Romanian President Klaus Iohannis accused the ethnic Hungarian minority in Transylvania, the Social Democratic Party and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of plotting to give Transylvania to Hungary. And this was neither a blunder nor careless wording: It was a two-minute video statement released by the President’s Office.
“It is incredible what kind of agreements are being reached in the Romanian Parliament,” Iohannis said, “while we, myself, the government and the other authorities are fighting the coronavirus outbreak, the Romanian Social Democrat Party, the big Romanian Social Democrat Party, is fighting in secret parliamentary offices to give Transylvania to the Hungarians.” In the opening of his statement, he even addressed the PSD in Hungarian, saying “Jó napot kívánok, PSD!” (Good day, PSD).
Hunor Kelemen, President of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (DAHR/RMDSZ) and PSD President Marius Ciolacu both vehemently denounced Iohannis’ baseless accusation and stated that the President was inciting hatred. They also asked him to apologize.
Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, who was directly named in the statement refused to comment stating that he doesn’t want the situation to escalate between the two countries.
“Good day Ciolacu!” Iohannis said, again in Hungarian, “What did the leader from Budapest, Viktor Orbán, promise you in exchange for this agreement?”
The background of Iohannis’ statement is that RMDSZ introduced an autonomy bill for Transylvania to Parliament for the fourth time. Romanian legislators have already struck down such a bill three times, but this time around, the lower chamber of Parliament allowed the bill to pass tacitly without voting on it. However, on the same day that Iohannis made his statement, the Senate then voted the bill down, which Iohannis already knew.
In his response statement, Kelemen said Iohannis was using an old Communist trick of playing the nationalist card to stoke xenophobic sentiment and divert attention from the country’s economic and social troubles.
“It is unacceptable for the Romanian head of state to incite hatred, which in the current crisis is not only irresponsible but downright dangerous,” Kelemen wrote in his statement. “By producing an anti-Hungarian narrative, the president is using the same shameful anti-Hungarian strategy as the one used by former Romanian dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and by nationalistic and xenophobic party leaders in Romania’s more recent history.”
After the Senate rejected the autonomy bill, Ciolacu retorted by saying that Iohannis was the living embodiment of the late Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the ultra-nationalist România Mare (Greater Romania) party in the 1990s.
“The President has hurled some boorish accusations,” Ciolacu said. “Today, I honestly had the impression that Vadim Tudor is alive and is the President of Romania. Such attacks are unworthy of a European President.”
The autonomy bill – a long-standing ambition of the ethnic Hungarian minority in Romania – defines Szeklerland as an autonomous region with an independent legal status within Romania and endows the region with various competencies. RMDSZ has always maintained that it is both in line with European Union requirements and is modeled on several similar statutes for minorities in Western Europe.