Monday, October 09, 2006

Washington Post: Hungarian minority wants autonomy vote in Romania

Hungarian minority wants autonomy vote in Romania
By Marius ZahariaReutersSunday, October 8, 2006; 8:50 AM

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - A group of ethnic Hungarians in Romania said it wanted to hold a referendum later this year on territorial autonomy within the Black Sea state which joins the European Union next year.
The so-called Szeklers, who make up about a third of Romania's 1.4 million Hungarian minority, have demanded loosely defined autonomy for years even though tensions between Romanians and ethnic Hungarians have eased in recent years.

"A referendum is absolutely necessary to express the Szekler people's desire to live in an autonomous region and to govern itself," Csapo Jozsef, president of the National Szeklers Council, said after a meeting of the council late on Saturday.
Earlier this year, several thousand Szeklers held a rally in a town in Transylvania, where the majority of ethnic Hungarians in Romania live, to demand autonomy and ask the EU to make it a condition of Romania's accession.
The group's spokesman said on Sunday the referendum would be a manifestation of their demands rather than a official "proclamation."
"We decided to organize a referendum, unofficially for now. We just want to show the authorities our will. This is the democratic way to do it," Ferenc Csaba told Reuters.
"If authorities do not take it into account, then at least European institutions will know about us. And we hope to win their support. This is why we want to organize it before EU entry," he said.
Romania's ethnic Hungarians have long battled to win more rights since the fall of communism in 1989, similar to those offered by EU states to their ethnic minorities.
In March 1990, several people were killed and hundreds injured in clashes between Romanians and ethnic Hungarians in the Transylvanian city of Targu Mures. Trouble has flared several times since.
In recent years Bucharest gave more rights to the Hungarians and Budapest has toned down its rhetoric which, in the past, included paying lip service to autonomy claims.
Ethnic Hungarians in Romania now have the right to be educated in their native language, which is also used in local courts and street and shop signs in their region are displayed in both languages.
But the Szeklers argue that a decentralized administration that could come with some degree of autonomy would boost economic development in the region, which is already wealthier than other parts of Romania.
Transylvania, nestled on the foothills of the Carpathian mountains, became part of Romania when the Austro-Hungarian empire fell apart after World War One.
Romania's centrist government says the Hungarians enjoy full minority rights and has refused to discuss autonomy.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This whole "Szeklerland" autonomy in my opinion is a big non-sense. It is already a poor region I can't understand why they want to exclude themselves from the developing Transylvanian markets. With this effort they could try to get some investors from Cluj, Timisoara, Sibiu to take their money and invest in Szeklerland…

October 10, 2006  

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