One of the interpretations of Romanian President Klaus Iohannis’ inflammatory statement on April 29 is that Iohannis is deliberately portraying the ethnic minority as the enemy, said Hunor Kelemen, president of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ), during an online discussion organized by the New York-based Hungarian Human Rights Foundation.
“This is the real danger, when the President portrays ethnic Hungarians in Romania as the enemy and the Hungarian language as the language of the enemy,” Kelemen said.
In his April speech, Iohannis accused the ethnic Hungarian minority in Transylvania, the Social Democratic Party and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán of plotting to cede Transylvania to Hungary.
The remarks gave a green light to provocative, nationalist rhetoric and offer a distraction during the COVID pandemic. “No one in Europe or the world cares what happens to a minority of 1.5 million people,” Kelemen said. “We fear that the [inter-ethnic] peace is fragile and everything we have built over the past 30 years can be destroyed.”
Kelemen added that in recent years, Romania – through court cases and administrative measures – has begun to erode minority rights gained in the past thirty years, rights like the use of their native language supposedly guaranteed by European agreements.
“Thirty years ago, we began building a policy of hope,” Kelemen said. Anything that takes the place of that policy only benefits those who want to stoke regional conflicts,” he said. Kelemen also appealed to the United States, likely the most influential outside power that Romania listens to, to draw attention to this paradigm shift in Romanian politics driven by President Iohannis.
Branding Szekler autonomy ambitions as separatist, Kelemen said, is “silly because Transylvania is in the middle of Romania and the Szeklerland is but a tiny speck within it, 500 kilometers from the Hungarian border. We have to keep saying that regional autonomy is not against the integrity of the country.”
Responding to a question about whether RMDSZ will ask for the European Union’s help, Kelemen said that despite his organization’s advances in the European Parliament, the European Union is not yet able nor inclined to act swiftly in cases of minority rights breaches.
Initially founded as the Committee for Human Rights in Rumania in 1976, the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation (HHRF) monitors the human rights conditions of 2.5 million ethnic Hungarians who live as minorities in Croatia, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, Slovakia and Ukraine, and who collectively comprise the largest national minority in Central Europe.
Title image: RMDSZ President Hunor Kelemen. (source: Facebook)