Romanian President Klaus Iohannis was fined for around 1000 Euros for discrimination and hate speech against Hungarians, following his statement last month accusing Romania’s social democratic party of “secretly trying” to “return Transylvania to Hungary” and using Hungarian words in a mocking manner. According to the decision of the National Anti-Discrimination Council, the Romanian President violated the human dignity of Hungarian nationals in Romania with the accusation and the Hungarian greeting.
Iohannis stirs diplomatic tension between Romania and Hungary
The Romanian president recently accused his country’s social democratic party (PSD), the biggest faction in the lower House, of “secretly trying” to “return Transylvania to Hungary” after the lower House failed to schedule a vote on the Szekler Territorial Autonomy bill, due to the chaos caused by the coronavirus epidemic. Thus, the statute had not been discussed for 45 days, so it automatically passed.
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The remarks of Iohannis caused domestic outrage and stirred up some diplomatic tension between Romania and Hungary. Since then, several opinion pieces were written about the case, and the Szekler National Council also announced that they are pressing charges against the Romanian head of state for incitement, and the Association of Hungarian Organizations in Germany wrote a letter to the Board of the Charlemagne Prize, saying that Iohannis is unworthy of the honor.
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Romanian anti-discrimination council fines Iohannis
On Wednesday, the National Anti-Discrimination Council (CNCD) of Romania declared Iohannis’ statement, accusing his Social Democratic opponents of selling out Transylvania to Hungary and mocking them with a Hungarian-language greeting, hate speech, by a 6:1 ratio. The board imposed a fine of 5000 lei (HUF 360,000/EUR 1000) on the head of state.
Csaba Asztalos, the president of the CNCD, said that in such cases, it is not the amount of the fine that matters, but the fact that a state institution has established the violation. The council can impose fines ranging from 2,000 to 100,000 lei, so the fine imposed on the head of state is a moderate one. Asztalos added that although “the president has the right to act in all cases where the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the state is at stake, this must be done in a way that avoids hate speech.”
The CNCD president added an explanation for the majority vote, saying that “Hungarians want to steal Transylvania” was one of the slogans on which nationalist communist Romania was built and on which the country’s assimilation policy was based, and this continued even after 1990. He said that “the head of state was also aware of all this.”
The CNCD’s decision may be challenged in court by Iohannis within 15 days after its publication. The presidential office said Klaus Iohannis had taken note of the CNCD’s decision, but as he considered it to be a purely political decision, he will appeal against in court.
Romanian Prime Minister: Iohannis fined unfairly for discrimination against Hungarians
At the same time, Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban launched a sharp attack on Wednesday against the Anti-Discrimination Council, saying the body had unjustly fined President Klaus Iohannis for claims of violating the human dignity of Hungarian nationals of Romania.
The Prime Minister described Iohannis’ conviction as a shocking political decision, which he said had nothing to do with the law regarding the sanctioning of discrimination.
According to Orban, the council is under the influence of the Social Democrats (PSD). He said that Iohannis did not discriminate against Hungarians and was only punished for “exposing” the “complicity” between the PSD and the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ).
The PM added that in his view, Iohannis is punished for defending the constitutional principle of the country’s territorial integrity and drawing attention to the “unacceptable compromises” that the Social Democrats, who governed the country until last year, had made in the last three years to gain the support of RMDSZ. He said this includes passing a law to “make the use of minority languages mandatory everywhere” and allowed (due to the expiration of the deadline for parliamentary debate) the draft law on the autonomy of the “so-called Szeklerland” to be pushed forward.
Ludovic Orban is the president of the center-right National Liberal Party (PNL) which has been governing with a minority since last autumn. Klaus Iohannis was elected as head of state in 2014 from the same party.
RMDSZ: Iohannis applies double standard
According to Hunor Kelemen, president of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ), Iohannis applies a double standard, as he was satisfied with the CNCD when the body defended him and the German minority organization he had previously led, against a nationalist attack.
Now, however, when the anti-discrimination council has ruled by an overwhelming majority that the head of state has made a mistake, discriminated against and violated the dignity of an ethnic community, he considers it a political decision. Kelemen added that Klaus Iohannis must publicly apologize for his unfounded, offensive statement from a month earlier.
featured photo: MTI/EPA/Robert Ghement