The Romanian Parliament approved on Wednesday a law declaring June 4, the date of the signing of the Treaty of Trianon, a national holiday. It now requires only President Klaus Iohannis’ signature to take effect. The vote (235 yes, 21 no and 25 abstentions) was seen as a culmination of three weeks of rising nationalist discourse aimed at the Hungarian ethnic minority in Romania and partly against neighboring Hungary, a fellow European Union member state and NATO ally.
Hunor Kelemen, president of the largest political party of the Hungarian minority in Romania, known by its Hungarian acronym of RMDSZ, said during the Parliament’s debate of the bill that the draft itself and the events of the past three weeks pointed towards a Romanian insecurity that needed an outlet in the form of a foe.
“A strong and self-assured [national] majority that has no remorse never flaunts its might, does not knowingly manufacture situations in which the other [side] feels humiliated and mocked, as you have done in the past three weeks”, Kelemen said. “This, dear colleagues, begs the question: What do you intend to prove with this project? And to whom do you want to prove it?”
In the often-strained relations between Romania’s majority population and its ethnic Hungarian minority – and also between the two neighboring European Union and NATO member states – there is no issue that causes more division and often bitter disputes than the Treaty of Trianon, signed June 4, 1920.
One of the peace treaties that officially ended World War I, the Treaty of Trianon divided more than two-thirds of the territory of the Kingdom of Hungary among its neighbors. These included the Kingdom of Romania, the Czechoslovak Republic, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, and – most ironically – the First Austrian Republic, the half of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that was in fact responsible for igniting (even if it was not the root cause of) World War I.
As a result, Hungary lost 72 percent of its territory and 64 percent of its population to the abovementioned neighboring countries.
The Parliament’s vote is the latest in a series of incidents that have inflamed tensions. At the end of April, President Iohannis made an inflammatory speech alleging that the Social Democratic Party (PSD), in league with the RMDSZ, was attempting to hand Transylvania over to Hungary, also mentioning Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán as the possible instigator.
Orbán replied in a conciliatory manner, saying he will “not pick up the gauntlet” thrown by Iohannis just yet, pointing out that both Hungary and the ethnic Hungarian minority in Romania had a vested interest in the best possible bilateral relations.
Just a few days later, Romanian Prime Minister Ludovic Orban lashed out at Orbán over a photo in a message that the Hungarian PM had posted to his Facebook page. The message, which was sent to wish good luck to students attending their high school matriculation exams, included a photo from the PM’s office that happened to feature a 19th-century globe on which Hungary is shown with its borders as they were at the time, including Transylvania and parts of Slovakia, Ukraine and Serbia.
Commenting on the borders, Kelemen said national solidarity – be it among Hungarians or Romanians – is natural and not aimed at anyone.
“Those borders were drawn one hundred years ago. Many Hungarian people ended up outside Hungary’s borders, just like many Romanians. Romanians, regardless of where or which country they live in, remain part of the Romanian nation. This is just as natural as it is that Hungarians are part of the Hungarian nation, irrespective of where they live. National solidarity and responsibility are not aimed at anyone!” Kelemen said.
The new law makes the day a national holiday in Romania during which, as with all other national holidays, the national flag must be flown on all state institutions.
Title image: The Hungarian delegation at the signing of the Treaty of Trianon, on June 4, 1920 (source: Gallica Digital Library)