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December 9, 2022

Regionalisation as political survival

There is nothing exceptional about the appointment of Gyorgy Frunda as the prime minister’s adviser. Traian Basescu also used to have an UDMR leader as his adviser, Peter Eckstein-Kovacs. For a year, the president’s adviser belonged to a party that, like now, was in the opposition. Unlike him, formally, Frunda will advise the PM not just on minority matters, but also in the legal and foreign policy field. Those are two key-sectors of the current administration. But the position is one thing and the reality of the adviser’s influence is another thing.His presence has a mainly symbolic value. A Hungarian adviser can be useful from a number of points of view. Internationally, UDMR can activate its networks of influence both in the European Parliament and in EPP (even Crin Antonescu expressed a certain degree of interest in a different ideological affiliation of Romanian Liberals).

Less meaningful could appear the mediation in relation to Hungary, for the simple fact that the Orban Government still counts on UDMR’s rival, Laszlo Tokes’ party, openly criticizing its current leaders. However, from the point of view of a possible concerted position (like during the Tariceanu – Gyurcsany period), a discreet and slick mediator could never hurt. Frunda’s role (first of all symbolic) can be mainly in domestic policies. Justice is one of this Government’s main battles, as it is the president’s last partial stronghold. In certain situations, UDMR can tip the scales of appointments. At the same time, the big interest will be the regions’ reform, already long overdue compared to other countries in the region. And here, cooperation with UDMR is going to be crucial. Reform cannot be conducted without or against Hungarians. Compromises call for the ability of finding acceptable solutions for both the majority and minority (and even the Hungarian Government). Like in the case of Eckstein-Kovacs, a future association with the Government rests an option in case of political developments that would alter the current settings.The acceptance of a Hungarian Secretary of State at the Ministry of Education, Andras Kiraly, in principle is also nothing else but the continuation of a political tradition, meant to give UDMR the possibility of controlling a fundamental sector to its policy (one that generated the main political differences involving UDMR since the 1990s). The temporary appointment of the INS deputy director (also UDMR leader) replacing the recently dismissed institution head came as a natural administrative decision. Such an appointment could, however, become more or less posting, also knowing that the position itself does not lack political interest as proved by the 2011 census (the ousting of the INS head actually smells like political retaliation). However, the undoubted fact is the symbolic value of all these positions as a small outpost of UDMR in the Victor Ponta Government, a leader who did not give up on his wish to cooperate with the Hungarians for one moment. Apart from the possibility of having an alternative option ready (something which, however, is hard to prefigure in a concrete way, as UDMR is still a small party that could not be expected to provide a solid partnership in the eventuality of a USL schism), the premier is probably considering the difficulties of actual administration. An inevitable austerity will automatically decrease his public credit and for the only realistic solution – regionalisation – he needs the Hungarians. Regionalisation is the only chance of additional financing for an economy deprived of any important growth prospects, at least during the current administration.   A relatively fast regionalisation (political negotiations have been buried a number of times in the last 20 years) could be accompanied by a propagandistic campaign motivating hope for a re-launch (actually, based on the model of what the Szekely are trying). That could become a political beacon capable of motivating a new (and unhoped for) credit of popularity. But such an endeavour would take an exceptionally talented team of ‘spin doctors’. Gyorgy Frunda will not be playing such a role, but could be a very useful link to another team, the one that should try to motivate Hungarian ethnics in the name of an acceptable autonomy.

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