Thursday, February 5, 2009

Romania says no to autonomy

BUDAPEST (AFP) – Romania will “never” grant territorial autonomy to a Hungarian-speaking minority in Transylvania, Romanian President Traian Basescu said during a two-day visit to Hungary that ended here yesterday.

Basescu wrapped up the trip with a visit to representatives of the Romanian community in southeast Hungary yesterday.

Asked at a joint news conference late Monday with his Hungarian counterpart, Laszlo Solyom, as to when Hungarians in Transylvania might be awarded territorial autonomy, the Romanian leader replied, “Never.” “There will never be territorial autonomy as long as Romania is a unified and sovereign state. Romania will never recognize the collective rights of ethnic minorities,” Basescu said.

Bucharest would always recognize “the individual rights of representatives of minorities in matters of mother-tongue education, culture and parliamentary representation,” Basescu said. For his part, Hungarian President Solyom reaffirmed his country’s support for making the region in Transylvania autonomous, but “strictly within a constitutional framework.” Close to 1.5 million Hungarians currently live in Romania. Basescu insisted that Romania’s policies toward minorities are in line with EU standards.

But Hungarian President Solyom insisted such standards were “minimal.” The head of the Hungarian Democratic Alliance in Romania (RMDSz), Bela Marko, said that while Basescu’s stance on autonomy was widely acknowledged, the comments he made in Budapest were “much sharper and less diplomatic than ever before.”

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