This page offers an insight into the regulations governing the duties and the competence of the Minority Ombudsman together with information on her practical activities.
INFO.sheets are short informative and professionally informative digital publications, which provide the reader with a comprehensive, yet comprehensible overview of the structure, permanent regulatory elements and guarantee institutions of the system for the protection of the nationalities. These publications are intended both for general knowledge and information purposes, but also serve as a gateway to a more in-depth understanding of the field for those with a more serious interest in nationality rights. The issues published are:
The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights and the Minority Ombudsman as constitutional institutions
The Hungarian term for ombudsman (a word of Swedish origin: the king’s man) is the commissioner for fundamental rights, a public official elected by the Parliament and leading his own office. He is independent from other agencies of the State and accountable only by the Parliament that elected him. The ombudsman is in charge of launching investigations upon complaint primarily in the public administration or at any other organ of the State – with the exception of the judiciary. The ombudsman may notify the affected body on any practice found to be in breach of the law and he shall protect the rights of the complainant. The ombudsman may not impose binding measures or apply legal sanctions. The importance of the ombudsman’s monitoring activity can be found in his legal expertise facilitating the remedying of the injuries of individuals or other complainants, even when those injuries cannot be addressed in the course of the normal operation of the relevant State bodies.
Until the amendment of the Constitution in 1989 in Hungary, the establishment of independent monitoring institutions, like the ombudsman, the Constitutional Court or the State Audit Office could not even be taken to the agenda, as the Constitution was based on the principle of the unified power and not the separation of powers. After the amendment of the Constitution, the Act LIX of 1993 on parliamentary commissioners was adopted to regulate the activities of ombudsmen.
In the former system, the institution comprised of the following ombudsmen:
Commissioner for Civil Rights
Data Protection Commissioner
Commissioner for Minority Rights
Commissioner for the Future Generations (from 2008)
In 2012, a new single position of the commissioner for fundamental rights replaced the four ombudsmen. From 2013 to 2019 the office was filled by Dr. László Székely. In September 2019 the Parliament elected Dr. Ákos Kozma as the commissioner for fundamental rights for six years' term.
As a prominent institution of the system of protecting the national minorities in Hungary, – authorised under Article 30 of the Fundamental Law of Hungary – the commissioner for fundamental rights and, in assigned competence, the deputy commissioner for the rights of national minorities perform activities of protecting fundamental rights, investigate alleged violations related to fundamental rights and initiate general or individual measures for the purpose of providing remedy.
Both the commissioner for fundamental rights and his deputy are elected by the Parliament for six years with the two-thirds of the votes of MPs.
The ombudsman for the protection of the rights of national minorities is in charge of monitoring the enforcement of the rights of national minorities living in Hungary and she contributes to the procedures and investigations carried out by the commissioner for fundamental rights.
As a prominent actor in the minority protection system of Hungary, since 1 January 2012, according to Section 3(2) of the Act CXI of 2011 on the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, the deputy of the commissioner for fundamental rights as the ombudsman for the protection of the rights of national minorities has monitored the enforcement of the rights of national minorities living in Hungary, and she has been in charge of
-regularly informing the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, the institutions concerned and the public of his or her experience regarding the enforcement of the rights of nationalities living in Hungary,
-drawing the attention of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, the institutions concerned and the public to the danger of infringement of rights affecting nationalities living in Hungary,
-proposing that the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights institute proceedings ex officio,
-participating in the inquiries of the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights,
-proposing that the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights turn to the Constitutional Court.
-reviewing the Government's social inclusion strategy and monitor the implementation of its objectives concerning nationalities living in Hungary;
-proposing the adoption, amendment of legislation on the rights of nationalities living in Hungary; and
-promoting, through his or her international activities, the presentation of the merits of domestic institutions related to the interests of nationalities living in Hungary.
The Minority Ombudsman as a key actor of the protection of the rights of national minorities pays a special attention to be engaged in continuous communication with the acknowledged communities of national minorities in Hungary (nationality advocates, national minority governments and their institutions) as well as with other stakeholders of the protection of the rights of national minorities.
In accordance with the Fundamental Law of Hungary, each year the commissioner for fundamental rights presents to the Parliament a report on his activities. The deputy commissioner for minority rights contributes to the preparation of the report by presenting her annual activity in the protection of the rights of national minorities.
Since 21 October 2013, Dr. Elisabeth Sándor-Szalay has acted as the deputy commissioner bearing the prestigious title of “protector of nationality rights” of the thirteen acknowledged national minorities living in Hungary, namely Armenian, Bulgarian, Croatian, German, Greek, Polish, Roma, Romanian, Ruthenian, Serbian, Slovakian, Slovenian, Ukrainian. In October 2019 the Parliament re-elected her for another six years' term to the position of deputy commissioner for the protection of the rights of national minorities.