The Honorary Council of the Order of the Star of Romania has decided to withdraw the civil decoration bestowed on national leader of the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR) Kelemen Hunor, on account of Kelemen’s recent statements according to which the leaders of UDMR and the Hungarian community have nothing to celebrate on Romania’s Great Union Centennial in 2018, council member Mircea Geoana has told Agerpres.
The decision will be forwarded to President Klaus Iohannis, who will decide whether to withdraw the civil decoration via presidential decree.
The decision was taken with five votes to one abstention, as one of the council members was absent.
In a recent interview with the Szabadsag Hungarian-language daily, Kelemen talked about the preparations for the Great Union Centennial in 2018. The leader of UDMR allegedly said that the leaders of UDMR and the Hungarians have nothing to celebrate on the Centennial and that he fears that, in the absence of achievements over the past 100 years, Romanian politicians will resort to nationalist speeches.
“Although the Hungarians have nothing to celebrate on the Centennial [of Romania’s 1 December 1918 Great Union] they respect December 1st,” Kelemen said in that interview.
In 2000, Kelemen received a Star of Romania civil decoration with the rank of Commodore.
Kelemen Hunor: If my Star of Romania decoration is withdrawn, I’ll remain who I was, I’ll speak freely. The message conveyed is bad
Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) President Kelemen Hunor considers that the proposal to withdraw his Star of Romania civil decoration is wrong, since it goes against freedom of expression. The Hungarian leader added he remains unchanged and will continue to speak freely.
On Thursday, Kelemen told Mediafax that the message conveyed is “bad.”
“The decision is wrong, but it’s their right, I certainly did not do what it is claimed in the complaint. The most important thing is that the message conveyed is bad, it says that if you enter this select club of those who received awards from the Romanian state then you cannot speak freely. Freedom of expression is visibly restricted, without this being set in law, but through such decisions it is conveyed in society that on certain issues you do not have the right to speak freely and if you do we will kick you out from that select club. The message is bad for the Hungarian community too. It was expected; if I look at what statements were made by some members of the Honorary Council of the Order of the Star of Romania, this decision does not surprise me,” Kelemen said.
According to him, in August he was invited at a Council meeting where he had a tense but fair discussion in which he explained what he wanted to publicly state.
“They informed me they will convene at a subsequent date, and now I found out about the decision. I did not ask for this civil decoration in 2000, but I felt honoured. It did not make me better or worse, and I received it for improving Romanian-Hungarian cultural relations. And now, to come after 17 years and to say you withdraw this civil decoration… this renders relative everything this Order means, but also those actions, those merits for which it was conferred at one point. If my Order is withdrawn via presidential decree, that will not change me at all, I will remain who I was and we will move on, I will continue to speak freely about everything I believe I must say and I will say it without offending anyone,” the UDMR President added.
Asked whether in his opinion President Klaus Iohannis will act on the proposal to withdraw his Order of the Star of Romania civil decoration, Kelemen Hunor said he does not want to speculate.
“We’ll see, the decision is his,” the UDMR President said.
On the other hand, in an UDMR communique issued on Thursday in relation to the Honorary Council’s proposal to have his civil decoration withdrawn, Kelemen Hunor pointed out that the goal of Hungarians in Romania must continue to be the free expression of opinions.
“We must take responsibility for our opinions without fear, even if all the decorations we have received are withdrawn. Our objective, as Hungarians in Romania, must be to freely take responsibility for our opinions, to think and to work together with all Romanians who are open to dialogue,” Kelemen said in a press statement released on Thursday.
“Among the basic principles of democracy is the freedom of individuals to act in accordance with their own conscience and to choose their own way of action. Thus, citizens have the right to celebrate when they feel like doing so and they also have the freedom to voice their thoughts, opinions and desiderata. The message conveyed by the withdrawal of the decoration is that freedom of speech in Romania today is diminished,” said Kelemen.
In Kelemen’s opinion, in the current context in which anti-Hungarian rhetoric is ever more frequently and virulently used, Hungarians must state who they are and what their 21st Century desiderata are.
“We must express ourselves openly and clearly, similarly in 2018 and always. Our intention was never to offend the majority nation and there will be no such intention from now on either,” UDMR President Kelemen Hunor emphasised, adding that he upholds all points of view expressed in the interview published by the Szabadsag Hungarian-language daily.
“If something changes, I will let you know,” the UDMR President concluded.