Open letter to President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis

Tomorrow, July 16, 2017, Romania’s President Klaus Iohannis makes an official visit to Szeklerland in Transylvania, after he won the elections for 3 years ago. The protestant former physics teacher from Romania’s ethnic German minority and former mayor of Sibiu, vowed to change politics and said ”another kind of Romania is beginning”.

Open letter to President of Romania, Mr. Klaus Iohannis

Dear Mr. President!

On November 2014 the Szekler people voted in large numbers for you, contributing to your electoral victory. They did so bearing in mind that as a Transylvanian Saxon you are familiar with both the problems of the national communities living in Romania, as well as the tolerant political heritage of Transylvania. They hoped that under your presidency the way that the Romanian authorities relate to Szeklerland, its specific problems and the Szekler people will change.

After more than two and a half years we have to conclude, that none of the above expectations were fulfilled! The attitude of the authorities did change indeed, but for the worse. The prefects and other public officials are at war with our mother tongue and symbols, and they even dispute our right to express an opinion on fundamental issues that directly affect us, such as the administrative reorganisation of the country. In addition, also the judiciary has recently been involved in further narrowing our rights, making judgements that are manifestly contrary to the laws in force. In the meantime, you remained silent, refused to engage in a dialogue, and sent meaningless answers, or simply left the petitions of the Szekler National Council unanswered. You refused to intervene in accordance with your constitutional powers and responsibilities when the state institutions and authorities violated individual or community rights. Much unworthy to an honourable European politician, you objected against having a dialogue about the autonomy of Szeklerland, a legal institution that functions in numerous European countries, to the utmost satisfaction of the given minority as well as the majority. The nearest example in this respect is Transylvania itself, where such traditions have been known for over 800 years, the beneficiaries of which was the Transylvanian Saxon community, among others.

Dear Mr. President!

Tomorrow you will visit Szeklerland “to be informed about the local problems, the local reality, and the possibilities for developing the region”. If this intention is honest, you will inevitably confront infringements of public authorities, and the autonomy aspiration of the Szekler people, as we believe that the region’s autonomy is the most important asset for future development. These are all things that we drew your attention to earlier, so far without results. With the hope that you intend to change this attitude, we are formulating the following requests:

  1. By making use of your presidential powers, please call on all public authorities to respect Romania’s international obligations (also enshrined in domestic law), to stop the war against our language and symbols. This warfare is offensive to our community; it overshadows Romania’s international reputation, and is unworthy for a member state of the Council of Europe.  
  1. Guarantee that the state will provide the necessary financial resources for bilingual administration, for all the institutions concerned, including the local authorities in Szeklerland, in accordance with the international commitments already mentioned above. Therefore, do not promulgate a budget law that does not meet this condition.  
  1. Engage in a dialogue with the representatives of Szeklerland on the future of the region, and play an active role in the adoption of the autonomy that is desired by Szeklers, and that is successful in so many European countries. In this respect, give assurances that if the administrative reorganisation of the country will take place, it will be done in accordance with the principles set out in the Stanomir Report, and as a consequence one of the administrative regions to be created will cover the historical Szeklerland, in line with the will already expressed by a considerable number of municipalities of Szeklerland.

I am hoping, that your visit will truly mean the beginning of a new era.

Respectfully yours,

Balázs Izsák

President of the Szekler National Council

Tg-Mures/Marosvásárhely, 17 July 2017.

Source: Szekler National Council

Short facts

According to the 2011 census, there are about 1.2 million (1 237 746) ethnic Hungarians in Romania, making up 6.5% of the total population. Half the Hungarians living in Romania are Szeklers, a Hungarian-speaking subgroup living mostly in what is known as the Szeklerland, an ethno-cultural region in eastern Transylvania.

From the Middle Ages through the mid-19th century, the region enjoyed varying degrees of autonomy, until the Austro-Hungarian Compromise of 1867 and several administrative reforms in the 1870s abolished all the autonomous areas in the Kingdom of Hungary, including Szeklerland.

After World War II, the Romanian government created a Hungarian Autonomous Region in the Szeklerland, which existed from 1952 until 1968 when the Communist government reformed the administrative divisions of the country to eliminate any identification of regions by ethnic or cultural divisions.

Following the fall of Communism, Romania’s subsequent democratic governments preserved the administrative division of the country, which led to the creation of several initiatives by ethnic Hungarians who wanted to re-establish autonomy.