The deadline for the signature drive to ensure European Union protection for ethnic regions across communities has reached an end. Although the team responsible for collecting the necessary signatures has so far managed to gather a lot more than one million signatures, reaching the required threshold in 5 member states, two more countries were needed to ultimately succeed. However, in hopes the EU will allow another extension of the deadline, the collection of signatures will continue, with the campaign team confident of success in the end.
The Szekler National Council (SZNT) launched its European Citizens’ Initiative on protecting national regions last spring. The initiative aims to convince the European Commission to create a policy that instead of directing cohesion funds to national governments alone, allocates some of the transfers directly to ‘ethno-regions’ in order to help them develop their infrastructure and thereby preserve their linguistic and cultural heritage.
In order for the petition to be discussed in the EP, one million signatures must be collected from seven member countries and these should amount to at least 750 times the number of MEPs from each country.
The 1 million signatures and the additional threshold were fulfilled by the original deadline in May this year in three countries: Hungary, Slovakia, and Romania.
As paper-based, in-person collection has become impossible due to the coronavirus pandemic, the European Parliament voted in July to push back the original deadline to November 7th, giving another chance for the petition to succeed.
In the past month, the campaign team decided to make a push for the additionally required signatures in several EU countries. As a result of their efforts, the threshold has been reached in two additional countries: Lithuania and Croatia, raising the number of countries to a total of five where the necessary number of signatures have been collected.
Unfortunately, this means that the petition is still not successful, but the campaign team has decided not to stop their hard work as they are certain that the EU will allow another extension due to the pandemic. The fact that the signature collection on the main website of the petition has not been deactivated suggests that there is still hope.
As the head of the campaign team behind the petition drive revealed, they will now focus on five countries: Slovenia, Spain, Belgium, Sweden, and Latvia. They are confident that once Swedish Olympic gold medalist swimmer Sarah Sjöström, and former president of Catalonia Carles Puigdemont join the campaign, they will succeed.
E. Sylvester Vizi, the former president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (MTA) and the chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Friends of Hungary Foundation, publisher of Hungary Today, also pointed out that
cultural and/or territorial autonomy for a national minority could also be advantageous for the entire society in which it exists”
Vizi wrote that experience shows that those regions that enjoy autonomy experience economic growth and an upswing in cultural and scientific life. In this sense, the cultural and territorial autonomy planned for Szeklerland could be beneficial for both the Hungarian minority living there and the Romanian majority.
If you agree with the goal of the initiative and want the EU to help and pay special attention to regions with national, ethnic, cultural, religious, or linguistic characteristics that are different from those of the surrounding regions, you can sign the petition online by clicking here.
Featured photo by Nándor Veres/MTI