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Hungary

Yearbook 2011

Hungary. According to Countryaah official site, Hungary, for the first time in the New Year, became the EU Presidency. But the Hungarian leadership was disputed because of a new Hungarian media law adopted before the New Year. The law was seen by critics in the EU as an attack on freedom of the press and the European Commission demanded clarification, including on the law's requirements for "balanced" reporting. At the end of the year, the Constitutional Court rejected parts of the new law, which must be amended. According to the opposition, democracy was threatened by a number of laws that were enforced throughout the year, including the judiciary and electoral system.

2011 Hungary

Prime Minister Viktor Orban's government had a two-thirds majority in parliament and could vote through constitutional amendments. This happened in April, when Hungary got its first new constitution after the fall of communism. Socialists and environmentalists left the session in protest and did not take part in the vote. One change that received praise in the outside world was that the Constitution limits the size of the national debt. On the other hand, the President's power to dissolve Parliament was disputed if the budget was not approved. The opposition also turned to the emphasis on the Christian character of the nation, the pronounced protection of life from conception and the finding that marriage is made between man and woman.

In the spring, a right-wing citizen guard attacked Roma in northeastern Hungary. Several people were injured in violence. According to the Guard, it was necessary to patrol the Roman villages to fight crime. The law prohibits semi-military militia or other uniformed groups from acting as a police force, but in the city of Tiszavasvari a mayor from the ultranationalist party Jobbik had joined and built a uniformed guard. The name of the guard was Csendorseg ('Gendarmeri'), the word used for gendarmes who, during World War II, gathered Jews for Nazi transport to concentration camps.

The guard created conflict with the Conservative government in Budapest, which had made the integration of Roma a major during its presidency in the EU. At the end of the Hungarian Presidency, the EU adopted a strategy framework for how member states should integrate the Roma, which is Europe's largest ethnic minority.

Hungary's new media law, which came into force on July 1, was immediately disputed. The Media Council, which would monitor insults in the press, address comments on the country's president but did not respond to crude anti-Semitic reader comments in the government-run newspaper Magyar Hirlap.

At the same time, a Budapest court acquitted 97-year-old Sándor Képíró of charges of murder of Jews and Serbs during World War II. Képíró denied having participated in a massacre of over 1,200 Jews, Serbs and Romans in Novi Sad in 1942, and the court did not consider the evidence sufficient. Képíró died a few weeks after the release.

In September, the aluminum company MAL was sentenced to the equivalent of more than SEK 3 billion in damages for the consequences of the dam accident in western Hungary in 2010, when about 700,000 toxic sludges poured out. Ten people were killed, about 150 people were injured and villages, land and waterways were poisoned. The company decided to appeal the judgment.

The euro crisis also affected Hungary, and during the autumn the currency fell sharply. This meant that the size of the country's national debt increased and Hungary's credit rating was lowered. The government, which decided last year to negotiate with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on aid loans, was forced in November to announce that it would resume talks on assistance from both the IMF and the EU.

In December, a controversial law came into force that made homelessness punishable by a fine of SEK 4,000 or imprisonment. According to government politicians, Budapest cannot handle the large number of people living on the street. Critics argued that the law cannot be enforced and that there are no places in the shelters.

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