The High Court of Cassation and Justice, Romania’s supreme court, in a final judgement annulled a decision of the National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD) from 2014. The decision in question was a milestone as far as minority rights protection is concerned, since it stated that the lack of bilingual street name signs in Târgu Mureș/Marosvásárhely constitutes discrimination and suggested that the Mayor’s Office placed the street name signs in two languages: Romanian and Hungarian. As a reaction to this, the Mayor’s Office brought the CNCD and the NGO that put up the bilingual street signs to court, asking for the Council’s decision to be annulled.
The supreme court’s decision comes after the Mureș Court of Appeal’s first degree ruling in favour of the Mayor’s Office. It is worth mentioning that the Romanian Law on the Local Public Administration clearly states that in the territorial-administrative units where the citizens belonging to the national minorities account for over 20% of the inhabitants, the public local authorities must ensure the use of that language in relations with them. Interpretations of these provisions lead to applying the law exclusively in the case of the name signs of the settlements and the inscriptions of the respective authorities, but not the street name signs.
Moreover, Romania has ratified the European Charter for Regional and Minority Languages in 2008, in which it undertook to use the place-names in regional or minority languages in conjunction with the name in the official language. In a 2012 report on the application of the Charter, several recommendations were included, interpreting the term “place-name” as meaning not only the name of settlements, but also street names, for example. Nota bene, Târgu Mureș/Marosvásárhely is a city in Transylvania, Romania, having a 45% Hungarian population.