Present in the Szekely community, President Iohannis was able to see on his own how Viktor Orban’s Government is doing for the locals more than local governments are doing. In principle, it seems natural, considering ethnic solidarity. In fact, it’s only a perverse situation full of ticking time bombs. Could it be a deliberate political strategy? Are Romanian politicians afraid of prosperity rising in this area, potentially strengthening its autonomy ambitions? At any rate, investments in local infrastructure have been visibly overlooked for a quarter of century. Even the investments of the current Government place the Szekely area on the last place when it comes to governmental interest. An attitude that can only hike the locals’ suspicion toward a state that sees them as second-class citizens. From this standpoint, the Szekelys are discriminated.
At the same time, such a prolonged frustration only serves to harden identity clenching and, implicitly, autonomy dreams. Which, as our President pointed out too, are anachronistic. Firstly, because they are profoundly discriminatory, being set to transform the Romanians living in the area into second-class citizens. But, at the same time, because it would go against the laws of the economy, which are opposed to artificial barriers. Neglected by Bucharest, the Szekelys console themselves with the help of Budapest.
Based on a nationalist and conservative ideology, Premier Orban’s regime is thrilled with its high popularity in this area, especially since many of the locals are its voters in the neighbouring country’s elections. Thus, Hungarians, who were once among the staunches philo-Europeans among the locals, are ready to turn their backs on it, won over by the siren songs of the Hungarian leader. Who has become a trojan horse within the EU, closer to Moscow than to Brussels, and who has found a new political friend in the Israeli Premier – also a right-wing Premier –, another opponent of the values of European politics. And thus, Hungarians in Romania, starting with the Szekelys, are becoming increasingly eurosceptical with each passing day. Or want to transform the EU into a conservative redoubt, an outlook that can only be fatal for it.
At the same time, if so little has changed for so long in the Szekely community, that’s also the fault of the UDMR. Even though they were often in power, Hungarian politicians didn’t do much for the Szekelys either. Instead of permanently invoking the expansion of some linguistic rights – for instance, specific Baccalaureate – they should have modernised the road network. Why haven’t they? Why isn’t this on the priority list when they negotiate with the ruling power? Visible are not only the potholes but also the deforested areas.
Massive deforestation has UDMR flavour too. But since Hungarian political alternatives were only leaning toward even more nationalism and autonomy, nothing promising has happened in the area’s politics. UDMR has been for years the captive of its strategy as blackmailing kingmaker minority which stakes solely on specific issues, ignoring structural and ideological approaches. At the limit of political prostitution, the Hungarian party gave up on an overall platform that would bring Hungarians prosperity along with prosperity for all Romanians. It thus ended up supporting its partners’ measures, measures that are, in fact, contrary to the wider interests of its electorate. It’s true that Romanian parties are also at fault, not committing, in a principled manner, to a set of ethnic minority rights that they would support differently than in terms of a barter. Thus, they left the Hungarians to find their way about as best they can, but the effects are rather perverse for everyone.
It’s not by chance that Klaus Iohannis preceded Viktor Orban in the Szekely area by a few days. The Hungarian Premier is already a regional leader, allied with other eurosceptics opposed to the EU’s current directions. We could even say that between two Germans – Klaus Iohannis and Angela Merkel – now stands the powerful wall of the so-called Visegrad Group, which, basically, puts us in some difficulty as a state located on a problematic periphery of the continent. For Romanian democracy and economy, the EU is vital, and this interference of autocracy and conservatism makes our future harder. That is why investing in the Szekely area is a matter of political wisdom.