The Mikó Imre Association for the Protection of Minority Rights has turned to the National Council for Combating Discrimination because they find it discriminatory that the coronavirus vaccination campaign is not being carried out in Hungarian as well in areas where Transylvanian-Hungarians live. According to the association, several ethnic Hungarian people reported that only Romanian-language forms are available in the vaccination centers.
Everybody applying for the vaccination must first fill out a form, providing information about previous illnesses, medicines they are taking, etc. The problem is that these questions can only be understood by knowing complicated medical terminology in Romanian, which can be difficult for ethnic Hungarians living in Szeklerland or other parts of Transylvania because their mother tongue is Hungarian, not Romanian.
The association sent a letter to Secretary of State Raed Arafat last week asking for a Hungarian-language vaccination campaign as well in order to better inform people and allow them to fill out all necessary papers. The association received an answer on Wednesday via e-mail from the National Vaccination Campaign Coordinator Committee, in which it is explained that vaccination-related information is also available in English on the website set up for this purpose.
President of the Mikó Imre Association Erika Benkő was “shocked” at this answer since they were asking for precise and official information for the ethnic Hungarian community. “I found it highly cynical that people can be informed about the vaccination in English but not in Hungarian.”– she said to szekelyhon.ro and continued: “This is especially outraging because in the first phase of the vaccination campaign, people over the age of 65 are given priority, and this age group is the one that, through no fault of its own, could not study Romanian very well. What kind of message is this to the Transylvanian Hungarian community?” she asked.
The Vaccination Campaign Coordinator Committee also sent an attachment with their e-mail in which, after referring to the 13th clause of the Romanian Constitution, they wrote that the official language of Romania is Romanian, but at the same time, informing people in Hungarian is the duty of local authorities, and vaccination-related documents were sent in an editable file format, which can be translated.
The committee’s opinion is that local authorities are the ones with the legal basis and suitable staff to execute the translation of the texts. The Mikó Imre Association disagrees with the above and has now turned to the National Council for Combating Discrimination; it has also asked local authorities to take every step necessary to provide the possibility for Hungarians to obtain information in their mother tongue. Benkő additionally highlighted that there are countries, for example, Norway, where, besides the country’s official language and English, people are also informed in the various languages of guest workers precisely to ensure that they also can fully understand what is going on.
“Compared to this, the government here [in Romania] totally ignores the language rights of a 1.3 million-person community.”– she said. We would also like to add to the above that Transylvanian Hungarians are not guest workers but an indigenous national minority living in Transylvania for more than a thousand years.