Budapest installs ethnic Hungarian as EP vice-president

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Former Romanian dissident László T?kés, an ethnic Hungarian, was yesterday (15 June) elected European Parliament vice-president at the insistence of Budapest, EURACTIV has learned. EURACTIV Romania contributed to this article.

The Parliament elected European People's Party-affiliated MEP László T?kés, a former pastor in the Romanian city of Timi?oara who played an active role in the wake of the Romania revolution of 1989, as vice-president of the EU assembly.

T?kés replaced Pal Schmitt (European People's Party; Hungary) after he was elected Speaker of the Parliament in Budapest. 

According to sources, Hungary had lobbied heavily in EPP circles for T?kés' election. Since parliamentary elections in Hungary last April, which were won by the centre-right Fidesz party by a landslide, Budapest has strongly promoted enhancing ties with ethnic Hungarians living in neighbouring countries.

Budapest had invested in T?kés' election as a signal to its diaspora that a new policy was being put in place.

So far, Slovakia's reaction has been the strongest of any EU member. Last week, the country's outgoing Prime Minister Robert Fico denounced neighbouring Hungary as an "extremist country that exports its brown plague," in a reference to World War II Hungarian fascists (EURACTIV 11/06/10).

A citizenship law that makes it easier for ethnic Magyars living abroad to obtain Hungarian citizenship was seen in Slovakia, where 500,000 ethnic Hungarians live, as a threat. In contrast, Romania did not react to its neighbour's new legislation. 1.46 million ethnic Hungarians live in Romania according to the CIA fact book.

The decision to appoint T?kés as vice president was supported by the centre-right side of the Romanian delegation to the European Parliament, comprising 11 MEPs and three parliamentarians from the ethnic Hungarian UDMR (Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania) party.

Arguably Romania did not raise objections to Hungary's policies because it has exactly the same approach vis-à-vis Moldova, diplomats told EURACTIV.

Last year, Romanian President Traian Basescu ordered the simplification of procedures for granting citizenship to ethnic Romanians living in Moldova, saying a million requests were waiting in his country's embassy in Chisinau (EURACTIV 15/04/09).

However, the T?kés vote did not go smoothly, EURACTIV Romania reports. In spite of the fact that Parliament President Jerzy Buzek had proposed a vote by acclamation, ultranationalist MEP Corneliu Vadim Tudor, leader of the Greater Romania Party (PRM), proposed a formal vote.

Finally, T?kés was elected with 336 votes in favour, 160 against and 207 abstentions.

"This is the first day that I have felt ashamed as a member of the European Parliament," Vadim Tudor stated, adding that T?kés was a politician who did not recognise the Trianon peace treaty, which had put an end to World War I.

Romanian Senator Lia Olguta Vasilescu, from the opposition Social Democratic Party (PSD), called the election of T?kés "regrettable and shameful," the Romanian press writes.

She disclosed that Romanian MEP Corina Cretu (S&D) had lobbied in her group and across the entire parliament against his election.

Vasilescu argued that T?kés' election was not going to be "an historic chance for Romanian-Hungarian reconciliation," as Romanian EPP-affiliated MEPs had wanted. On the contrary, she said relations would suffer, because in her words T?kés was an advocate for the autonomy of Romanian regions with an ethnic Hungarian population.

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