Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Péter Szijjártó has said that the statement by Romanian prime minister Mihai Tudose in relation to Hungarian autonomy aspirations is totally unacceptable, and shows disgraceful disregard for European values and 21st-century norms. Mr. Szijjártó informed reporters that Romania’s ambassador to Budapest had been summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Friday morning in relation to the affair.

At his Friday press conference Mr. Szijjártó was responding to a report on news portal on Wednesday evening which stated that the Romanian prime minister had told television news station Realitatea the following in relation to Hungarian autonomy aspirations: “My answer is the same as it was when, to mark some day or other, they tried to raise their flag. At the time I made it clear that if that flag is fluttering in the wind, the local people responsible for it will also be hanging up there next to it”.

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The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade stressed that “In the interests of the Hungarian national minority living in Romania, the Hungarian government has always aspired to build bilateral relations with Romania on mutual respect. This has been met with differing levels of reciprocation by the various Romanian governments”.

The Minister added, however, that “It is beyond dispute that the statement by Romania’s current prime minister – in which, to all intents and purposes, he threatened a national minority and its representatives with execution – is absolutely unacceptable, and shows an utterly disgraceful disregard for Europe, European values and 21st-century norms”.

“For precisely this reason we regard it as self-evident and beyond dispute that Romania’s prime minister and government must rectify this situation at the earliest opportunity”, he declared, noting that Romania’s ambassador to Budapest had been summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade on Friday morning. At that meeting, he said, “the Deputy Minister made the Hungarian governments’ standpoint clear to him”. Meanwhile, he said, the Romanian ambassador had tried to explain that the statement was a “linguistic misunderstanding”.

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“The Hungarian government’s position, however, is that this isn’t a question of semantics, but something much more important”, Mr. Szijjártó said. He noted that “In the interests of the Hungarian national minority living in Romania, Hungary’s goal continues to be to maintain a balanced, calm and level-headed relationship with Romania based on mutual respect”. He added, however, that “there is no doubt that this statement does not facilitate this”.

“We expect the Prime Minister and the Government of Romania to rectify the situation at the earliest opportunity”, the Hungarian foreign minister declared.

Mr. Szijjártó also stressed that in Europe disputes over the rights of national minorities are regular occurrences, and the sensitive nature of these issues mean that civility and mutual respect are important. The statement by the Romanian prime minister totally lacked these qualities, however. “To physically threaten someone else, to threaten them with execution – and especially a whole community and its representatives – is absolutely unacceptable”, the Minister said, adding that the Romanian government and the Romanian prime minister must take appropriate action to ensure that the dispute does not become unmanageable.

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Asked whether the Hungarian government expects the Romanian prime minister to apologise, Mr. Szijjártó said that if in the 21st century someone – particularly a country’s prime minister – threatens a national community with execution for whatever reason, the very minimum is that they should apologise and make it clear that they did not mean it in this way, “If they didn’t mean it”, he noted. In reply to another question, the Hungarian foreign minister told reporters that the Romanian ambassador’s linguistic explanations concerned the forcefulness of the statement, and how the verbs “fly”, “flutter” and “hang” relate to each other. However, the Foreign Minister noted, “this is not a literary or linguistic issue, but a fundamental question of security, because it does not promote the feeling of safety of a national community living in a country if that country’s prime minister threatens to hang its members”.

When asked whether action against Romania’s total rejection of autonomy was utterly futile, Mr. Szijjártó said that “The debate on autonomy is legitimate, and this initiative has been launched by political parties operating legally within the territory of Romania; and it is a debate that can be conducted in a civil manner”. He stressed, however, that “the fact that in relation to this a country’s prime minister threatens a national community with execution by hanging is unacceptable; these two issues must not be confused – they have nothing to do with each other”.

In reply to a question on the possible economic repercussions if the Romanian prime minister fails to apologise for his statements, the Foreign Minister said: “Let’s wait and see how Romania’s political leadership reacts, and what their standpoint on the issue is”. Mr. Szijjártó indicated that in relation to the affair the Hungarian government is in continuous contact with the leaders of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ).

He also pointed out, however, that recently “no matter how much the level of trust in Romanian-Hungarian political cooperation has fluctuated”, economic and trade cooperation has continued to increase dynamically. “We hope that such uncivilised statements will not lead to problems at the level of everyday life”, he added.

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In reply to a question, Mr. Szijjártó also said that if the Government assigns the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade any duties within the action plan to combat the Soros Plan, the Ministry will perform the related tasks.

The Minister was also asked how it was possible that Hungary had secretly given Hungarian residency to 1,300 refugees, but was at the same time campaigning against the resettlement of 1,294 migrants. “Hungary is fighting against the mandatory resettlement quota because they want to use it to bring illegal immigrants into the European Union, and they want to strip Member States of their right to decide for themselves who they want to allow in”. According to Mr. Szijjártó, the question of how Hungary accepts refugees in accordance with the Geneva Convention is a totally independent issue.