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German Newspaper Spiegel on Romanian President: “A Prize-Winning Agitator”

Hungary Today 2020.05.06.

An opinion article about Klaus Iohannis appeared in German newspaper Spiegel on Monday with the title “An agitator as Charlemagne Prize winner.” According to the author, the recent manifestation of the Romanian president is reminiscent of “dark times.” The Romanian president recently accused his country’s social democratic party of “secretly trying” to “return Transylvania to Hungary.”

The Chamber of Deputies in Romania, whose largest faction is the PSD, had not previously scheduled a vote on a draft law on the territorial autonomy of the Székler country. According to Romanian law, bills that are not voted on within 45 days after their presentation are automatically considered as approved. Although it was unthinkable for the bill to become a law from the get-go, President Klaus Iohannis still accused the Social Democratic Party (PSD) of “wanting to relinquish Transylvania to Hungary.” The bill has since been rejected by the Romanian Senate, the other chamber of the Romanian Parliament.

Iohannis said that while he was trying to fight the corona pandemic as president together with the government, the representatives of the Hungarian minority and the opposition Social Democrats had plotted together. “They are fighting in Parliament’s secret offices to give Transylvania to Hungarians,” said Iohannis. He then personally addressed the head of the Social Democrats, Marcel Ciolacu, asking “What did the leader from Budapest, Viktor Orbán, promise them for this?”

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The article recalls that Iohannis was awarded the Charlemagne Prize (Karlspreis) at the end of last year. Every year, the city of Aachen awards the prize to a personality who is characterized by their defense of European values.

“But now, the current award-winner Klaus Iohannis is inciting public opinion against the Hungarian minority in Romania. This reminds some of dark times.”


Keno Verseck, the author of the article, also recalls that Iohannis was previously considered a politician “who resists nationalist temptations.” He added that “…in Eastern Europe, this has long ceased to be the rule among heads of state and government, which is why Iohannis received the Aachen Charlemagne Prize this year.”

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The author of the opinion piece states that “Iohannis belongs to the minority of Transylvanian Saxons in Romania, who were collectively suspected of fascism after the Second World War and, like all minorities in the country, had painful experiences with the grotesque nationalism of the Ceausescu dictatorship. But now, Iohannis himself is playing a political game with one of the worst clichés of Romanian nationalists – the myth that Hungary is striving to split off the Transylvanian part of the country and is using the Hungarian minority of Romania as the fifth column.”

Verseck also brought up the “Black March,” when “conspiracy theories on the secession of Transylvania brought Romania to the brink of a civil war in March 1990. To date, Romanian nationalists like to riot collectively against the country’s almost one and a half million Hungarians.”

At the end of the article, the author emphasizes that Iohannis’ latest statement in post-communist Romania is unprecedented. It was also unprecedented that “a head of state of an EU country accuses an EU neighbor of pursuing separatist plans in the middle of the corona crisis.”

Numerous politicians and prominent publicists also condemned Iohannis’ statements, and they asked the president for an apology. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán reacted rather calmly – although he had not heard such sentences “even in the worst anti-democratic, confused times, from Romania.” Until the clarification of Iohanni’s statements, however, he would recommend not to bend “for the glove thrown in front of us.”


The author of the article, Keno Verseck grew up in the German Democratic Republic, which he left in 1984. Since 1991, Verseck has been reporting as a freelance journalist on Central and Southeast European countries with a focus on Hungary and Romania, where he worked from 1991 to 2000 as a correspondent in Budapest, Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Brașov, and Miercurea Ciuc. He has also reported on scientific topics such as astronomy, astrophysics, and space travel for German and Romanian-language newspapers, radio, and television stations. Since 2000, he has been traveling regularly to research in Central and Southeast Europe. His publications have appeared, among others, in Berliner Zeitung, Der Standard, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Spiegel Online, Die Zeit and Technology Review, while his reports have been broadcast by Deutschlandfunk, Westdeutscher Rundfunk, the BBC, and Deutsche Welle. (via wikipedia.org)

Original article by Ungarn Heute based on Spiegel, translated by Hungary Today

featured photo: MTI/EPA/AFP/Ludovic Marin

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