Romania's President Klaus Iohannis calls for cooperation between the ethnic Hungarians and Romanians living in the counties of Covasna and Harghita
Autonomy, yes! Regionalization, yes! Decentralization, yes!; but never based on ethnic criteria! This is the message of Romania's President Klaus Iohannis to the local authorities in the so-called Szekely Land, in central Romania. The territory is made up of the counties of Covasna and Harghita, where the number of ethnic Hungarians is significantly larger than that of ethnic Romanians, and part of Mures County. In Covasna and Harghita, most localities are administered by members of the Democratic Union of Ethnic Hungarians in Romania, which has always been present in Parliament and has also been part of several of the ruling coalitions in Romania since the 1989 anti-Communist Revolution.
Romania has always been appreciated for its commitment to observing the rights of all ethnic minorities living on its soil, which account for 11% of its 20 million strong population. Hungarians are the largest ethnic minority in Romania, and although they benefit from many rights, they would still like to become autonomous, with support from Budapest. In their view, the Szekely Land should be a region on its own, with its own flag, president, government and Parliament, all regional.
During his visit on Tuesday to Covasna and Harghita, president Klaus Iohannis said, that, too often realities in the two counties are interpreted so as to divide, highlight differences, not similarities, and promote hostility, intolerance and rejection towards people from different ethnic groups, be they majority or minority. These are sure ways to block not only the development of these communities, but also the country as a whole.
President Klaus Iohannis:
"I believe that decentralization is a must, because local officials know best what their communities need and they must have the necessary tools in place to act for the benefit of those whom they represent. Regionalization can also be taken into consideration, but only if its aim is to render regional government more effective, which means that it serves the citizens and helps create new jobs as a result of economic growth. Local and regional autonomy can help, but autonomy based on ethnic criteria is not something that should happen, because this would hinder development."
According to the head of state, the counties of Covasna and Harghita benefit from a particularly rich tourist potential, on which local authorities should capitalize more. Klaus Iohannis:
"There are historical monuments in the area that render the region special. Also, there are spas and resorts of national interest and mineral water reserves that are worth exploiting. There are many ethnographic areas that must be preserved, because they have an extraordinary capacity to attract both Romanian and foreign tourists. That is why local authorities should get more involved in using and capitalizing on these resources."
At a meeting with approximately 300 local officials from Covasna and Harghita, Klaus Iohannis was offered the flag of the so called Szekely Land. In return, president Iohannis, prepared for such a gesture, offered them the flag of Romania.