25,000 protested against the ruling on the retrocession of the “Szekely Miko College”.
Nearly 25,000 Magyars from the counties of Bihor, Cluj, Harghita, Hunedoara, Mures, Brasov and Arad, and various Covasna County localities as well as Hungary, among whom hundreds of priests, attended a protest rally in Sfantu Gheorghe on Saturday against a recent ruling against the retrocession of the local “Szekely Miko” College to the Magyar Reformed Church. According to the verdict, the retrocession was illegal. However, information is not very clear about the actual number of attendees at the meeting. The Covasna Prefecture contradicted estimates speaking of 25,000 participants, saying their number was of “8,000 to 8,500” actually.
The protest action was organized by the Magyar Churches from Transylvania with the goal of sending the message that the verdict, albeit challengeable on appeal, could set a dangerous precedent. “Armed” with Szekler and Hungarian flags and placards reading “Justice”, “Justice to Marko, Marosan and Miko”, “Justice”, “Territorial Autonomy to the Szekler Land”, protesters marched through the central area of the city up to the stage set up in front of the “Szekely Miko” College, where officials attending the event delivered speeches. After the speeches, a manifesto was adopted expressing protesters’ demands, among which the firm implementation of the rule of law and quick “restitutio in integrum”. “We consider revolting the repeated attempts by the Romanian state of depriving our community of our legacy. We call on the Romanian authorities in charge to stop the illegal re-nationalization of the «Szekely Miko» College,” Mediafax reported the document as saying. Protesters also called in the diplomatic community, international institutions and human rights organizations to carefully monitor the retrocession process in Romania. After the manifesto was read, some of the participants chanted “Autonomy” and “Trianon shall vanish”.
During the two-hour rally, vehicle traffic was closed in the municipality central area and on three neighboring streets, with law enforcement forces being deployed to prevent any incidents from happening.
Saturday’s protest is rooted in the Buzau Court of Law ruling that sentenced former state secretary Marko Attila and two more people to three years in prison for abuse of office against public interest and for the illegal retrocession of the Szekely Miko College in Sfantu Gheorghe to the Reformed Church. According to the National Anti-Corruption Directorate (DNA), Marko Attila – a former state secretary at the Inter-ethnic Relations Department, Marosan Tamas – a lawyer representing the Reformed Church, and Silviu Clim – a member of the retrocession Commission of the Justice Ministry, drafted on May 14, 2002, an ascertaining note “in which they showed, contrary to reality, that a building in the municipality of Sfantu Gheorghe, Covasna County, had been the property of the Reformed Church in a Sfantu Gheorghe and returned it to the Reformed Eparchy of Ardeal”.
Territorial autonomy brought up yet again
During the speech delivered on the occasion, Kelemen Hunor, president of the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) voiced hope the Superior Council of Magistracy (CSM) will look carefully into this case, adding that “this is a case of injustice”. “We believe that, if such precedent is created, than, any retroceded building could be nationalized again,” the UDMR leader said, who added that further steps will be taken. ”We won’t stop until justice wins, Kelemen said, adding that the manifesto passed at the Sfantu Gheorghe protest rally will be sent to international institutions, courts, Parliament, everywhere where there are people “sensitive” to the ownership right.
The UDMR leader again brought up the issue of territorial autonomy, showing that it remains an “aspiration of the Magyar community which could be fulfilled by law, dialogue and with the agreement of all the Romanian political actors”.
Kelemen also announced that the UDMR endorses Eckstein Kovacs Peter, a former presidential adviser, as an Ombudsman nominee, whom Kelemen Hunor sees as a good and balanced solution.
Referring to the parliamentary election this autumn, the UDMR leader declaredhimself convinced that Magyars will have a high turnout at the polls, with the Union going to have a strong legislative representation in the next term as well. He made the point that the UDMR will not have joint lists with the Magyar People’s Party in Transylvania (PPMT) and the Magyar Civic Party (PCM) in the upcoming election, since this would mean a different electoral threshold being required for the party to make it to Parliament.
Saturday’s rally – a testimony to the “power” of the Magyar community, Antal says
After the protest, Sfantu Gheorghe Mayor Antal Arpad said that none of the requests made by the Magyar community are against Romania and called on Romanian politicians to cease “highlighting” the Magyar issue. He outlined that Transylvanian Magyars are fair to the Romanian state and that Romania should appreciate their being loyal to the country, adding that they create “a lot less harm to this country than many Romanians do”. “We proved today <Saturday>, too, that we are a nation, a strong community, not mere individuals in this country (…) we are members of a strong national community able to defend its people, values and community,” Antal stated.