Lower House rejects bill on Szekely Land autonomy

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The Chamber of Deputies on Wednesday rejected the bill on the autonomy of the Szekely Land that came under criticism from most MPs, except for the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR).

The bill was defeated by a vote of 218 to 20.

Bill initiator, UDMR deputy Kulcsár-Terza József-György, argued that the document does not propose the change of the borders, but only seeks territorial autonomy for the Szekely Land inside the Romanian state.

“The Székelys fought to defend Christianity at the side of Michael the Brave and Stephen the Great. Those people and institutions denying the existence of the Szekely Land are being secretly controlled or driven by hate towards Hungarians and Szekelys. I urge these people and institutions to turn to the book and learn their own history. The Hungarian community in Romania only requests what is rightfully due to all European nations. Europe supports autonomy, this is the most important message conveyed by the European community after the Catalonia events. We don’t want the borders to change, we only want territorial autonomy for the Szekely Land inside the Romanian state,” said the UDMR deputy.

Liberal Florin Roman presented the report of the Administration Committee, mentioning that in its entirety the legislative proposal runs counter to constitutional regulations and principles, domestic judicial order, EU and international law. PNL deputy Angelica Fador announced the Liberal group would vote against the legislative proposal because it envisages the establishment of parallel entities inside the Romanian state.

Social Democrat floor leader Vasile Suciu too announced that his group does not support the bill.

“Dear UDMR colleagues, you have all our appreciation and support, but to this bill our answer is ‘No’. In this year of the Centennial anniversary I would want addresses to steer clear of passion and not drive wedges between us. PSD will vote against this bill,” he said.

Tudor Benga from the Save Romania Union too announced that his formation will vote against the bill.

UDMR deputy Korodi Attila expressed backing for the piece of legislation, arguing that talking of autonomy represents the “desire to implement a European model, bring public administration as close as possible to the citizen.”

“Autonomy does not mean secessionism, it doesn’t mean an attack on Romania’s integrity. Autonomy means the message of a community expressing its desire for public administration to organize in a certain way. (…) Romania, unfortunately, has some shortcomings in meeting the requirements of minority communities. We and international experts notice that despite Romania having ratified a set of international treaties, the provisions thereof are not, or are only partially implemented. We and international bodies see that since its accession to the EU, Romania has no longer made visible progress in respecting the rights of national minorities,” the UDMR deputy added.

According to the bill, “the inhabitants of Szekely Land are constituted as an autonomous community” as an expression of this region’s historical identity, in order to ensure equal opportunities for the citizens and for protecting the Hungarian national identity.

The autonomy of the community represents the right and effective capacity of the autochthonous majority community of this historical region to have self-administration prerogatives and certain state prerogatives so as to handle on its own responsibility and in the interest of the entire community a major part of public interest issues, in line with the principle of subsidiarity, the bill states. According to the document, “Szekely Land becomes an autonomous region with legal personality inside Romania, and the competencies of the region are set forth in the present Statute of the region or in international law”. “The region has decision-making right and management right in the fields falling under its specific competencies, and this right includes adopting and exercising a region-specific policy,” the draft regulatory act also provides. The same project mentions that “the territory of the autonomous region comprises the present Covasna and Harghita counties, as well as the historical seat of Mures, belonging to Mures County”.

The Legislative Council issued a negative opinion to the bill, and the Government has yet to issue a point of view. The Chamber of Deputies is the first chamber notified of this bill, while the Senate is the decision-making body.