Hungary summons Romanian ambassador over PM's remarks threatening ethnic Hungarians

BUDAPEST (Reuters) - Hungary summoned Romania’s ambassador on Friday to complain about remarks from Romanian Prime Minister Mihai Tudose who earlier this week appeared to physically threaten ethnic Hungarians demanding autonomy.

FILE PHOTO - Romanian Prime Minister Mihai Tudose addresses the Romanian Parliament before a no-confidence vote against Romania's Social Democrat-led government, in Bucharest, Romania, November 23, 2017. Inquam Photos/Octav Ganea/via REUTERS

In reaction to a resolution signed by three ethnic Hungarian political groupings calling for the autonomy of part of Romania where ethnic Hungarians have a sizable population, Tudose told private television Realitatea TV:

“I have sent message that if the Szekler flag flies over the institutions over there, they will all fly next to the flag. Autonomy for Szeklers is out of the question.”

“As long as they sing in their yard, that is one thing, but from a legal point of view things are very clear,” Tudose said in a video of the interview.

Szeklers account for a large chunk of ethnic Hungarians living in the Romanian region of Transylvania.

On Thursday night, Tudose added on his Facebook page:

“As a Romanian and a prime minister, I refuse any dialogue concerning the autonomy of a part of Romania. It would go against the constitution of this country, which guarantees from the first line, the unity and indivisibility of the Romanian state.”

He did not refer directly to his earlier comments.

Budapest has been supportive of ethnic Hungarians’ autonomy aspirations and Hungarian politicians reacted with fury to the remarks.

Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto on Friday was cited by national news agency MTI as saying that Tudose’s “comments in which he practically threatened representatives of ...a national community with execution, are entirely unacceptable.”

Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who will seek reelection for a third consecutive term on April 8, had granted ethnic Hungarians in neighboring countries citizenship shortly after he took office in 2010 as part of his efforts to restore a battered sense of national pride.

Many Hungarians view the 1920 Treaty of Trianon as a national tragedy because it took away two-thirds of the country’s territory and left millions of ethnic Hungarians living in what are now Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine and Serbia.

Orban has won popularity at home by reaching out to Hungarians outside the country’s borders who were allowed to vote in the national election for the first time in 2014.

Late last year Hungary and Ukraine clashed over a new law in Ukraine banning teaching in minority languages, with Budapest threatening to retaliate by blocking Ukraine’s aspirations to integration in the European Union.

Reporting by Krisztina Than in Budapest and Luiza Ilie in Bucharest; Editing by Toby Chopra