The Magyar Szív – Magyar Szó (Hungarian Heart – Hungarian Word) Foundation organised a conference in Budapest during which experts from the autonomous Italian region, South Tyrol, shared their experiences about their autonomy not only from a German but also from an Italian viewpoint. Afterwards, Hungarian politicians talked about the struggle for autonomy of the Hungarian communities living abroad. Everybody agreed that instead of undermining, territorial autonomies actually strengthen the cohesion of each country; therefore, the struggle for autonomy should not be considered as a threat to national security.
Peace instead of fight creates stability and economic prosperity
South Tyrol, an autonomous province in Northern Italy, had a total population of 530,000 inhabitants in 2018, out of which 62.3 pc speaks German, 23.4 pc Italian and 4.1 pc Ladin, a Rhaeto-Romance language. The province is granted a considerable level of self-governance, meaning a broad range of exclusive legislative and executive powers and a fiscal regime that allows it to retain a large part of most levied taxes while remaining a net contributor to the national budget. As of 2016, South Tyrol is
the wealthiest province in Italy
and among the wealthiest in the European Union.
Dr Oskar Peterlini, a former senator from South Tyrol to the national assembly in Rome, said that in the ’20s, ’30s and even after WWII, the Italian government tried to assimilate the German-speaking majority of the region. However, Rome was not successful because locals did not want to leave their ancestors’ land and insisted on keeping their mother-tongue. After long decades of struggle, including even terrorist attacks, in 1971, South Tyrol’s statute of autonomy was finally accepted by the Italian parliament and government.
According to Mr Petterlini, since then, there has been peace in the region, and pro-independence political forces are weak, forming only a small minority in the local parliament.
If the EU existed, then South Tyrol would not have become autonomous
Dr Davide Zaffi, an Italian member of South Tyrol’s office for ethnic minorities, highlighted that, before the acceptance of the region’s statute of autonomy, many Italians were afraid of being oppressed by the German majority of the autonomous region. However, this did not happen, and
today, most of the locals are bilingual.
Each ethnic group could preserve its language, culture, and traditions. Furthermore, according to the two experts, regardless of ethnic background, it is good that Rome does not decide what the best for them in education, economic development or in helping local young people would be.
Dr Katalin Szili, Special Commissioner of the Prime Minister reviewing the autonomy aspirations of Hungarian communities beyond the borders, said that
the European Union is not a partner in helping
Europe’s different autochtonous ethnic minorities’ struggle for autonomy, even though there are more than 60 million such people. Instead, they deal with the rights of migrants a lot. According to her, globalists do not regard autonomy as an important problem since they believe that the United States of Europe will solve it.
Hungarian diplomacy has to explain what autonomy means
Péter Ungár from the Hungarian green party, LMP, said that autonomy means that an ethnic minority of a country being in the majority in a given region (for example, Hungarians living in Szeklerland, Romania) gets the right of self-governance. However, such rights remain intact in the case of the majority which becomes a minority in such a region (e.g., the Romanians living in Szerklerland).
Márton Gyöngyösi from conservative-patriotic Jobbik highlighted that
most people in Hungary or Romania do not know what autonomy means exactly
which gives ground to many misunderstandings. He added that it is the failure of Hungarian diplomacy that it could not explain what Hungarians living beyond the borders, for example in Szeklerland, want.
József Kulcsár-Terza, a Hungarian MP of Bucharest, Romania, said that it was time for a firmer representation of the Transylvanian Hungarian interest in the Romanian parliament. He submitted Szeklerland’s statute of autonomy (which is based on South Tyrol’s statute) four times to the parliament, and even though it was rejected, ethnic Romanian MPs started to talk about the issue.
Interestingly, even though Fidesz, the Christian Democrats, the Democratic Coalition, the Dialogue, and the Socialists were also invited to the conference, they did not send anybody to present their standpoint on autonomy.