Hungarian MEP László Tőkés has blamed the EU and the Romanian government for undermining the principles of democracy and human rights amid numerous accusations that ethnic Hungarians living in Romania’s Transylvania region have been discriminated against by local authorities.
Speaking at a conference on “self-determination in the EU”, Tokes called on Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to “abandon the practices of oppression” and “give rights to ethnic minorities” to determine their own destiny.
“The EU and Romanian government directly violate the principle of self-determination that is enshrined in the UN charter. The Hungarians that are living in Transylvania have never given up their right to have their own fate and destiny (in their hands). I call on the EU to support our people in their demands for autonomy,” Tokes said.
While addressing the conference, Tokes, a former dissident and an outspoken critic of Hungary’s Communist past, also expressed support for the Catalan independence movement its leaders, many of whom are currently jailed in Spain for charges of sedition.
According to the results of Romania’s 2011 Census, about 1.2 million ethnic Hungarians live in Transylvania. Having been a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the region enjoyed varying degrees of an autonomy in the early 20th century,
In 1920, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, which fought on the side of Central Powers that included Germany, Bulgaria and the Ottoman Empire, was forced to sign the Treaty of Trianon, according to which Hungary lost least two-thirds of its former territory, including Transylvania, which was given to Romania. Other historic Hungarian regions were handed over to what is now Slovakia, Ukraine, and Serbia.
Though the issue of Hungarians living in Transylvania has not hindered relations between Bucharest and Budapest, the government of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban continues to use it as political leverage to assert influence on neighbouring countries with Hungarian population in exchange for political and trade concessions.
The latest row has seen Hungary and its eastern neighbour Ukraine engage in a tit-for-tat over a decision by Ukraine’s parliament – the Verkhovna Rada – to pass a legislative package on education that bars primary education to all students in any language but Ukrainian.
According to Orban, the legislation infringes on the rights of up to 150,000 ethnic Hungarians who live mainly in western Ukraine’s Zakarpattia Oblast, which was also once a part of the Kingdom of Hungary, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Czechoslovakia before it was annexed by the Soviet Union in June 1945.
As a protest against the controversial education law, Hungary has blocked Ukraine’s attempt to further integrate with the European Union and NATO until Kiev takes into consideration Hungary’s concerns.