Magyar Szív – Magyar Szó (Hungarian Heart – Hungarian Word) Foundation organized a conference in Budapest on 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 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 from 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-government, consisting of a large 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 the 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, finally, South Tyrol’s statute of autonomy was accepted by the Italian parliament and government.
According to Mr Petterlini, since then there is 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
and each ethnic group could preserve its language, culture and traditions. Furthermore, according to the two experts, regardless of ethnic background, it is good that not Rome decides what is best for them in education, economic development or in helping local young people.
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 a lot with the rights of the migrants. 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 Hungarian green party LMP said that autonomy means that an ethnic minority of a country being in majority in a given region (for example, the Hungarians living in Szeklerland, Romania) gets right to 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 in Romania do not know exactly what autonomy means
which gives ground to many misunderstandings. He added that it is the failure of the 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 is time for a firmer representation of the Transylvanian Hungarian interests in the Romanian parliament. He submitted four times Szeklerland’s statute of autonomy (which is based on South Tyrol’s statute) to the parliament and even though it was rejected ethnic Romanian MPs started to talk about the issue.
Interestingly, 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.