Monday, March 14, 2011

Balkan free movements!

First Romanian Hungarians Get Dual Citizenship

Ethnic Hungarians in Romania seeking Hungarian passports will be able to realise their dream this week, though the benefits will be mainly symbolic.

Marian Chiriac

Thousands of members of Romania's ethnic Hungarian minority are to start getting dual citizenship this week.

The first group of Hungarians to take their oath on Monday will be in Miercurea Ciuc, in southeast Transylvania. Around 6,000 ethnic Hungarians have expressed interest in obtaining Hungarian passports.

One is European MP Laszlo Tokes, head of the Transylvanian Hungarian National Council, CNMT. Tokes and his family were among the first to apply for Hungarian citizenship early this year.

Hungary adopted legislation in May 2010 making it easier for the 3.5 million ethnic Hungarians outside the country to obtain dual citizenship. Most live in Romania, Serbia, Slovakia and Ukraine.

Pastor Tokes says dual citizenship should help the community "in its drive for greater autonomy and cultural rights". Hungarian citizenship would also mark "recognition that after 90 years of living outside Hungary, we still maintain our identity", he added, referring to Hungary's cession of Transylvania to Romania after the First World War.

Tokes's CNMT seeks greater autonomy for Romania's ethnic Hungarians and champions close relations between the community and Budapest. His defiance of Romania's former communist authorities in 1989 helped touch off the Romanian revolution that overthrew dictator Nikolae Ceaucescu.

While mainly of symbolic importance, dual citizenship papers will make it easier to obtain a US or Canadian visa and ease access to jobs in the European Union. Both Romania and Hungary are members of the EU and NATO.

About 7 per cent of Romania's 22 million citizens are ethnic Hungarian. The 600,000 or so so-called Szeklers in southeast Transylvania have long campaigned for an autonomous region in Transylvania.

Bucharest officials have no objections to Romania's citizens taking out dual citizenship. “We have no objections to the Hungarian law making it easier to grant Hungarian citizenship to ethnic Hungarians living abroad," President Traian Basescu has said.

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