In the attention of president
And secretary general
Esteemed Mr. President
Esteemed Secretary General
Last year, the Bureau of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities has decided to discuss the resolutions of the Szekler municipalities, and as a result, called on the Congress Monitoring Committee to substantively address the issue, subsequently asking the Romanian government for a written statement. Secretary General Andreas Kiefer has notified the concerned mayors of Szeklerland about all this. The case history was summarized to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe Mr. Thorbjørn Jagland by the Szekler National Council on it’s meeting on November 8 last year, as follows:
„44 municipalities of Szeklerland, located in the centre of Romania, has asked the Romanian government and parliament, in the name of the local communities who elected them, to make it possible to belong to a single and separate administrative unit. They asked for this administrative unit to be called Székelyföld (Szeklerland), and to have a special autonomous status guaranteed by the law for managing its own affairs, and for preserving the self identity of its Szekler-Hungarian inhabitants. They also asked for Hungarian to be recognized as a second official language of this region, besides Romanian. The municipalities have sent the resolutions containing their requests to the Council of Europe, the Committee of the Regions of the European Union and the United Nations Human Rights Council.
The memorandum is related to Romania’s planned administrative reorganization and the fact that, even though the government has promised to respect Romania's international commitments, they published a plan according to which Szeklerland shall be part of a region where the Szeklers make up only 29% of the population, while their proportion in Szeklerland is 75%. This plan violates not only the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities, but also the provisions of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
The government of Romania has launched the process of the administrative reorganization, initiated the necessary measures to amend the constitution, without asking for the opinion of the local administrative authorities. This step should have been mandatory, according to the European Charter of Local Self-Government, adopted in Strasbourg on the 15th of October 1985, ratified by Romania by Law 199/1997, and which states in Article 4 Paragraph 6, that “Local authorities shall be consulted, insofar as possible, in due time and in an appropriate way in the planning and decision-making processes for all matters which concern them directly.”
The above mentioned requests were drafted in the spirit of the above cited article of the Charter, by the 44[i] municipal authorities (whose number is expected to increase in the future). Instead of listening, the prefects (the government representatives) contested the resolutions before the administrative court and have been trying to intimidate the mayors and local councilors.
We are convinced that Romania’s administrative reorganization should not violate the rights of the Szeklers, and that this violation will not happen, in case the government will respect the commitments Romania has undertaken in the Council of Europe. We strongly believe that the Council of Europe has to assume a serious role in strengthening the democracy in its member states, has to demand to fully respect the provisions of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages, the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities and the European Charter of Local Self-Government, thus serving the stability of Europe as well.”
After several postponements, the Congress Monitoring Committee decided that the issue does not fall within their competence, and referred it back to the Congress Bureau.
We have no doubt that the Monitoring Committee had formally every right to make this decision, however, we regret to take note that:
1. The Monitoring Committee failed to ascertain whether the administrative reorganization planned by the Romanian government meets the requirements of the European Charter of Local Self-Government.
2. The Monitoring Committee failed to ascertain whether the documents of the expert bodies of the Council of Europe relating to Romania contain any findings that may be relevant in the case of the municipalities of Szeklerland (such as the report of the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance).
3. The Monitoring Committee failed to investigate the administrative aspects of the Council of Europe Conventions ratified by Romania – such as the Charter of Regional or Minority Languages or the Minority Framework Convention – that clearly fall within their area of competence.
4. The Monitoring Committee’s decision to refer the issue of the Szekler municipalities back to the bureau on the grounds that it’s Romania’s internal affair, is contrary to article 3 of the Statute of the Council of Europe, which states that “Every member of the Council of Europe must accept the principles of the rule of law and of the enjoyment by all persons within its jurisdiction of human rights and fundamental freedoms, and collaborate sincerely and effectively in the realization of the aim of the Council as specified in Chapter I.”
Esteemed Mr. President
Esteemed Secretary General
The Szekler National Council believes that you made the right decision by asking the Monitoring Committee to substantively address the issue of Szeklerland, as an issue that falls within their area of competence. The facts must be faced that when a body of the Council of Europe refuses out of political reasons to fulfill its duties fixed in its basic documents, it will not aid in the deepening of democracy, but in fact, in countries belonging to the old Soviet system, it inadvertently encourages the return to the party-state. For example, in Romania, according to the plans of the ministry of internal affairs, expressing an opinion on the autonomy of minorities, or democratically expressing the public will on this matter, will be treated as a criminal offense in the future.
We are convinced that the Council of Europe and its internal institutions, including the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities cannot be indifferent towards a member state not fulfilling its obligations and goes instead against the fundamental values that the Council of Europe was created to protect. We are sure that you will find the way to convince Romania to consistently take into account the principles and values of the Council of Europe during its administrative reorganization.
President of the Szekler national council
[i] This number has since reached 51 and is growing