The Budapest Migration Roundtable was a city-wide initiative launched by the Municipality of Budapest as a consultation platform in 2012 and had a one-year duration. Its primary objective was to increase the inclusion and integration of immigrants living in Budapest, and hence to contribute to a more cohesive society. The project aimed at establishing a network with the participation of governmental and non-governmental actors working in the field of migration in Budapest, and to facilitate a city-wide dialogue about migration and integration. It was also meant to get the Municipality involved in migration issues and related policies (e.g. social attitude, social participation, public service provision). In general, it aimed at ensuring that future developments (e.g. in housing or economy) would be in accordance with the needs of migrant communities.
The activities of the initiative included roundtable meetings and discussions with mapping the problems and dysfunctions of governmental and non-governmental systems focusing on migration issues. The Roundtable was established on 5th December 2012 and in the next 12 months 12 meetings were held in which governmental actors of different levels and immigrants’ organisations participated. It provided recommendations for city-wide policies in three fields: social policy, culture and education (Municipality of Budapest, 2012a). The results were highlighted in the Budapest Migration Almanac (Municipality of Budapest, 2013). Besides networking, special trainings were offered for public servants of the Mayor’s Office of Budapest such as intercultural communication courses in order to provide equal access to public services and to challenge discrimination (Municipality of Budapest, n.d.). Forty people received intercultural education from civil experts (e.g. Artemisszió Foundation for intercultural communication). Trainings and counselling were provided also for NGOs, for example in tendering or legal issues, to improve their competencies in, service provision and in the representation of immigrants.
In its organisational structure the key actor was the Budapest Municipality, the organiser of the project. The Budapest Chance Non-profit Ltd. was in charge of collection and systematisation of policy recommendations and preparation of the Migration Almanac. The group of stakeholders included almost all the relevant governmental and non-governmental actors since approximately 60 organisations attended at least one of the round table events during the project. The migration platform tried to involve citizens with foreign cultural background and representatives of migrant communities (e.g. Chinese, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Russian). However, the initiative had very limited human and financial resources. The project was financed by the European Integration Fund with about € 50,000. The project staff included a coordinator employed by the City Hall and an external expert with civil professional background from Budapest Chance.
Perception and use of the concept of diversity
Immigrants and migrant communities living in Budapest were the primary target group of the project. Immigrants are those non-EU citizens who have a residence permit for more than three months and who stay in the country legally. The second target group is the group of migrant-advocacy organisations, especially the smaller, less powerful ones. The target audience also contained decision makers and actors of public administration (see above). In a broader sense, the project was also expected to have an impact on the non-immigrant ‘majority’ of the society
Diversity is an important characteristic of the Migration Roundtable, although this term was not addressed explicitly. Within the framework of the initiative, diversity is primarily understood as cultural or ethnic diversity; and socio-economic integration, cultural pluralism as well as inter- and multiculturalism are also important concepts. The project took into consideration several other dimensions of social difference, for example age, language, religion, health, economic background and housing. Some elements of hyper-diversity can also be identified since the policy recommendations emphasised the importance of individual mentoring in migrants’ education or the role of social attitude towards these people.
Main factors influencing success or failure
We can identify a couple of external success factors. As at global and European levels, the importance and impact of international migration in Hungary, and especially in Budapest, has turned the attention of professionals and the public towards migrants’ communities as well as to the difficulties of their integration. The role of EU-level policies and adjoining programmes with robust funding opportunities can also be evaluated as a positive factor. The internal success factors can be linked to the expertise of City Hall and Budapest Chance officials who could use the experiences of former projects like LeCIM or Roma-Net (Municipality of Budapest, 2012b). The good relationship of these officials with non-governmental actors was crucial as it eased communication and organisation. The demand for such a project and the relatively high number and active participation of NGOs were also very important during the roundtable meetings.
One of the most relevant external failure factors is that immigrant communities live scattered in different parts of Budapest and – although they have a significant concentration in the 8th and 10th districts –, their proportion within the population of the city is relatively low (approximately 6 percent in 2011). In addition, they have very weak political representation (especially at the district level) with only a few competent local actors (e.g. NGOs). The weak political organisation and civil society hampered the involvement of representatives of immigrant communities in the work of the Roundtable as well. Another external failure factor is the lack of tradition and experiences regarding civil partnerships and networking in Hungary. The most important internal failure factor is the weak political interest at the city level. As the project coordinator emphasised, the one-year operation of the Roundtable was a good pilot project and it should have been continued but it came to an end as the subsidy period was over.
“…I do not see the enthusiasm of the municipality for this. Consequently, in this respect I consider it a failure. There were minor achievements: for example, we received compliments for the Almanac and it seemed that immigrants could really benefit from trainings. Therefore, I think it was a perfect pilot-project but it does not have continuation and this is a serious problem”.
The very limited financial resources are also one of the most relevant internal failure factors.
The project was very innovative since it was the first municipal-led initiative targeting immigrant communities on the Budapest-level and its techniques (e.g. inclusive approach) proved to be efficient in intercultural dialogue and policy-making. Roundtable talks were good examples for multi-layered communication between the public and civil spheres as policy recommendations represented not only the viewpoints of academics and politicians but of small grassroots organisations and the immigrants themselves. However, some members of the project staff do not consider it as a success because of its short duration (see above). In conclusion, it can be stated that political will can determine the success or failure of even the most innovative projects and short-term, project-orientated thinking should be substituted with long-term, strategic planning.
 The Almanac contains practical information for individual immigrants as well as governmental and non-governmental actors: for example, profiles of migrant advocacy organisations and public service providers or best practices on the topic of migration.