Romania’s Senate has rejected a plan to create an autonomous region for ethnic Hungarians in the heart of the country after critics said it would illegally create “a state within a state” along ethnic lines.
Senators voted 126 to 9 on Wednesday to reject the draft law, a day after Parliament’s Chamber of Deputies tacitly adopted the law, without a debate or vote, sparking outrage.
President Klaus Iohannis earlier accused the Social Democrats, Romania’s largest party which is currently in opposition, of striking a secret deal with Hungarian Premier Viktor Orban and plotting to give “Transylvania to the Hungarians.”
Two leading opposition politicians rebuked the president, saying his comments were reminiscent of nationalist rhetoric used in the 1990s.
Social Democrat leader Marcel Ciolacu himself distanced himself from the draft and predicted it would be voted down by the Senate.
Under the proposal, Hungarian would have become a second official language in state institutions in the counties of Mures, which has a large number of Hungarian speakers, and also in Harghita and Covasna where ethnic Hungarians form the majority.
The area, known as Szekley Land, would have flown its own flag and had the right to pass its own laws and manage its own finances.
On Wednesday, it emerged that the legislative council, a body of legal experts that analyzes draft legislation and makes recommendations to Parliament had already marked the draft as unconstitutional and contrary to European norms.
The body told Parliament in February that the initiative was “aimed at creating a distinct state entity parallel with the unitary, national Romanian state,” according to documents seen by universul.net.
The experts said European institutions didn’t support the creation of “asymmetric, autonomous, irregular or simply singular regions… built exclusively on ethnic criteria.”
There is unease in Romania over neighboring Hungary seeking more influence in the region. Transylvania was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire until 1918.
The proposal was initiated by two lawmakers from the Union of Democratic Hungarians in Romania, the party that represents the interests of Romania’s 1.4 million ethnic Hungarians.
Former Prime Minister Viorica Dancila, a Social Democrat, called the plan “an affront to the sovereignty of the Romanian state,” on a post on Facebook.