Athena Institute

Magyar

Incident Report #3

2011-04-29
A detailed assessment of events that culminated in a physical clash provoked by extremist elements in the village of Gyöngyöspata complemented by a brief outlook and recommendations.

Place: Gyöngyöspata
Date: April 22 - 26, 2011
Type of incident: physical clash provoked by extremist elements
Involved hate group(s): Soldiers of Defense Force - National Liberating Front, Outlaw’s Army, New Hungarian Guard

The situation in Gyöngyöspata produced the first, local ethnic clash provoked by a hate group since 1989. The Athena Institute informed the public by its earlier investigation (also available in English) about ongoing paramilitary training camps in the country and warned against such an outcome in Gyöngyöspata in its previous Early Warning Dispatch three weeks before violence erupted. As the situation is still volatile, it is too early to draw conclusions - especially as efforts are under way from all sides to form public perception of the events.
What seems certain however is that

  • after the events that culminated in the clash provoked by the extremist group, the country cannot ignore any longer the threat these organizations pose for Hungary both in terms of national security as well as of politics,
  • the Hungarian Roma community especially, but also the society as a whole suffered a trauma that erodes its sense of security,
  • the government sent a reactive, but clear message to extremist groups that it is not going to tolerate their openly provocative campaigns, however missed an important opportunity to address the broader intolerance prevalent in the society,
  • governmental action certainly bought time as hate groups became disoriented and are at the beginning to readjust their strategies, but naturally it could not solve the problem overnight.

This means that a delicate period started while major actors must invest in defusing tensions and forming a public perception that decreases support for extremist groups and their agendas, while no one shall have illusions: after they regroup, hate groups operating in the country are going to readjust their strategies and tactics seeking other ways to advance their agendas.


Incident Details

In the village of Gyöngyöspata, under the flag of the ‘For A Better Future’, the New Hungarian Guard carried out a symbolic attack against the Hungarian Roma community in March that increased local tensions and identified the village as a ‘war theater’ on the national level. Other extremist groups, including the Soldiers of the Defence Force and the Outlaw’s Army joined the campaign. Details in the Institute’s previous Incident Report.

After the Guard ended its campaign, tensions as well as members of the Soldiers of the Defense Force and the Outlaw’s Army remained.

Subsequently, Defense Force leader Tamas Eszes bought private property adjacent to Roma populated area of the village and announced his plans to establish a permanent paramilitary training camp - open for other extremist groups - there. In the following weeks, the Defense Force publicly raised money and recruited activists on its website and on social networking sites to build the camp up.

The Defense Force publicly announced the opening of its first paramilitary training camp three weeks in advance.

The mayor of the village resigned five days before the paramilitary training was announced to start.

On April 22, the day when the camp was to open

  • women and children of the local Roma community were 'evacuated' by Red Cross,
  • National Police called off the training camp and took members of the group into custody,
  • the Minister of Interior visited the village to calm the situation.

On April 25, the Court relieved all accused and closed the case. The conflicting application of relevant laws by the Court and the National Police resulted in a situation in which members of the extremist groups felt encouraged to continue their campaign.

After his release, Defense Force leader Tamas Eszes announced his candidacy for the mayorship of the village.

The next day, on April 26, renewed provocations by members of the Defense Force and the Outlaw’s Army against the local Roma community culminated in a violent clash between the two sides. Four were hospitalized. A surveillance camera recording was later made public by the National Police setting the record strait - that the violence was a result of extremist provocation:
 

As part of its ongoing investigation, National Police took into custody a yet unconfirmed number of people, including extremist elements and members of the Roma who participated in the subsequent clash. The incident generated national media attention that lasted for days.

The Prime Minister - via his spokesman - condemned violence as well as the extremist groups involved, while the government introduced new legislation aiming to ban similar extremist campaigns.


The Aftermath

Extremist elements are still present in the village while some Roma families have allegedly left permanently. There were no charges filled against Defense Force leaser Tamas Eszes. As noted above, a national political debate started, but at the verge of becoming a totally counterproductive party political blame game.


The way ahead

  • As detailed in the Institute’s previous announcement, the Hungarian elite should focus on finding ways to leave party politics behind in this critical matter and focus on defusing tensions.
     
  • It is time to consider consequences and formulate responses: what capabilities should be developed and/or strengthened - both governmental and non-governmental - to manage the threat as well as address the more general problems, including relevant capabilities and policies concerning national security and the National Police.
     
  • However it is also clear that the question cannot be solved simply by its securitization - the broader issue of underperformance of public services, general tendencies of intolerance in society must also be addressed otherwise the security issues will be reproduced.

 

A note: The Athena Institute continuously informed the public about details of the process throughout the past two month via its daily updated Hate Groups Map and dedicated Facebook page. It also issued an Early Warning Dispatch early April - three weeks before the violent clash erupted.