“We have to keep moving forward” – Csaba Asztalos

In a recent interview with the President of the Romanian Council Against Discrimination (CNCD), Csaba Asztalos, Radio Free Europe (RFE) asked him about the draft law submitted to parliament asking to put into law the point formulated at the 1918 popular assembly, the defining moment of Romania’s unification with Transylvania a century ago. Following are excerpts from the interview.

RFE: What does this draft law say about regional autonomy and development regions?

Csaba Asztalos: First of all, this is not a project about autonomy, but about the inclusion of point 3.1 of the 1918 Resolution into law. The 1923 Constitution of Romania included from said document the unification with Transylvania, but omitted that point. This draft law comes at a time when the Hungarian government and Prime Minister Orbán have a clear strategy regarding all Hungarians in the Carpathian basin – and is committing funds to it – while Bucharest has no such vision. But this also involves the risk that any such initiative will only serve to reignite talk about the “Hungarian danger”.

RFE: How would you respond to those evoking the Hungarian danger?

Cs.A.: Let’s look at the example of Kolozsvár/Cluj Napoca. Its former mayor, Gheorghe Funar caused the city to lose many years of development with his nationalist rhetoric. The dynamic economic development of Kolozsvár in the last years has nothing to do with the Hungarians as such, but with the disappearance of a nationalist mayor. Hungarians, of course, also contribute to this development. But you can also look at the economic developments in Nagyvárad/Oradea, Arad or Temesvár/Timișoara. People here in Kolozsvár – or Temesvár – are saying that the more Bucharest leaves us be, the better off we are. The great challenge for the Hungarian community is to explain its intentions and also reassure the Romanian majority in its sense of safety and security.

RFE: How do you see the chances of this law making it through Parliament?

Cs.A.: Zero. Barely a day has passed since its introduction and it has already sparked a nationalist discourse, especially on the part of the opposition parties. This project has been discussed since January, but only introduced after December 1 not to spoil the centenary celebrations in Romania. Now they say it was introduced because the ruling coalition has lost its majority in parliament. This project is, more than anything, a way to breach a taboo subject and have some honest dialogue.

Title image: Csaba Asztalos (photo: RFE)

Author: Dénes Albert