Zsóka Kovács | Dec 9, 2018 | 6
Romanian president Iohannis launches an open attack against the linguistic rights of national minorities
According to Mikó Imre Minority Rights Legal Aids Service press release, after opposition parties attacked the new Administrative Code, this week President Klaus Iohannis also sent the said law back for review to the Constitutional Court, a law that included several provisions meant to guarantee linguistic rights for national minorities.
As we have mentioned in our previous newsletters, the new Administrative Code had been passed in Parliament and was waiting to be signed by President Klaus Iohannis, who has recently released a 100-page document, in which he raised concerns regarding several provisions in the new code. Among other things, the President also questioned the legality of some of the articles relating to the use of the mother tongue by national minorities.
Repeatedly invoking the fact that the only official language in the country is Romanian, the President argued against such linguistic rights as bilingual street signs, for instance.
This despite the fact that the Council of Europe regularly mentions the use of bilingual street signs in its recommendations for Romania. Iohannis also challenged a provision in the new code which says that in an administrative unit with a significant minority community, the officials working in public institutions are required to speak the language of that minority. Moreover, the new legislation includes an article expressly stating that in the municipalities where a minority community does not reach the threshold of 20%, and therefore the application of the above mentioned linguistic rights and others is not required by law, the implementation of these provisions is nonetheless not prohibited. This clarification was very important given that over the years authorities have frequently opposed local council resolutions that aimed to extend linguistic rights, precisely on the grounds that they are not required by law.
Not only is the President positioning himself firmly against the broadening of linguistic rights for minorities, but he is also questioning already existing practices. In his reasoning he raised concerns over a widespread proceeding in areas where the majority of the population is Hungarian, namely the fact that local council meetings can be conducted in the language of a minority, with simultaneous interpretation being provided for Romanian councilors. Thus, a potential ruling in favour of the President’s objections would not just halt the process of updating minority rights in Romania, but it would set the issue back several decades.
Reacting to President’s objections regarding these provisions, Attila Cseke, the Senate group leader of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ) declared that
the disputed provisions of the new code “appear in numerous EU agreements and international treaties ratified by Romania, as well as the in the recommendations of the Council of Europe.
So according to the President there is no need for the promotion of the use of minority languages in Romania, what is more, even the rights that have been stipulated by law for 17 years now should be cut back.”
While acknowledging that the President has a constitutional right to block a piece of legislation by raising his concerns with the Constitutional Court, in this recently released document the parts relating to perfectly reasonable clarifications and amendments concerning the use of the mother tongue by national minorities cannot be interpreted as anything else than an affront against basic linguistic rights.
Source: Mikó Imre Minority Rights Legal Aids Service