Szekler National Council

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  • Székely Nemzeti Tanács

Conversation with Izsák Balázs, President of the Szekler National Council

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- 1 414 175 signatures were collected in support of the citizens' initiative for national regions. These have been submitted by the organizers in recent days to the competent authorities of the Member States for certification. Can the number of authenticated signatures be expected to be lower than the number collected? What can be expected during the authentication process?

- The institution of the European Citizens' Initiative has been around for a decade. During this time, 106 initiatives were submitted. Of these, 81 were registered and the European Commission responded to six initiatives. This story highlights, among other things, the fact that statements of support that contained erroneous data were deleted during authentication. As a result, the number of authenticated signatures is lower than that of those submitted. We hope that this difference will not be significant, as the will of the supporters is paramount and must be respected by the supervisory authorities. Member States have three months to carry out this verification, to make their report, and to forward it to the European Commission to be compiled.

- The authentication process is in progress. What happens next?

- The organizers will submit the text of the initiative to the European Commission. This time, we’re not submitting it for registration, as we did in 2013, so that we could start collecting signatures. This time, we’re submitting it to have the European Commission initiate legislation. This will be followed by a public hearing in the European Parliament, when the organizers have the opportunity to convince MEPs of the need for the initiative and for the legislation. That second submission is not subject to a time limit. The organizers have the opportunity to consider the European Commission's willingness to legislate and to choose the date that is most favorable to the outcome of the initiative.

- What role can the institutionalization of the alliance of European national regions play in the initiative? In general, a European Citizens' Initiative does not include such a step. An initiative can be carried out without it, can it not?

- That is correct. The institutionalization of the alliance between national regions is not part of the process of the citizens' initiative, and could be skipped. However, we see this as an incentive to try to persuade the Commission not to take the easy way out by refusing to initiate legislation. We want to use the time we have to create a European institutional system that helps the EU legislation and opens a new path for national regions in EC law. Our goal is for the national regions to become subjects of EU law.

- One of your allies is Carles Puigdemont, the legitimate president of Catalonia. Many politicians stressed that this alliance is detrimental to the Szekler autonomy aspiration, as Catalans want independence, so this relationship increases distrust of the aspiration for autonomy among the Romanian political class. Should we really distance ourselves from the Catalans?

- In the seventies and eighties, an ethnoregional movement began in Western Europe. National cultures were reborn and the demand for autonomy became more and more intense. The situation of minorities in Western Europe changed. At that time, the minority national communities of Eastern Europe looked enviously at the Basque, Catalan, Corsican, Breton, and Scottish movements. However, after the change of regime, the example of Western Europe extended to the East. Territorial autonomy has also been achieved in Gagauzia, while the regional aspirations of Szeklerland or Upper Silesia have not yet achieved their goal. However, the concept of minority protection has changed radically. Ethnoregionality or regional identity has become the base concepts in the regionalization of Europe. The Council of Europe has codified regional democracy for forty-seven countries in resolutions and recommendations. A return to the days before the eighties is no longer possible! Yet this is what’s being attempted by those who talk about minority rights while ignoring the concept of regional democracy. They ignore territorial autonomy or self-determination. It must be acknowledged that the regional movement is a part of the European reality, and the aspirations of the Catalans are one important aspect of this, however we choose to describe it. The Szeklers and the Flemings, the Upper Silesians and the Corsicans paid close attention to the 2017 Catalan referendum, and it left a deep mark on the evolution of the common will. It should be evident from this perspective, that we do not need to distance ourselves from the Catalans, nor should we.

Source: Háromszék/László-Pál Piroska

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