Prof. Dr. Máté SZABÓ
Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, Hungary
He was elected by the Hungarian Parliament as the Parliamentary Commissioner for Civil Rights for
six years which position he had hold from 26.09.2007. He continues his role and stands as the general
ombudsman of Hungary. From 1st January 2012, Prof. Szabó is Commissioner for Fundamental Rights.
He received his law degree at the Eötvös Loránd University, Faculty of Law in Budapest in
1980 and got a job as a journalist. From 1984, he worked as a scientific associate in the Political
Science Department of the Eötvös Loránd University's Faculty of Law. From 1990, as an associate
professor. He defended his PhD. on social movements in 1987, and got the ‘Doctor of the Political
Science' title from the Hungarian Academy of Science in 1996.
He is a founding member of the Hungarian Political Science Association and the Hungarian
Humboldt Association; furthermore, he is an active member of the Political Science Committee of
the Hungarian Academy of Science and several international associations related to sociology and
Since 1980, he has continuously carried out several project researches on various subjects of political
and social sciences.
• Between 1991-2007, he was a fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation in
Hamburg, Berlin, Bremen, Mainz and Frankfurt an der Oder in Germany.
• He was a visiting fellow of the Netherlands Institute of Advanced Studies, Wassenaar, in
• In 2000, he was a research fellow at the European University Institute in Florence, Italy.
He is specialized in civil society, social movements and political protest and the theory of law and
politics as well. He published more than 300 scientific contributions in Hungarian, English and
German. He is a regular participant at conferences in political science, law, and political sociology
in Europe and around the world. He teaches political science and European studies. Since he was
elected ombudsman, he is an active member of the International Ombudsman Institution and the
European Network of Ombudsman and board member of the European Ombudsman Institute.
• The ‘Erdei Ferenc Prize' of the Hungarian Sociological Association for young talents in 1988.
• The memorial medal ‘For Hungarian Higher Education' of the Ministry of Education for his
teaching career in 2006.
• The ‘István Bibó-Prize' of the Hungarian Political Science Association in 2007, as an
acknowledgement of his life work.
• The Gold Cross of Merit awarded by the President of Poland in 2012, in recognition of his
merits in strengthening human rights and developing Polish- Hungarian relations in this field.
Born in 1956 (13.06.), Budapest-Hungary. Married, and father of two children.
Publications on foreign languages (2007-)
Human Rights and Civil Society in Hungary . Twenty Years for Rights and Freedom (1988-2008). OBH,
2) Studies in volume
Partizipation und Zivilcourage- die neue Ungarn jenseits des Autoritarismus in: Aron Buzogany-Rolf
Frankenberg (Hrsg.): Osteuropa: Politik, Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Nomos, Baden-Baden, 2007.
Collective Protests in Central European Post-Communist Countries, in: Pero Mladini-Davorka Vidovic
(eds.): Transitions in Central and Eastern European Countries, CPI, Zagreb, 2007. 93-117.
1968 in Hungary, in: Martin Klimke-Joachim Scharloth (ed.): 1968 in Europe. A History of Protest and
Activism, 1956-1977. Palgrave, New York, 2008. 219-229.
(-Kerényi Szabina): Transnational Influences on Patterns of Mobilisation Within Environmental
Movements in Hungary, in: Brian Doherty-Thimothy Doyle (eds.): Beyond Borders. Environmental
Movements and Transnational Politics.Routledge: New York, 2008. 107-125.
Die Zivilgesellschaft Ungarns in einer vergleichenden Perspektive, in: Anton Sterbling (Hrsg.):
Zivilgesellschaftliche Entwicklungen in Südosteuropa. O. Sagner, München, 2009. 205-239.
Kompromiss als Erbe des Kádárismus: Ungarn 1989-1990, in: Jerzy Macków (Hrsg.): Autoritarismus in
Mittel- und Osteuropa. VS Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2009. 199-215.
The Hungarian Ombudsman Institution (1995-2008), in: Linda C. Reif. (eds.): The International
Ombudsman Yearbook. Martinus Nijhoff Publ. Leiden/Boston, 2009.154-182.
Das Wesen von Ungehorsam und Kritik. Ombudsmann-Institution, die osteuropäische Revolution
der Menschenrechte und eine neue Zivilkultur, in: Bálint Balla-Anton Sterbling (Hrsg.): Europäische
Entwicklungsdynamik. Krämer Verlag.Hamburg, 2009. 87-107.
Milestones in the global and European development of human rights, in: Jernej Rovsek/Liana
Kalcina(eds.): 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 15th
Anniversary of the Human Rights Ombudsman Act in Slovenia. The Human Rights Ombudsman of
Slovenia, Ljubljana, 2009.88-94.
Demonstration Democracy in Hungary, in: Armen Harutyunyan(eds.): Freedom of Expression-Right to
Fair Trial.Almanac, Erevan(Armenia) 2010. 38-55. in Russian: 214–233; in Armenian: 123–146.
Demokratija Demonstraciji v Vengrija, in: Armen Harutyunyan(ed.): Almanah: Szvabodna
Vürazsenyija Mnenyija. Erevan(Armenia) oroszul 2010.214-233. Uo. örményül 123-146.
Gab es eine politische Ethik der Wende- und wäre diese heute noch gültig? In: András Masát(hrsg.):
Ethik und Alltag. Zwischen Wahrheit und Wirklichkeit. Andrássy Univ.Abhandlungen Nr. 23. 2010.
Revisionismus, Liberalismus und Populismus: die Oppositionn in Ungarn, in: Detlef Pollack-
Jan Wielghos (hrsg.): Akteure oder Profiteure? Die demokratische Opposition in den
ostmitteleuropäischen Regimeumgbrüchen 1989.WS-Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2010. 63-83.
Zwischen Reform und Revolution. Ungarns Weg aus der Staatssozialismus-wohin? In: Th.
Grossbölting-Raj Kollmorgen u.a.(Hrsg.): Das Ende des Kommunismus. Die Überwindung der
Diktaturen inn Europa und ihre Folgen. Klartext, Essen, 2010.177-195.
The Hungarian Ombudsman Institution, in: S. Rashidova(ed.): World Ombudsmen. Y-M.M. Publ.
Tashkent, 2010. 58-74.
Defizite der Demokratie oder Machtausübung mit Defiziten? Probleme der Kundgebungen und des
Versammlungsrechts in Ungarn, in: Joachim Jesko von Puttkamer-Gabriele Schubert(Hrsg.): Kulturelle
Orientierungen und gesellschaftliche Ordnungsstrukturen in Südosteuropa. Harrassowitz Verlag,
Wiesbaden, 2010. 221-239.
Ungarn hat gewahlt – aber wie? In: Berliner Debatte/Initial 2010/2. 67–73. (– Sziklay Julia): Die
Institution des Ombudsmanns in den deutschssprachigen; LanderHumboldt-Nachrichten, 2010. No.
3) Studies in Journals
Legal and Political Environment of NGO's in Hungary , in: : Annales Universitatis Scientarium
Budapestinensis de Rolando Eötvös Nominate . Sectio Iuridica. Vol. XLIX.2008.23-55.o.
Civil and Uncivil Society in Hungary, in: Central European Political Science Review 2008./33.66-87.
A Transnational Civil Society in Europe: from the point of view of the new post-communist EU-
members, in: Central European Political Science Review Vol. 9. No. 34.2008. 61-94.
Urbanisten versus Populisten in Ungarn, in: Berliner Debatte/Initial 2009/3. 67-74.o.
Disobedience and Criticism. in: Jura 2009/2. 175-185.
Unprotected? Who guards the guardians, in: European Ombudsman Newsletter 2009/12. 58-61.o.
Related to the Tradition of the Extreme Right- Down by Law in the Post-Communist Democracy, in:
The Ethos of Ombudsman's Institution, in: Journal für Rechtspolitik 2010/1. 12-21.o.
"With Communication for Equal Dignity - Integrating Speech vs. Hate Speech" - Re-port on the Ombudsman's Project
An integrating society, equal opportunity may be reached only through consistently applying the instruments of nurturing tolerance – stressed the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights in his report investigating alternative methods of fighting hate speech. Máté Szabó has made several recommendations in order to make state institutions more efficient in their fight against prejudice, for strengthening tolerance.
Prohibition is a necessary but far from sufficient instrument in fighting hate speech. The formation of thoughts leading to hate speech may and should be prevented only through education and information. In an adequately self-conscious and educated society, both the public opinion and the legislators must give an unambiguous and explicit answer to the manifestations of hate – stressed Ombudsman Máté Szabó in his concluding report on the project „With Communication for Equal Dignity – Integrating Speech vs. Hate Speech". This project was made especially timely by the realization that the socio-economic crisis, the neediness and the ever-growing defencelessness lead to scapegoating and discrimination. The state organs and the actors of the civil sphere in the broad sense face serious tasks in the formation of a tolerant and prejudice-free social environment.
The Commissioner for Fundamental Rights pointed out that, in spite of the positive efforts in public education and the education of teachers, there is still no conceptual change in the field of school education as far as the means and the ethos of teaching are concerned and, partly due to inadequate legal regulation, segregation is getting stronger by the day. It would be of major importance that the various initiatives in the field of educational policy should aim at lessening inequality and transforming the members of the younger generations into open-minded, unprejudiced grown-ups.
The specialists of the media, at least on the level of principles, are ready to inform and entertain serving the interests of both the vulnerable groups and the society as a whole – concluded the Ombudsman in his report. The relevant studies show, however, that the vulnerable groups either remain mostly invisible or are introduced in a biased, one-sided way in the media. Certain stereotypes are still so deeply rooted in public opinion and public speech that occasionally even the representatives of the otherwise responsible and quality media unintentionally reproduce them – confirmed a media expert interviewed during the project inquiries.
The approach of those working in the justice system is of major importance as one of the guarantees of the prejudice-free application of the law. The faculties of law all around the country informed the Ombudsman that they all attached, although to various extent, prime importance to conveying knowledge on vulnerable groups. Notwithstanding, an independent study established that the readiness to integrate the vulnerable groups was low among law students, which can be explained, beside the influences of earlier socialisation, by the fact that inducing sensitivity is still under-rated in educating lawyers.
The prejudices existing in a society lack any rational foundation; nevertheless, it is quite easy to arouse unmitigated animosity against almost any community. As a result of disputes between Hungary and their mother countries, the leaders of national minorities living in Hungary or, occasionally, even the minority communities themselves received serious threats. That is why it would be very important to duly reflect in the National Strategy for Social Inclusion and the Action Plan aimed at its execution the tasks contributing to the elimination of prejudices and promoting open-minded, tolerant thinking in the majority society – pointed out Máté Szabó.
Due to their isolated and unique character and the absence of comprehensive state support, the various international and EU projects and the exemplary initiatives of civil organisations may be effective only within narrow bounds, cannot substitute for measures taken by the state. A stronger and more coordinated action by the state institutions would be needed in order to render hate speech and hate crime into isolated phenomena, to make integration, tolerance, openness and diversity a generally accepted social value – concluded Ombudsman Máté Szabó.
The Hungarian text of the project report can be found at