Mar 20, 2014

Hungarian Minority in Romania: Ethnic Minority Rights Remain Political Issue

The treatment of the Hungarian minority in Romania remains a political issue. This was confirmed recently as several Hungarian nationals, accused of being extremists, were refused entry into Romania, after which Hungarian politicians demanded more rights for ethnic Hungarians in Romania.

Below is an article by Turkish Weekly:

Members of the Hungarian government on Saturday [15 March 2014] voiced support for territorial autonomy for ethnic Hungarians in Romania, a day after Bucharest imposed an unprecedented entry ban on several Hungarian nationals accused of being extremists.

“Autonomy is not secession. It is a normal reality within the EU. If others are allowed to have it, we [Hungarians], too, should be allowed to have it because we are just as worthy as any other nation,” Hungarian deputy prime minister Zsolt Semjen told a rally in the city of Targu Secuiesc/Kezdivasarhely in eastern Transylvania.

Thousands of ethnic Hungarians in Romania celebrated Hungary's National Day on March 15, the anniversary of the Hungarian Revolution of 1848. Many who joined public rallies were waving the flags of Hungary and the so-called Szeklers (a Hungarian ethnic minority in Romania).

Over 1,000 police were deployed to maintain order during the events which were held in 56 places in Transylvania.

A day earlier, Bucharest unexpectedly announced it was imposing an entry ban on several Hungarian citizens it accused of involvement in extremist activities on Romanian territory.

"The Romanian authorities took precautionary measures to avoid events of a kind that affect public order and national security," a spokeswoman for the interior ministry said on Friday, explaining the entry restrictions.

The Hungarian nationals are members of the Jobbik party, the Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement, the Outlaws' Army and New Hungarian Guard, but their names were not made public.

President Traian Basescu last Thursday [13 March 2014] called on Hungarian politicians visiting Romania to treat his country with respect, warning that anyone can be expelled for violating the constitution.

A week ago, more than 4,000 people, among them many Hungarian citizens, held an unauthorised rally in Targu Mures/ Marosvásárhely, in central Transylvania, commemorating what they called the “Szeckler martyrs”. Some clashes between protesters and the police erupted.

About seven per cent of Romania's 19.5 million citizens are ethnic Hungarians. Some parts of the community, especially the 600,000 so-called Szeklers, have long campaigned for an autonomous region in Transylvania, which formed part of the Kingdom of Hungary until the end of the First World War.

Relations between Romania and Hungary are good in general. After they both joined the EU, they vowed to leave behind historical disputes and work together in the EU to promote common and regional interests.

Romania’s right to Transylvania is not now questioned by anyone except the most fervent Hungarian nationalists, but the treatment of the Hungarian minority remains a political issue, even today.

Early this month, the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, UDMR, joined the ruling coalition after the government of Prime Minister Victor Ponta broke up amid a series of rows in February. As the price of its support, the UDMR has obtained the culture and environment ministries, a vice-president's post and 14 state secretary posts.