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The Szeklers’ Great March for Autonomy

October 29th, 2013

Magyar Hírlap believes that sooner or later the Szekler people are bound to achieve territorial autonomy within Romania. Népszabadság condemns sympathisers who chanted revisionist slogans in front of the Romanian embassy in Budapest.

About a third of the one and a half million strong Hungarian minority in Romania live in areas where they represent the overwhelming majority of the population. They enjoyed territorial autonomy for a decade after World War II, and have demanded some form of self-government since the fall of Communism in 1990. Romanian politicians express the fear that autonomy would lead to secession, and are planning a territorial reform that would merge the two Hungarian majority counties into a large, Romanian majority region. In protest against those plans, all three ethnic Hungarian parties in Romania supported the “Great March of the Szeklers” on Sunday (120 thousand people according to the organisers, ten times less according to Romanian sources). All Hungarian political parties also supported the march, with the exception of former PM Ferenc Gyurcsány’s Democratic Coalition which “doubts if the initiative can promote the cause of autonomy.”

In his highly emotional Magyar Hírlap editorial, László Szentesi Zöldi voices his belief in Szekler autonomy: “Autonomy and ethnic self-government will eventually come true, if the Szeklers persevere and are sufficiently united. He calls on all Hungarian parties in Romania to unite around similar initiatives: “Then not even Romanians can claim that the protests are the work of hot-headed separatists in the geometrical centre of that country”.

In its front page editorial, Népszabadság condemns Hungarian demonstrators, who chanted revisionist slogans during a Budapest solidarity rally with the Szeklers, namely “Down with Trianon”. (Trianon is the name of the Versailles palace where the post-World War I peace treaty was signed in 1920. Under that treaty, Hungary lost two thirds of its pre-war territory and one third of the ethnic Hungarian population.) Such slogans played straight into the hands of opponents of Szekler autonomy, Népszabadság argues, for “no matter what their international engagements are, Romanians will never grant autonomy to a community that threatens them with a revision of the Trianon treaty”. (Marchers in Romania demanded “autonomy, not independence” on Sunday.)

Mandiner quotes Facebook posts by liberal opinion leaders who sharply condemn the left-wing electoral alliance for supporting the Szekler March. In those posts, two prominent commentators Attila Ara-Kovács  and György C. Kálmán  (both regular Magyar Narancs columnists) accuse them of caving in to right wing demagoguery. In another Facebook post, LMP leader András Schiffer calls them “histero-liberals”.

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