 Worker Rights
a. The Right of Association
The 1992 Labor Code recognizes the right of unions to organize and bargain coll
ectively and permits trade union pluralism. Workers have the right to associat
e freely, choose representatives, publish journals, and openly promote members'
interests and views. With the exception of military personnel and the police,
they also have the right to go on strike. In contrast to 1991, when the numbe
r of strikes could be counted on one hand, short "warning strikes," often no mo
re than 2 hours in duration, increased dramatically. A strike by the maintenan
ce personnel of MALEV, the state airline, lasted several days before a settleme
nt was reached.
A separate law applicable to public sector workers was also passed in 1992. Un
der this law, public servants may negotiate working conditions, but the final d
ecision on increasing salaries rests with Parliament.
The two free trade unions, the Democratic League of Independent Unions (LIGA) a
nd the Federation of Workers' Councils, have attracted a combined membership of
400,000, while the successor to the former monolithic Communist union, MSzOSz,
has up to 800,000 members.
There are no restrictions on trade union contacts with international organizati
ons, and unions have developed a wide range of ties with European and internati
onal trade union bodies. In December LIGA and MSzOSz were admitted to the Inte
rnational Confederation of Free Trade Unions, while the Federation of Workers'
Councils is associated with the World Confederation of Labor.
The conflict which characterized the trade union movement in 1992 subsided afte
r the resolution of the issue of trade union assets formerly owned by Hungary's
Communist-era trade union organization. Since the settlement agreement, labor
organizations have shown a greater willingness to cooperate with one another.
This is particularly evident in their relationships in forums such as the Nati
onal Interest Reconciliation Council (NIRC), which discusses issues such as the
setting of the minimum wage as well as wage increases. During 1993, six diffe
rent union federations were able to reach a unified position on the minimum wag
b. The Right to Organize and Bargain Collectively
The 1992 Labor Code permits collective bargaining at the enterprise and industr
y level, and it is practiced in resolving most major labor issues through the N
IRC. Minimum wage levels are set by the NIRC, a forum for tripartite consultat
ion among representatives from the employers, employees, and the Government, an
d higher levels (but not lower ones) may be negotiated at the plant level betwe
en individual trade unions and management. By agreement, the legal minimum wag
e is centrally negotiated at the NIRC in order to control inflation. The Minis
try of Labor is responsible for drafting labor-related legislation, while speci
al labor courts enforce labor laws. The decisions of these courts may be appea
led to the civil court system. Under the new legislation, employers are prohib
ited from discriminating against unions and their organizers.
There are no export processing zones.
c. Prohibition of Forced or Compulsory Labor
Forced or compulsory labor is prohibited by law, which is enforced by the Minis
try of Labor.
d. Minimum Age for Employment of Children
The National Labor Center enforces the minimum age of 16 years, with exceptions
for apprentice programs, which may begin at 15. There does not appear to be a
ny significant abuse of this statute. Education is compulsory through age 16.
e. Acceptable Conditions of Work
The legal minimum wage is established by the NIRC and subsequently implemented
by Ministry of Labor decree. The National Labor Center enforces it. The month
ly minimum wage at year's end was the equivalent of $90 and is insufficient to
provide an adequate living for workers and their families. The International L
abor Organization (ILO) calculated in February that the minimum wage was 70 per
cent of the minimum necessary for subsistence. Many Hungarians, therefore, sup
plement their primary employment with second jobs. Despite the adoption of new
legislation, the ILO's Committee of Experts notes that there are many cases of
employers, for economic reasons, paying wages that are lower than the prescrib
ed rates in the water supply, forestry, and agricultural sectors.
The 1992 Labor Code specifies various conditions of employment, including termi
nation procedures, severance pay, maternity leave, trade union consultation rig
hts in some management decisions, annual and sick leave entitlements, and labor
conflict resolution procedures. Under the new Code, the official workday is s
et at 8 hours; it may vary, however, depending upon the nature of the industry.
A 24-hour rest period is required during the week. Labor courts and the Mini
stry of Labor enforce occupational safety standards set by the Government, but
specific safety conditions are not always up to internationally accepted standa
rds. Workers have the right to remove themselves from dangerous work situation
s without jeopardy to continued employment.