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Today the Romanian president intentionally pronounced the name of its opposition party with Hungarian intonation and pronunciation. The message of his speech was that this opposition party sold Transylvania to the Hungarians (who are sometimes pictured in Romania as a minority that wants to conquer Transylvania). The reason why he spoke is that the lower house of Romanian parliament, which is lead by the opposition party, did not vote down on time a proposed new law giving regional autonomy to Hungarians (more precisely, Szeklers) of Transylvania, and hence the proposed law was automatically forwarded to the upper house.

As a Hungarian, I do not claim that I don't consider this as an anti-Hungarian statement. But I am really interested in whether similar actions have happened in other countries and with what kind of consequences.

Can this type of speech be considered as xenophobia, let alone hate speech?

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    Assuming he said that, which seems hard for anyone not speaking Romanian or Hungarian to verify at the moment, your question seems rhetorical and/or loaded. – Fizz Apr 29 at 13:30
  • Note the long story of closed questions here along the lines of "is Trump racist" etc. politics.meta.stackexchange.com/questions/3848/… – Fizz Apr 29 at 13:36
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    @Fizz: I understand what you mean, and as a Hungarian I do not claim that I not consider this as an anti-Hungarian statement. But I am really interested in how outsiders view this, and if similar actions have happened in other countries and with what kind of consequences. Also I am interested in the legal definitions around these issues, which I know is a blurry area. – Adam Gyenge Apr 29 at 13:43
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    @AdamGyenge - I admit I have never heard of the first two sources. Rares Bogdan indeed had a very nationalistic rhetoric (I have always considered him a clown) until he suddenly became a politician. – Alexei Apr 29 at 15:50
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    Anything can be considered xenophobia by somebody. Which makes this is a trivial question. This question doesn't deserve to be reopened. – Sjoerd May 1 at 20:36
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It can certainly be considered as xenophobia by some - one prior example that springs to mind is in 2009 when David Cameron, then Leader of the UK Opposition, adopted a German accent to mock the Labour party's planned initiative to introduce national identity cards:

In a mock voice apparently attempting to mimic a Nazi officer, Cameron asked an audience in Norwich: “Ver are yoor papers? Now who wants to live in a country like that?”

[...]

Though the British press remains fixated on Germany's World War II history, members of the audience were not amused by the potential prime minister's words.

One woman raised her hand and told the Conservative leader, “I wonder about the wisdom of you adopting a German accent.”

“It was meant to be light-hearted,” was Cameron's reply.

Light-hearted banter or xenophobia unbefitting a future prime minister?

The Mail reported on reactions from fellow MPs, who did not go as far as calling Cameron xenophobic:

Edward Davy, the Liberal Democrat's Shadow Foreign Affairs spokesman, said: 'This might just be dismissed as a tasteless joke if David Cameron were not trying to form a group in the European parliament with parties containing Nazi sympathisers. 'Cameron has sacked Conservative spokesman for comments just as crass and yet he expects us to consider him fit for number 10. The Tory leader is becoming increasingly gaffe-prone.'

Norman Baker, MP for Lewes said: 'It is not very edifying for the Conservative party leader to be impersonating Basil Fawlty. It could cause a diplomatic rift, and for the duration of the Norwich by-election it will be 'don't mention the gaffe'.'

A weaker example might be President Trump reportedly imitating an Indian accent in private to mock Indian PM Narendra Modi. The linked story is tagged 'xenophobia'.

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Of course those "at the receiving end" of such speech will almost often consider it such. A more recent example of written speech, but which was assumed to capture a certain [ethnic/foreign] pronunciation:

In the latest incident to strain ties between Brasilia and Beijing, Education Minister Abraham Weintraub insinuated China was behind the global health crisis.

"Geopolitically, who will come out stronger from this global crisis?" he wrote on Twitter Saturday."Who in Brazil is allied with this infallible plan for world domination?"

In the original Portuguese, his tweet substituted the letter "r" with capital "L" -- "BLazil" instead of "Brazil," for example -- in a style commonly used to mock a Chinese accent.

It was also a reference to a character from a popular Brazilian comic strip, "Monica's Gang."

The [Chinese] embassy condemned Weintraub's "absurd and despicable" tweet, calling it "highly racist."

"The Chinese government expects an official explanation from Brazil," tweeted Ambassador Yang Wanming.

(Note that the tweet didn't even mention China, just "BLazil".)

As for your example, we'll see how the Hungarian government reacts to this (I think this is "breaking news", posted only a few hours ago in Romanian media, with not much coverage elsewhere).


I see that in the meantime there has been a (negative) reaction from the Hungarian government to Iohannis' speech. Although it seems not to explicitly mention the accent issue (at least in the brief coverage I found in English) it almost called it hate speech, more precisely "a rude statement that incites to hatred":

Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto has retorted to President Iohannis’ statements on the autonomy of Szeklerland, saying that the Romanian president “had made a rude statement that incites to hatred”.

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  • Thanks. Good example. As I understand, Iohannis also mentioned Victor Orban as a participant of this conspiracy plot. It would be suprising if the Hungarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs does not condemn this, but of course they can't do too much more. – Adam Gyenge Apr 29 at 14:36

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