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September 24, 2021

Education rights for minorities trigger fresh disputes among MPs

Lawmakers of the ruling coalition and the opposition quarreled yesterday during Chamber of Deputies debates on the new education law, over a controversial provision allowing national minorities to study all school subjects, except Romanian language and literature, in their native tongue. Following heated debates, the article was eventually adopted after opposition National Liberal Party (PNL) lawmakers walked out of the session.

The opposition had tried to file an amendment to the article, so as to introduce mandatory history and geography teaching in Romanian for minorities, but the amendment was rejected. PNL group deputy leader Eugen Nicolaescu announced that his party was leaving the session and not voting on the article because “it would be an anti-national vote and you assume responsibility for having Romanian citizens who don’t know what this country’s history and geography are about.”

In Liberals’ absence, the article was passed with 111 votes in favour, 45 against and ten abstentions.

The result of the vote also angered the other major opposition party, the Social Democrats, with Deputy Adrian Solomon telling the ruling coalition that the article was an attack to the “Romanian nation’s holiest ideals” and the “European Union principle that says you must defend your culture, education and national values.” Social-Democrats charged that the ruling Democrat Liberals accepted giving too many rights to minorities, in order to secure support of their fellows in the ruling coalition, the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania, for several other projects and a stable majority in Parliament.

Their criticism was dismissed by the PDL group, who said PSD was a party of “hypocrites” because during their rule, they introduced a series of measures to promote the use of Hungarian in public administration. Social Democrat MPs demanded an apology from the PDL group over the comments but when they didn’t get it, they too left the session.

In their absence, the chamber passed 28 articles of the new education law in 12 minutes and then interrupted session to discuss other issues on the agenda. Debates on the law were scheduled to resume later yesterday.

The new education bill triggered discontent of teachers and students as well, through many of its provisions. The draft law has over 300 articles and after debates in the Chamber of Deputies are completed, it will be sent to the Senate, which has the final say in this case.

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