After Veneto and Silesia, we are putting Szeklerland in the spotlight this month. Attila Dabis is also on the speakers' list of the ICEC conference in the European Parliament postponed to 2021.
Most of our readers may scratch their hair when hearing about Szeklerland. Time for an insightful interview.
Who is Attila Dabis?
I am a political scientist and public figure, based in Budapest, Hungary. Since 2012 I have been the Foreign Affairs Commissioner of the Szekler National Council. Since 2016 I also serve as the International Coordinator of the Institute for the Protection of Minority Rights. I earned my PhD in 2018. The title of my dissertation was: “Misbeliefs about Autonomy - The Constitutionality of the Autonomy of Szeklerland”, the rewritten version of which will be published as a book in 2021.
What is Szeklerland?
Szeklerland is a 13.500 km2 large area located in south-east Transylvania in Romania. It is home to about 800.000 people including around 650.000 Hungarian speaking Szeklers who, while being part of the Hungarian cultural nation, possess a marked regional identity, including specific symbols, and a national anthem. The capital of the region is called Marosvásárhely, a city inhabited by 150.000 people half Szekler, half Romanian.
We Flemings want nothing more than independence. Is that also your aim?
While Szeklerland used to be a border region of the Hungarian Kingdom, it is now located in the centre of Romania. This geographic reality alone makes secessionist sentiment scarce in the region. Szeklers in fact demand territorial autonomy for themselves, such as the one existing in South-Tyrol or the Basque country. The Szekler National Council has elaborated an autonomy statute draft for this purpose, which we have submitted to the Romanian legislature four times. It was rejected in all four cases.
You have launched an ECI that has already collected over 1 million signatures. Impressive. Tell us more about it.
We believe that EU regional development policy should give special attention to regions, such as Szeklerland or Flanders, with ethnic, cultural, or linguistic characteristics that are different from those of the surrounding areas. These regions should receive proper financial support from the EU to preserve their distinct traits. The initiative invites the European Commission to finally implement her obligations under the founding Treaties, and actively contribute to maintain the cultural and linguistic diversity of the EU. We aim to achieve equality among regions and the sustainability of regional cultures. Finally, we want to build up a European discourse about peoples, regions, and stateless nations. An issue that the EU has been neglecting for far too long.
1 million signatures, so your movement has a large following?
Indeed. Our success so far was feasible as we placed the initiative well above party political and ideological lines. This is why, for example, 4/5 of the Hungarian Parliament voted in favour of a Resolution that supported this initiative back in February. Due to this overarching support we were also able to convince famous artists, musicians, sports players (like e.g. three-time Olympic champion swimmer Katinka Hosszú) to openly support our cause as well.
Szeklerland is unknown to 99% of Flemish people. What or for what should a Fleming know about your country?
Szeklerland used to be a part of the Hungarian Kingdom in most of its history. However, after WWI, in 1920, the entente powers awarded Transylvania, and with it Szeklerland to Romania. Szeklers managed to preserve their distinct identity in these past 100 years, despite being subject to various forms of persecution, oppression, and severe rights violations. The community sees its future in territorial autonomy, which they want to achieve using peaceful, and democratic measures.
And what do you know about Flanders?
The mark that Flanders left in European history is unavoidable for anyone wanting to learn about this continent. Flemish art is inextricably linked to European culture. Szekler pupils in elementary schools get some of their first impression of western culture through the paintings of Jan Van Eyck. Szekler youngsters interested in history can see many parallels between the history of their community, and the struggles of William of Orange against the repression of the Habsburg Crown. We are aware of the many ways Flemish people cherish their own homeland. One is sure: There is no Europe without Flanders, and Flemings, as there is no Europe without Szeklerland and Szeklers.
Source: Grondvest, september 2020