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Banner war, round two: Szekler flag aflutter on Hungarian Parliament

February 18th, 2013

A pro-government journalist calls the Romanian response to Hungary’s innocent symbolic gesture aggressive and unreasonable. A left-wing daily on the other hand accuses the government of insensitivity to the delicate problems of beyond-border Hungarian minorities in Romania.

In celebration of the plenary session of the Forum of Hungarian Members of Parliament of the Carpathian Basin, the Parliament building hoisted blue and yellow flag of the Szeklers (a subgroup of Hungarian minorities in the Eastern part of Transylvania who traditionally held special legal autonomy for several centuries). As BudaPost reported earlier this month, diplomatic  relations between the two countries have become strained after the Romanian authorities expressed growing irritation at the sight of the Szekler flag on municipal buildings run by the local ethnic Hungarian majority. In solidarity with their brethren across the border, several municipalities in Hungary also hoisted the yellow-blue flag.

Bálint Ablonczy thinks there is only one question here: “why should Hungarians not love the whole of our once common country”? In his Heti Válasz column he suggests the matter has been hugely overinflated, and ’less knowledgeable’ commentators might conclude that another ethnic conflict is about to erupt in the area and call for peacekeeping operations. He quotes Hungarian analysts who view the incident as a game of domestic politics (in Romania), in an attempt to divert attention from more substantial issues. But all such views, he believes, miss the important difference between Hungary’s and Romania’s reactions. In Romania, Prime Minister Victor Ponta himself found it necessary to condemn ’insolence and provocation’ on the part of Hungary, while his coalition partner Crin Antonescu interpreted the conflict as an expression of PM Viktor Orbán’s ’desire to be the Pope of all Hungarians.’ This clearly indicates, writes Ablonczy, that the conflict is generated by Romanian politicians for their own purposes. Quoting former Hungarian President László Sólyom who told a Slovak partner he ‘wanted to love the whole of our formerly shared country,’ Ablonczy asks what is wrong with that. ’I am glad to see the Romanian colours proudly displayed’ on a minority ethnic Romanian grammar school,’ he adds. Ethnic Hungarian minorities have always been able to rely on Hungary for support in their fight for more autonomy, he concludes, but such support can never be compared with ‘rigid and aggressive majority pressures’ on minority Hungarians.

In a sarcastic comment, Népszabadság’s editorial reports that “war correspondents” have already sent their messages to Washington and Brussels with the news that the Hungarian Parliament was conquered, after “Europe’s angriest House Speaker”, László Kövér had the Szekler national colours displayed and “Europe’s angriest Christian,” (Christian Democrat Party chief and Deputy Prime Minister) Zsolt Semjén remarked after the triumphant siege that “the government has no intention to create tensions between Hungary and Romania.” These two individuals, continues the author, will never understand why our NATO allies are unwilling to celebrate this great victory. While the Hungarian Ambassador to Bucharest might be packing his bags soon, “Europe’s angriest Prime Minister,” will have to ask “the God of the Hungarians” again why it is always peace-loving Hungary that has to take a beating.

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