Romanian president causes diplomatic spat with Hungary

Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó described Romanian President Klaus Iohannis’ recent statements as “specifically uncivilised and conducive of inciting hatred” and asked the head of state to show more respect toward Hungarians living in Romania.

This exchange took place after a draft bill to proclaim the autonomy of Szeklerland – a region in central Romania populated by ethnic Hungarians – was adopted by the Chamber of Deputies (lower house) without being put to vote due to a technicality.  Because of the pandemic, the draft bill was automatically passed as it had not been discussed for 45 days.

Iohannis then accused his most powerful opponents, the Socialist Democratic Party (PSD), of conspiring with the Hungarian minority party UDMR, which supports Iohannis, “to give Transylvania to Hungary.”

Considering that the Romanian president, himself part of the ethnic German minority in Romania, had received massive support from the Hungarian minority in last year’s elections, it is quite surprising he delivered such a strong nationalist message.

Romania’s foreign ministry described Szijjártó’s statements as “provocative and unsuitable” and asked Hungary to revise its attitude and actions towards Romania and Romanian officials.

The ministry added that the draft bill was exclusively related to an internal debate in Romania and that its Hungarian counterpart has no say on the subject.

Although the bill was later rejected by the Romanian Senate, it had already triggered a wave of political reactions in Romania, with punches thrown between the governing party and its allies and PSD, who are holding the largest number of lawmakers in parliament.

Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orbán tried to defuse the situation on Friday, saying in a radio interview that “if forced, we will, of course, pick up the gauntlet, but I don’t suggest now that we pick up the gauntlet thrown at our feet.”

Orbán said he was confused by the situation and would therefore wait until the situation clears up before making any moves. He noted, though, that the two neighbouring countries are interested in ensuring bilateral relations and cooperation are at their best. (

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