Hungarian inscriptions allowed on road traffic signs, court rules

Hungarian inscriptions have their place alongside the Romanian inscriptions on road traffic signs, a court has ruled, voiding the fine issued last year by the Traffic Police against the Csíkszereda/Miercurea-Ciuc Mayor’s Office for placing bilingual signs on the ring road of the city.

The direction signs contain both the Romanian and Hungarian names of the settlement, indicating the direction motorists should take to reach their destination: the Romanian name is on top, while the Hungarian name is right below, so drivers can quickly identify the settlement they want to head to in their preferred language. The order of the languages was changed to match earlier court rulings, which rebuked the Hungarian first and Romanian second order of the settlements’ names and forced the local authority to produce new traffic road signs.

To place the newly produced direction signs, the mayor’s office was required to obtain a positive review from the Traffic Police directorate, which didn’t materialize, delaying the opening of the road. In the end, the Traffic Police gave a negative review, claiming the signs don’t comply with the applicable rules. In an official note sent to the mayor’s office, they said that the inscriptions on the road signs must be in the country’s official language, which is Romanian.

The signs were mounted despite the negative review, so the Traffic Police have fined the mayor’s office more than RON 6,000 (~€1,500), alleging the signs violate the Romanian standard SR 1848-1. (The standard in question has been modified several times and the version in force was accepted in December 2011, whose part 3 deals with the design and inscriptions appearing on the traffic road signs.)

What happened in reality is that the Traffic Police abused its power and fined the mayor’s office by placing a traffic road standard, overwriting the law applicable in Romania. As Csaba Asztalos, president of the National Council for Combating Discrimination (Romanian: Consiliul Național pentru Combaterea Discriminării, or CNCD), pointed out, if a standard rules that the sign’s inscription must be in the country’s official language, it doesn’t mean that it cannot contain inscriptions in other languages. In Romania, there is also a law for minority rights allowing bilingual inscriptions, while the standard offers technical guidance on the design and production of traffic road signs.

Title image: bilingual traffic road sign on the bypass road in Csíkszereda/Miercurea-Ciuc. Image credit: Székelyhon

Author: István Fekete