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Hungary: missed opportunities for multilevel cooperation

NIEM experts recognise the weak position of local governments in migration and integration policy-making processes, nevertheless the frameworks of cooperation among central and local authorities  have been already established. The main barrier for efficient contribution of Hungarian municipalities remain in political unwillingness and anti-immigration discourse of the central government. 

Since the centralization initiated in 2010, the competences of local governments have decreased. This process has brought the establishment of county (or metropolitan, in the case of Budapest) government offices, which are responsible for the majority of public services at the medium level. The public authority tasks of the government offices, that can be relevant in the integration process, include the issue of ID documents and social security numbers, providing social security services and family benefits, free legal assistance, as well as employment or naturalization issues. 

The mandatory competences of municipal local governments are defined in the legislation on local governments.  The non-exhaustive list contains primary healthcare, kindergarten, cultural services (libraries), child welfare services and care, social services and care (including providing social assistance at the local level), housing/housing assistance at the local level, care and rehabilitation of homeless people, etc. Additional mandatory tasks can be given by an Act but, as a general rule, only if funding for their implementation is also provided. In addition, the local government can undertake optional tasks as well. 

In the field of the integration of foreigners and, in particular, BIPs, local governments play a less significant role. 

One of the attempts to elaborate a systematic approach to migration policy was the first Migration Strategy (for the years 2014-2020) adopted by the Government in 2013. The document highlights the importance of multidimensional attitude towards the topic and collaboration of various stakeholders. The Ministry of Interior (institution primary responsible for the policy) might take into account the contribution of other relevant ministries, local governments, civil and religious organisations, international organisations and scientific research institutions, as well as economic organisations.

Moreover, the Strategy calls for the development of a specific Integration Strategy and outlines a few basic principles for the future integration strategy, for instance, it envisages integration programs in Budapest and other cities of Hungary hosting foreigners, aiming at an integration network across the country. However, none of these have yet been established. 

More information on the issue is available in the report: The impact of coronavirus country measures on asylum and reception systems in Hungary, Slovakia and Poland

The Migration Strategy and the seven-year strategic document related to Asylum and Migration Fund established by the European Union for the years 2014-20