Hungary to block Romania’s OECD accession over Catholic high school conflict

September 8, 2017

 

Hungary to block Romania's OECD accession over catholic high school conflict
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade undersecretary Levente Magyar. Photo: Index.hu/István Huszti

Hungary’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade summoned Romania’s ambassador to Hungary on Wednesday over the shutdown of a Hungarian Catholic high school in Târgu Mureș, Romania, reports hvg.hu.

According to the ministry’s undersecretary Levente Magyar, the ambassador was summoned in response to Romanian authorities suspending classes in the Marosvásárhely (Târgu Mureș) Catholic High School. The Hungarian State sees this as an attack on the Catholic Church, Hungarian minorities and the children, Magyar added.

He announced that the Hungarian government would not support Romania in its membership application procedures to several international organizations, including the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The OECD member states are set to vote on Romania’s membership on September 8, but all current members must support the accession for approval.

Several thousand people demonstrated Wednesday morning in Târgu Mureș in support of the high school, with representatives of the Church, parents and students delivering speeches.

Romanian authorities recommended three schools to the students in lieu of the Catholic school, only one of which offers education in the Hungarian language. The other two offer courses only in Romanian, and one specializes in architecture, the other in the timber industry.

According to the ministry, these options do not offer adequate Hungarian education for students in Târgu Mureș. The ministry is now urging the Hungarian state to provide Hungarian education in the city.

The Romanian Foreign Ministry reacted to Hungary’s response in a notice, where it declared that Romania’s independent judicial system would have to decide about the school’s future based on the law. The ministry denied that there was religious or ethnic discrimination in the country’s education sector, and said the Hungarian government was utilizing the events as part of its election campaign. The ministry called it “incorrect and unfriendly” to connect the Târgu Mureș school case to Romania’s OECD membership.

Another diplomatic incident in Hungary erupted in late August when the country recalled its ambassador to the Netherlands and announced that ambassadorial-level relations would be suspended indefinitely. This came in response to an interview appearing in a Hungarian news magazine by the outgoing Dutch ambassador in which he speaks critically of the current government of Hungary.