The Authority deals with discrimination based on any of the characteristics protected under the ETA (this means that the scope of the grounds protected by the authority goes way beyond what is prescribed by the Directives – see the penultimate paragraph of Section 3), but its activities are limited to ensuring equal treatment.
The Authority is entrusted with all the powers required by the Racial Equality Directive. The Authority – among others – may/shall
- conduct complaint-based or ex officio investigations to establish whether the principle of equal treatment has been violated, and – if necessary – apply sanctions on the basis of the investigation;
- initiate lawsuits with a view to protecting the rights of persons and groups whose rights have been violated;
- review and comment on drafts of legal acts concerning equal treatment;
- make proposals concerning governmental decisions and legislation pertaining to equal treatment;
- regularly inform the public and the Government about the situation concerning the enforcement of equal treatment;
- provide information to those concerned and offer assistance in acting against the violation of the principle of equal treatment;
- prepare an annual report to the Government on the activity of the Authority and its experiences obtained in the course of the application of ETA.
While the legal framework guaranteeing the Authority’s formal independence has been stepby step put in place (the last important measure being the amendment of the status of the Authority’s president to make sure that he/she may not be dismissed at any time without justificationby the Prime Minister), the financial situation of the Authority gives rise to concerns.
Despite the increasing workload, there is a steady decrease in the Authority’s budget since 2008. What is more, the Authority’s budget for the year 2012 has been radically cut to even the previous years. HUF 86.7 million (approx. EUR 296,500) are appropriated for staff costs, as opposed to the 2011 budget, which contained HUF 138.7 million (EUR 478,300) for such costs. This is a close to 40% decrease. As a result of the cuts, the total number of staff had to be reduced from 31 (on 31 December 2010) to 22, while the appropriation covers even less: only 17 members of staff.
It needs to be added that the decreaseis partly offset by the fact that in the framework of a grant of HUF 911 million (EUR 3,141,000) to be spent over 4 years, the Authority has been provided with additional funds from EU money to cover certain elements of its activity (e.g. the carrying out of independent research and training), but this money may not be spent on its function, namely the decision of actual complaints.
Despite its heavy understaffing and the above outlined problems, the Authority has done a significant amount of work since the commencement of its operation. It has placed emphasis on cooperation with the civil sector and on disseminating information related to non-discrimination. The Authority has also delivered some important decisions that may serve as guidelines for the future implementation of the ETA.