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News 07 Jul 14

Romanian Hungarians Call for Greater Autonomy

The party representing the ethnic Hungarian minority in Romania is to publish a bill asking for greater autonomy for regions in Transylvania where most Hungarians are concentrated.

Marian Chiriac
Bucharest

The Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, UDMR, is to publish the bill this week, said its leader Peter Kovacs.

“There are currently two views over future proposed autonomy. One is entirely according to the Romanian constitution, while the other is proposing some changes in the constitution. We still have to decide which of the options will be publicly presented on July 11,” said Kovacs .

“Anyway, our initiative aims to open a dialogue with the Romanian majority and to better promote our rights in a legal and civilized way,” he added.

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.

Prime Minister Victor Ponta has previously said he would address the Hungarian minority’s call for autonomy in conformity with the country’s constitution and European norms.

The UDMR has been a junior partner in different ruling coalitions several times in the last 20 years. Currently, it is also member of the centre-left ruling coalition headed by Ponta’s Social Democrats, PSD.

Demands for greater autonomy for ethnic Hungarians come in the context of a discussion on changing the constitution in Romania.

Among the main changes envisaged is administrative organization, and the UDMR wants that to include an autonomous region in Transylvania.

Although several laws addressing ethnic minority rights exist in Romania, the UDMR has long campaigned for a special law on minorities.

A draft law has been around for over six years, waiting for parliament to debate it. Under existing laws, ethnic minorities can study in their own language at all levels of education, from kindergarten to university. The new law would clarify and enhance these rights.

It would also entitle minorities to receive official funds to set up educational institutions in their native languages.

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