Senate: Bill establishing March 15th as public holiday for the Hungarian community in Romania receives negative report

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The bill establishing March 15th as a public holiday for the Hungarian community in Romania received a negative report from the Senate’s Human Rights Committee on Monday and was to be sent to the Senate plenum for final vote on the same day.

At first, the bill tabled by the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) received a positive report, but at PSD’s request it was sent back to the committee for a new report.

“March 15th is established as public holiday for the Hungarian community in Romania,” reads Article 1 of the bill.

The bill also stipulates that in the localities where members of the Hungarian community live, public authorities can organise cultural-artistic events dedicated to the moment, and employers can give their Hungarian employees the day off to take part in the events.

The Senate is the first House notified in this case, with the Lower House set to have the final say.

The bill establishing March 15th as a public holiday for the Hungarian community in Romania was on the Senate’s order of the day last month, for debate and final vote, but the sitting was interrupted, at PSD’s request, shortly before the bill came up for discussion.

A week before, the ruling coalition decided to take the bill off the Senate’s order of the day, even though there were only several days left before the tacit adoption deadline.

“We have on the Senate’s order of the day also a bill regarding the day of national minorities. Meaning a day in which we would celebrate – not for reasons of separatism or segregation – the fact that there are national minorities on the territory of Romania, honest people, people who contribute to the budget, people who do their duty toward the country, who have been living here for hundreds of years and who are part of Romanian society. In this context, it remains to be discussed whether and in what conditions the issue of a special day dedicated to Hungarians in Romania would be raised,” PSD’s Senate whip Serban Nicolae stated at the end of the ruling coalition meeting.

On October 23, the Senate plenum unanimously adopted the bill establishing December 18th as the “Day of National Minorities in Romania.”

According to the bill, tabled in June in the Senate, “December 18th is established as the ‘Day of National Minorities in Romania,’ as public holiday.”

The bill stipulates that “each year, on the Day of National Minorities in Romania, cultural events dedicated to this holiday will be organised.”

The bill was signed by the Lower House representatives of national minorities other than the Hungarian minority, who argued their overture with the fact that the UN General Assembly adopted on 18 December 1992 the Declaration on the rights of persons belonging to national, ethnic, linguistic and religious minorities.

UDMR’s Senate whip Cseke Attila (photo) stated that the bill establishing December 18th as the ‘Day of National Minorities in Romania’ and a public holiday cannot substitute UDMR’s legislative proposal to establish March 15th as the day of the Hungarian community in Romania. He added that UDMR is open to a real debate on this topic and will continue to endorse the bill.

The day of Hungarians everywhere is celebrated on March 15, as the national day of Hungary, in remembrance of the 1848 Revolution. Back then, the Hungarian revolutionary leaders asked the Austrian emperor for a series of constitutional freedoms, but also for Transylvania’s union with Hungary.

In June, UDMR conditioned its vote in favour of the no-confidence motion against the Grindeanu Government on PSD backing several initiatives of interest for the Hungarians, including declaring March 15th as the day of the Hungarian community in Romania and lowering the demographic threshold from which minorities can use their maternal language in local administration.

PSD promised UDMR that they would endorse their initiatives, but Liviu Dragnea backtracked after details of the negotiations were leaked to the press, and the Hungarians’ bills were postponed.

On October 4, the UDMR bill stipulating the lowering of the minorities’ demographic threshold in the local population – from 20 to 10 percent – for the use of the minorities’ maternal language in local administration was rejected by the members of the Lower House Judiciary Committee, without debate.

The bill was rejected with a majority of votes, without being debated article by article.

“It’s a surprising vote. The voting took place before discussing the articles, many colleagues came ready to reject it,” UDMR Lower House member Marton Arpad stated. Nevertheless, the tacit adoption deadline in the Senate – the first House notified – is October 24, the Lower House having the final say on the matter.