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October 20, 2021

Bucharest-Budapest diplomatic row following Hungarian’s official divisive statements

Ponta deems disrespectful the declarations made by Nemeth Zsolt regarding the ‘symbolic aggression’ of Magyars. MAE calls Zsolt’s position ‘unacceptable’ and summons the Hungarian ambassador.

The scandal broke off on Tuesday, when a Secretary of State from the Hungarian Foreign Affairs Ministry, Nemeth Zsolt, said Hungarian ethnics in Transylvania were subject to symbolic aggression and, therefore, Hungary ought to answer that by hoisting the Szekely flag. The flag of the Szekely Land was raised in one of the Budapest districts on Tuesday. Nemeth Zsolt said the flag had been hoisted to show solidarity with the cause of autonomy local authorities in Harghita and Covasna militate for. Referring to the refusal of Romanian authorities to allow the raising of the unofficial flag of the Szekely Land, Nemeth Zsolt said, in his opinion, that was a ‘symbolic aggression’ committed by the Romanian authorities on Hungarian ethnics.
The Hungarian official added that a true ‘war of the flags’ had been started in the Hungarian-inhabited regions of Romania and that he expected the Romanian Government to intervene and stop the dispute. ‘The Hungarian Government expects the Romanian Government to step in and stop this symbolic aggression on the Hungarian minority in Transylvania’, Zsolt said. The Hungarian official further noted that municipalities in Hungary should raise the flag of the Szekely Land in sign of solidarity.
UDMR President Kelemen Hunor says the position of the official of the Hungarian Government will not resolve Romania’s problems, just as the display of the Szekely flag won’t either, and added that the use of community symbols does not hurt the interests of the Romanian state.
The President of the Civic Hungarian Party (PCM) in Covasna, Kulcsar Terza Jozsef, hailed the statement of the Hungarian Government official, saying that, if the Szekely were respected in Romania, their fag would be displayed also in Parliament. ‘I hail the solidarity expressed by Nemeth Zsolt and I am of the opinion that the governments in Hungary – not only the current one – ought to show solidarity with the Hungarians living abroad, for there is a single Hungarian nation’, said the leader of PCM Covasna. In Kulcsar Terza’s opinion, Romanian politicians have no reasons to be outraged by Nemeth Zsolt’s position as long as Romania always shows solidarity with Romanians in R. Moldova on matters concerning the community.
The UDMR leader in Sfantu Gheorghe, Antal Arpad, said it was ‘natural’ that Hungary would adopt a ‘position’ when Hungarians felt they are not respected, ‘when people compare the Szekely flag with a cloth’ and that he expected of Bucharest and Budapest officials ‘statements to calm down the spirits’.
The leader of PNL Covasna, Marius Obreja, said the statement made by Hungarian Secretary of State Nemeth Zsolt on the Szekely flag was just ‘inflaming spirits’. The President of the PSD county organisation, Horia Grama, said the Hungarian official’s action was ‘provocative’.
Nemeth Zsolt’s statements occur only days after the flag of the Szekely Land had been removed from the hall where the in-coming Covasna prefect was appointed to office.
The Hungarian official, alongside the Deputy Prime Minister of the Hungarian Government, Semjen Zsolt, are among of the ardent supporters of the autonomy of the Szekely Land. In August 2012, Nemeth Zsolt said Hungary supported the goal of the Hungarian community to achieve autonomy for the Szekely Land.

Ponta: We are not taking any ‘cheekiness’ from anyone

Following Nemeth Zsolt’s statements, PM Victor Ponta asked the foreign minister to take a firm position. ‘I’m asking you, Mr. Foreign Minister, to provide an answer -not you, personally, but the ministry- a very firm and clear answer that we are not going to take any – well, I wouldn’t like to use an undiplomatic term,–although I would have been tempted to say ‘cheekiness’ – lessons from anyone on how Romania should enforce its laws, including those on the operation of local authorities. I believe we do have the highest standards in Europe when it comes to the representation of minorities and local autonomy. I say if someone wants to do election campaign in Romania on that, you should take a very decisive position and refuse to fall into any traps in the matter. I really don’t think anyone can tell us what flags we may display and how we can display them around here. I am also going to ask the minister of interior, prefects and all other state authorities to do their duty under the law. I wouldn’t like to fall into the trap of provocation, but, on the other hand, I don’t want anyone to think they may lecture us from across the border’, Ponta said during the Cabinet meeting.
Further to Nemeth Zsolt’s statements, the Hungarian Ambassador to Bucharest, Oszkar Fuzes, has been invited to MAE’s. ‘Zsolt Nemeth’s statements are unacceptable and against the spirit of good neighbourhood and strategic Partnership between Romania and Hungary’, said MAE Secretary of State Bogdan Aurescu. The Romanian official added Romania and Hungary were both part of an international and European system of values, to which the protection of human rights in general and of national minorities in particular is fundamental.
The ambassador yesterday replied there was no ‘war of the flags’ between Romania and Hungary and noted that the raising of the flag of the Szekely Land was the right of the Szekely, according to realitatea.net.  ‘There is no provocation’, said Oszkar Fuzes. ‘It’s just a natural right of the minority of the Szekely in Romania, who enjoys historic national and identity symbols. I emphasise that this is about identity. It is no provocation or trap, it is just about the national identity of the Szekely community and the free and democratic use of the flag’, said the diplomat.

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