The most recent report on Romania by the Council of Europe, meant to review Romania’s fulfilment of the commitments taken by ratifying the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, has been published last week, and assesses the situation of minority languages in Romania, including Hungarian, which is the most widely spoken language in the country after Romanian.

In general, the report welcomes the positive measures taken by the Romanian state since the last reporting cycle, but stresses that there is still a lot to be done, since many of the relevant undertakings have only partially or formally been implemented. The report stresses the need for further action, especially concerning the use of minority languages in judicial proceedings, in relations with administrative authorities and public services, as well as in the field of healthcare and consumer rights.

Regarding the judicial system, the Committee of Experts underlines the “need for the Romanian authorities to encourage minority language speakers to more widely use their languages in judicial proceedings”, both in speech and in writing. In order to achieve this, they recommend – among other things – “the use of interpretation and translations”, in a way that does not incur additional expenses for citizens.

Concerning administrative authorities and public services, the Committee stresses the need to “extend the number of widely-used administrative texts and forms for the population in Hungarian”, while also encouraging the publication of all official documents in Hungarian. In certain domains, like street names, or public transport and tourist signs, the report encourages the use of traditional names in Hungarian in the relevant municipalities. However, the wording of the Report is rather vague, since it fails to specify what it means by “relevant municipality”.

Several leading figures of the Hungarian community have welcomed the findings of the Committee, which only support what they have been saying for years, namely that Romania is not a model in minority rights, and that there is room for significant improvement, especially in the field of the use of Hungarian in judicial and administrative proceedings, as well as various other areas, for example, health and social care. According to Hunor KELEMEN, the president of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania, the findings of the Council of Europe report are proof that the Hungarian community is not asking for “superhuman actions, merely what international experts have also suggested in recent years”.

Our organization welcomes this latest Report by the Council of Europe, since we believe that it is vital to the cause of minority rights in Romania that the international community and the relevant human rights bodies should monitor and draw attention to the situation of minority rights in Romania.

Grave anti-Hungarian incident in Romanian football

On Monday, the 9th of April, football players and spectators once again witnessed an alarming demonstration of anti-Hungarian sentiment on a football match between ASC Juventus Bucuresti and Sepsi OSK. During the warm-up, a parody of the song “Lord, protect the Romanians” resounded from the loudspeakers on the Anghel Iordanescu Stadium in Bucharest. Several words from the original song’s lyrics were replaced by vulgar and xenophobic expressions, moreover, the lyrics clearly incited to violence against the Hungarian community.

The Romanian Football Federation subsequently fined Juventus Bucuresti, the organising team, with an amount of approximately 2000 euros. However, such an amount is symbolic at best, given that we are talking about a sport that deals with the most amount of money, not to mention that the First League (Liga I) involves teams with multi-million euro budgets. Furthermore, such amount are no enough to deter similar incidents in the future. As Árpád ANTAL, the Mayor of Sfântu Gheorghe/Sepsiszentgyörgy noted, „in cases such as this, more drastic measures are needed, the sanction of point deduction would also have been justified”.

Similarly aggressive anti-Hungarian discourse during football matches last year had led to talks and promises to the effect that the pertinent regulations will be amended to allow for harsher sanctions, with the hope that these may discourage xenophobia in sports. We believe that only by taking firm action and modifying the existing framework dealing with hate-speech in sports can such events be prevented in the long-term.