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Bill Targeting Ethnic Hungarians Criticized in Romania

Lawmaker insists that his proposal to criminalize attempts at 'changing the constitutional order' isn’t aimed at protesters. 

6 March 2017

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One would think that this was not the best time to introduce controversial legislation in Romania – just weeks after the largest protests in post-1989 history made the government backtrack on a law decriminalizing some instances of corruption.

 

Yet Tudor Ciuhodaru (pictured), a parliamentary member from the ruling Social Democrat Party (PSD), has been attempting to push through a new law that has human rights activists on edge, Balkan Insight writes. The bill, cited by Mediafax, carries jail sentences of between six months and three years for actions “carried out with the aim of changing the constitutional order, or hindering or preventing the state from wielding its power.” 

 

Ciuhodaru told Digi24 that his aim was to fill a gap in existing legislation, related to “extremist and separatist movements.”

 

“Extremist and separatist movements are condemned throughout the entire world (…) especially when it comes to desecrating national symbols, and the laws need to be very strict,” Ciuhodaru said according to Digi24.

 

Ciuhodaru also stressed in a Facebook post that the law didn’t target protests such as the recent ones against the government, and that he had first presented the idea in 2012, after episodes of unrest in the Szekler community, a subgroup of the country’s 1.2 million Hungarian community in central Transylvania. According to Balkan Insight, Ciuhodaru said he wrote the bill before the recent disturbances, with the proposed legislation only reaching the Senate last week.

 

Social Democrat spokesperson Adrian Dobre said that his party doesn’t support Ciuhodaru’s proposal, which has several flaws related to its constitutionality, according to a different Digi24 article.

 

 

  • Ethnic politics in Transylvania can prove a tricky subject, as U.S. Ambassador to Romania Hans Klemm discovered last fall. Klemm found himself in hot water over a photo appearance in Romania featuring the official flag of the Szekler minority group.

 

  • At the end of January, 10 ethnic Hungarians from Romania started gathering signatures for a bill for the independence of Szeklerland, Hotnews writes. The initiative needs at least 100,000 signatures from at least 10 out of the country’s 41 counties to spark a debate in parliament. 
Compiled by Ioana Caloianu
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