The Democratic Alliance of Hungarians (DAHR) in Romania held its biyearly congress this past weekend, where – among other things – the roughly 1000 delegates of the organisation adopted a resolution, in which they stipulated that the Hungarian flag, the Szekler flag, as well as the Hungarian and the Szekler anthem are the national symbols of the Hungarian community in Romania. This was necessary in light of the increased scrutiny by Romanian authorities in recent years against the use of these flags, as well as against the singing in public of the two anthems, a scrutiny that often resulted in legal action and even fines for the use of the above-mentioned symbols.

The resolution adopted by DAHR was followed by an immediate backlash from some prominent  Romanian political figures. Former prime minister Mihai Tudose, who in early 2018 threatened to hang Hungarian political leaders who dared to hoist the Szekler flag, once again demonstrated his deep intolerance towards the symbols of the Hungarian minority. He wrote on his social media page: “Everyone is free to sing under the shower, at home, whatever they want. And to have on the walls of their bedroom whatever colours they want. BUT outside their home, this COUNTRY where they, the ethnic Hungarians live, is Romania!! Its anthem is that of Romania. Its flag is that of Romania.”

Tudose is now a member of Pro Romania, the newly formed party of former prime minister Victor Ponta. The vice-president of this new party, Laurențiu Rebega, also came out harshly against the use of the Hungarian minority’s symbols, “warning” the leaders of DAHR that “Pro Romania does not accept such an attack against the integrity and the sovereignty of Romania”. Unfortunately, not content with expressing his disapproval against the use of these symbols, Rebega willfully exaggerated and distorted facts, accusing DAHR of separatism and of wanting to create “an ethnic enclave on Romanian territory”.

Former president Traian Băsescu, who has been known in recent years to publicly incite hatred against the Hungarian community in Romania, frequently voicing his disapproval against the official use of the Hungarian language, as well as the symbols of the Hungarian minority, has also joined the chorus of indignants following the events of the past weekend. He took opposition parties to task for even accepting the invitation of DAHR to take part in the congress, where – according to Băsescu – representatives of DAHR made “unconstitutional, autonomist” statements. Regarding the flags and the anthems that DAHR adopted as being the national symbols of the Hungarian community, the former president said that these measures are “offensive to Romania”.

We find it extremely regrettable that the use of the Hungarian community’s national symbols is still met with such animosity and intolerance in today’s Romania. Even more disconcerting is the fact that the rhetoric employed by the above-cited prominent political leaders is reminiscent of the xenophobic and chauvinist messages and ideas that were rampant within the Romanian political discourse of the ‘90. Following the nationalist backlash, Hunor Kelemen, the president of DAHR, said that the goal of the party was simply to transmit a message to Romanian society, namely that the Hungarian community wants to be allowed to use freely and without the fear of retribution “the symbols which define us, and which are a part of our ethnic and linguistic identity”.