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March 20, 2023

UN opposes granting territorial autonomy to Hungarians in Transylvania

The Organization will recommend that Romania adopt, by next November, at the latest, a minority status law, which has been stalled in Parliament for five years now.

The UN Committee for Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) analyzed, on Monday and Tuesday, in Geneva, Romania’s situation. The Romanian delegation presented before the United Nations experts the 19th periodic report on Romania’s observing, between 1999 and 2010, regulations in the matter of discrimination, adevarul.ro reported, yesterday.

Because three Hungarian associations had sent a “Shadow Report” to the UN, in which they were calling for the territorial autonomy of the “Szeklers’ Land”, the UN Committee had, on Monday morning, before talks with Romania, a meeting with the representatives of the said associations. According to the head of the Romanian delegation, Ferenc Asztalos, the UN Committee did not ask the Romanian delegation any questions related to the Hungarian associations’ report. “On the matter of Hungarian NGOs, it was said that the Convention for the elimination of all forms of discrimination (which Romania joined 40 years ago) does not defend the collective rights of a community, but merely individual rights. Autonomy is a vague, indeterminate affair, and even decentralization in healthcare, education, etc. is a form of autonomy,” the head of the Romanian delegation explained. The UN Committee wanted further information on the use of Hungarian in local government and in justice and on the state funding of higher education in Hungarian. “There are some problems at Babes-Bolyai and at the University of Medicine in Targu-Mures,” Asztalos Ferenc Csaba added.

The list of possible recommendations which UN will make by November includes the need to adopt the education law and the national minorities’ status law. The national minorities’ status bill, drafted by the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), has been negotiated by the Hungarian party since 2005, each time it joined a Government coalition, but was stalled in Parliament. The bill ensures the cultural autonomy of national minorities, which amounts to the capacity a national minority community has to make decisions in matters related to its cultural, linguistic and religious identity, by means of councils elected by its members. To this purpose, it was proposed that the National Council of Cultural Autonomy be set up. At the same time, the Commission advised the Romanian state to protect the vulnerable groups from the effects of the economic crisis. Most specific proposals will address the problem of the Roma and a possible recommendation in this respect will be a better collection of data because, according to the latest poll, conducted in 2002, 500,000 Romanians declared themselves ethnic Roma, while their real numbers amount to approximately 2 million.

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