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National Regions Signature Drive Concludes, Belgium 11th Country to Meet Threshold

Hungary Today 2021.05.10.

After multiple extensions due to the pandemic, Szekler National Council’s (SZNT) signature drive has finally concluded, with Belgium the 11th country to meet the threshold. After a hopefully successful verification, the issue will be considered by the European Parliament, and the initiators also promise to turn the drive into a movement.

The purpose of the initiative was to convince the European Commission to create a policy that would allocate cohesion funds directly to ‘ethno-regions’ to help them develop their infrastructures and preserve their linguistic and cultural heritage. Currently, only national governments receive such payments.

The petition can only be discussed in the European Parliament if one million signatures are collected from seven member countries and these amount to at least 750 times the number of MEPs from each country.

After four extensions due to the pandemic situation that made any such campaign even more difficult, just on the final day, Belgium jumped above the limit, raising the total number of countries managing to do so to eleven (Hungary, Romania, Slovakia, Croatia, Ireland, Spain, Latvia, Slovenia, Sweden, Lithuania, and Belgium). In addition, the organizers claim that some 1.4 million signatures have been collected altogether,

SZNT president Balázs Izsák said that their next task is the signatures’ verification, hopefully keeping these favorable numbers afterward. He also revealed that now they aim to turn the drive into a movement, with the goal of bringing in those regions (Corsica, Bretagne, Bavaria) that didn’t take part in the signature drive.

At the press conference held in Sepsiszentgyörgy (Sfântu Gheorghe), Romania, Izsák recalled the very first steps of the organization made at the Makfalva (Ghindari) in 2013. Ever since, a number of factors have either helped them or made the drive’s success a bumpy ride. On the positive side, he highlighted the Hungarian Parliament’s unanimous support last year, and interestingly, Romanian president Klaus Iohannis’s controversial words about Hungarians. made in April 2020.

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If the verification is successful, it will be up to the European Parliament to discuss the topic. If adopted it would then be sent to the EC for legislation. The Commission, however, not long ago turned down a similar initiative trying to protect the rights of minorities.

featured image illustration via Márton Mónus/MTI