The Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca) court last week annulled the penalty imposed on Gheorghe Funar, the former mayor of Kolozsvár, notorious for his extreme nationalist behavior and actions. Funar, also a member and former general secretary of the far-right Greater Romania Party, was fined for calling Hungarian “the language of horses” in a 2014 televised debate, reported the Hungarian News Agency MTI.
Funar was running as an independent candidate in the 2014 Romanian presidential elections and had been invited by the Romanian State Television to participate in an electoral discussion with Senator Barna Tánczos of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (known by the Hungarian acronym RMDSZ). As the senator greeted viewers in both Hungarian and Romanian, Funar – while on live broadcast – asked the host to correct the Hungarian politician.
“Tell our interlocutor sitting on my right that we live in Romania (…), and he must not use a word of the language of the horses, as the official language of Romania is Romanian. He can speak Hungarian in Budapest; here he must use Romanian. If I am elected president of Romania, I assure you, that no one will speak Hungarian. Not on Romanian State Television either,” stated Funar.
Barna Tánczos filed a complaint at the National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD). In March 2015, the Council decided that Funar’s assessment “induces a hostile and intimidating atmosphere on an ethnic and linguistic basis” and does not contribute to “the public debate aimed at the development of human relations.” Thus, the Council fined Funar RON 2,000 (about EUR 400). Funar attacked the decision in court, and after a five-year lawsuit, the Kolozsvár Court, acting as court of first instance, ruled in favor of the claimant last Friday. The defendants – CNCD and Tánczos – were ordered by the court to pay for Funar’s litigation expenses of 300 RON. The sentence can be appealed within 15 days.
Funar held the office of mayor in Kolozsvár from 1992 to 2004. He took an ultra-nationalist stance, aimed mostly at Hungarians and the Hungarian community of the city. His hateful and abusive demeanor towards Hungarians often manifested itself in public policies. Several measures taken by the local administration dominated by his influence were seen by many as a direct affront to the ethnic Hungarian community. For instance, park benches, pavements and even garbage bins were painted in the colors of the Romanian flag (red, yellow, blue). During winter holidays, the city was decorated exclusively with red, yellow and blue lights. At one point, Funar threatened the Hungarian community that the historical statue of Matthias Corvinus would be moved and taken to another location.
In September 1996, when Romania signed a friendship treaty with Hungary, the infamous mayor organized a funeral ceremony on the streets of the city. In 1997, he hung a banner in front of the Consulate General of Hungary in Kolozsvár with the caption: “This is the seat of the Hungarian spies in Romania.”
Title image: Funar as mayor at some point threatened the Hungarian community with the removal of the statue of Matthias Corvinus