The European Union is renowned that it takes human rights seriously, and it condemns racism and hate speech.

However, when the Romanian prime minister recently threatened the Hungarian minority in Romania, saying that whoever tries to display their national flag, will be hanged next to those flags, there has been surprisingly little reaction in the EU in this matter, and many major news organizations didn't even report the story.

There have been huge scandals over much smaller instances of hate speech in the EU, why is this case so different?

For example, Poland and Hungary were often threatened by EU sanctions for discrimination, among other accusations, and none of them have ever issued any death threats against ethnic groups. Given how heavily Poland and Hungary are criticized in West-European media, imagine the scandal if their PM would issue death threats against members of one of their minorities.

What makes either Romania, or this event, so different?

  • 5
    Maybe there is some context that I am missing, but while certainly extreme the PM words do not seem aimed so much to the Hungarian minority but against a political movement for the independence (or autonomy?) of that minority. Which could probably conflict with EU rules for the rights of minorities/free speech/political activities, but it is not the same than "death threat against a national minority".
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jan 14, 2018 at 21:07
  • This is basically asking for speculation. The answer below doesn't really answer your question, it just tells you what's wrong with your interpretation. It could be that the EU has bigger fish to fry. It could be that they dislike Orban even more, so they don't want to give him satisfaction etc. Given that it's been 6 months with no comment from the EU on that... you're probably not going to get a better answer. Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 7:51
  • Also, it looks like Tudose quit soon thereafter, probalby rendring the issue even less pressing: dw.com/en/… Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 7:56

3 Answers 3


Disclaimer: Please do not take the following as condoning Mihai Tudose (Romania PM)'s words.

From the links provided in the edit, it is very clear that the title of the question is a notable misrepresentation of the issue.

The words are (emphasis mine):

"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.

The (local/regional) institutions are part of the Romanian state and there will be laws about what flags may be flown, and how. Adding a different flag means a challenge to the authority of the state1, i.e. it is a crime (even if it certainly is not punishable by death)2.

Second, it is noted from the news pieces that Tudose's comments have been criticized and/or softened by member of his own government, and that there seems to be no attempt at enacting a law in line with the declarations. And that the PM seems to lack any support for such a change (up to the point that his government depends of the support of an Hungarian minority party). That makes the issue just a big mouthed idiot using big words3 to embarrass himself and his country just to get the populist vote4.

Compare that with Orban and Kaczynski tight control of their respective governments (including their parliaments and increasing control over the judiciary), and the fact that those have actually taken actions (laws, etc.) towards their ends.

Also, the "death threat against national minority" interpretation is an interested one, coming from Orban's government. One of Orban's stated goals is challenging the Triannon treaty (end of WWI), and reincorporating the parts of Romania with Hungarian population. To that end, claiming that the Hungarian population in Romania is in risk is a very useful narrative to convince his voters of the need of such actions (and, in consequence, of their support to his government no matter what).

In short, while Mr. Tudose could certainly remember his position5 before saying certain things, the interpretation of his words as a threat of ethnic cleansing is way too far-fetched (ok, let's be clear, it is just a lie). But of course, nationalist tensions are useful to distract the public from other issues (like for example the corruption issues surrounding Romania these days).

1Note how the second paragraph allows for freedom of speech/political action, thus voiding one of the issues from my comment.

2I do not know the specific Romanian laws, but the EU forbids the death penalty.

3Word of the day: Hyperbole.

4Must be the sign of the times...

5And the ever present risks of some idiot understanding his words as a go-ahead for criminal activities.

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    I'm certain Mr. Tudose is aware of the legal process and the wording is not suggesting that he warns people of the law and the judicial system. I'm quite certain, if this was Orban, it would make the news in Europe. It is reported in the United States, but there appears to be a virtual blackout in Westen European media on the topic.
    – janh
    Commented Jan 15, 2018 at 16:07

SJuan has a provided an excellent answer, but it happens that I followed local politics more when ex-Prime Minister was appointed and after that, so I can add some extra information:

I do not know the specific Romanian laws, but the EU forbids the death penalty.

There is nothing unclear about this: Romanian has abolished death penalty immediately after the Revolution (1989-1990) and it is strictly forbidden in any EU country anyway (actually within all European countries except Russia and Belarus).

Having the same native language as Mihai Tudose, for me it is obviously that his remarks were a joke (obviously, not a good one). He is regarded as belonging to the "nationalist" wing of the party in power and a man of the people.

The subject was discussed over many days and the main idea was that it is not appropriate for a PM to have such a discourse. Shortly put, almost nobody took him seriously.

SJuan correctly argues that these words were never supported by any significant actions (laws, Government decisions etc.) and this is also emphasized by the presence of Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania in the Government (as of now, they are officially in the opposition, but they support current coalition) who ensures some checks and balances when taking decisions that might affect the Hungarian minority.

As a side note, ex-Prime Minister was summed by the National Council for Combating Discrimination and later apologized for his statements.

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    Maybe the EU decided to let Romania's anti-hate-speech institution deal with it... again there's no way to tell. Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 8:01
  • @Fizz - yes, it makes sense, since that institution is quite active and if I know correctly its existence is connected to EU membership. Also, any adviser knowing the language and the context could confirm the lack of substance behind these words.
    – Alexei
    Commented Aug 8, 2018 at 8:05

As a rule of thumb - and as much as it can - the EU doesn't interfere with the internal affairs of its member states.

See for example Catalonia, where the EU did its best to stay neutral.

It's in the better interest of member states, too, since quite a few have separatist groups.

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