Few of the political goals persuasively sought by the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR), beginning with its first ruling partnership of 1996-2000, have not yet been achieved. The setting up of a state university in Cluj is the only demand that has somehow fallen out of fashion, though, Sapientia, a private university funded by the Hungarian state, and the considerable autonomy enjoyed by the sections at the Babes-Bolyai University (UBB) offsets this miss, if not its symbolic dimension.
Cultural and regional autonomy nonetheless stay on the agenda, along with elimination of the constitutional provision referring to the national feature of the Romanian state. While cultural autonomy was included in the program of the Union’s governing alongside the Justice and Truth Alliance (DA), its crumbling compromised the original openness.
The cultural policy envisioned by the UDMR (volunteer and community-oriented) was FIDESZ-inspired somehow, some of which aimed at promoting representative values, some folkloric or traditional (local folk dance clubs, taking care of the historic monuments neglected by the Romanian state), others combining formal modernism with nationalist touches (rock operas, for example). Still, the cultural war in Hungary (between the left and the right) has not moved to Ardeal, mainly that the UDMR’s relationship with the Magyar Socialists has always been better than with Orban’s conservatives (more concerned with diaspora, as a principle).
Controlling cultural policy via own councils however raises question marks, as it introduces two-edged control and financing forms, since supporting a Magyar cultural product (language and author) is one thing, and promoting one that also has the role of preserving and strengthening Magyar identity (a fluid and nonetheless subjective concept) is different altogether.
With respect to regional autonomy, UDMR got stuck in deep mud, so much so that we could even agree with Kelemen Hunor, who denounced competition from Laszlo Tokes’s party as its cause. The flare-up in public polemics has actually made the issue into a taboo. The configuration of the new regions will most likely divide the Szekler Land in two, at the best, yet, even such prospect is unsure, with its three counties becoming part of a region alongside others. This could prove a compromise solution relatively acceptable to the Magyars, too, who would see it as a first step.
Unfortunately, their region discourse veered toward the symbolic dimension, while neglecting the economic aspects of the problem. However much would their local patriotism entice them to strive achieving a local economic boom, the Szeklers risk remaining, even as a united administrative unit, an underdeveloped and disadvantaged region. Nationalist ego does not necessarily makes you prosperous. If the `national state` wording is obsolete, obviously, its elimination would not bring any significant changes. At most, it would give Magyars an autonomist (and even nationalist) impulse, as they would likely make some concrete demands over a `multinational` governance being `implemented`. If a positive discrimination policy promoting an increase in women’s representation, for example, would not lead to social conflicts, not the same could be said of ethnic communities.
The stake, realistically speaking, remains the conflict (armed or mere political), with its various secessionist alternatives, a type of conflict where symbolic aspects play a role more significant than one might think. While acceptance of the un-national feature of the state could be but a purely symbolic victory, as was the case with the exhibiting of the monument in Arad, it could nonetheless become a premise for future political demands, as it would be perceived as a weakness from the majority ethnic group holding the power that deserves being exploited in future. This is why renouncing the provision concerned would be more acceptable by changing the entire constitutional philosophy, which may also allow the issue being taken out of a balance of forces competing against each other first and foremost. This is an area where legal expert-politicians could get innovative, though how many parties think of daring reforms after all?
The UDMR challenge should not be looked at as a tainted, but stimulating one in a political landscape where failures are also due to excessive caution and conformism. Even a change in bicameral legislative philosophy, with one of them becoming a representative body of the future regions, could mean a bolder political reform favoring not just ` local barons`.
However, what UDMR needs now is partners. It is awaiting proposals, but a change in strategy could be an alternative to excessive flexibility, which erodes its popularity and decreases its efficiency after all. Why wouldn’t it put together a list of preferred partners, testing the ground for less conjectural alliances? Political blackmailing has been its weapon all too often, which led to its inability to make friends, and serious politics cannot be made without friends, problematic as they might be. What Romanian party would run for election in alliance with UDMR?