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I'm curious if Romanian president Iohannis has used such blunt language before today in describing autonomy proposals for the Székely (which he did reject before, but perhaps not using this kind of language):

Iohannis claimed the Social Democrats the country’s largest party, were plotting to give “Transylvania to the Hungarians,” but the party moved to distance itself from the draft law.

Parliament’s Chamber of Deputies tacitly adopted the law on Tuesday, without a debate or vote. Senate will debate the initiative on Wednesday.

The proposal says Hungarian will become a second official language in state institutions in the counties of Mures, which has a large number of Hungarian speakers, and also in Harghita and Covasna where ethnic Hungarians form the majority.

The area, known as Szekley Land, would fly its own flag and have more autonomy to pass its own laws and manage its own finances.

The proposal was put forward by two lawmakers from the Union of Democratic Hungarians in Romania, the party that represents the interests of Romania’s 1.4 million ethnic Hungarians.

“What did the leader from Budapest, Viktor Orban, promise you in exchange for this agreement? “ Iohannis said. “Dear Romanians, you see what it means to have a toxic majority in Parliament.” [...]

Iohannis accused the Social Democrats of “fighting to give Transylvania to the Hungarians in Parliament’s secret offices” adding: “as long as I am president, a law like this will not exist.” Romania’s president needs to sign off on legislation, although the president can only reject a law twice.

Social Democrat leader Marcel Ciolacu distanced himself from the draft and said it would be voted down by the Senate later Wednesday.

So clearly Iohannis is trying to score points here against his political rivals by presenting the Székely autonomy law proposal in a light as bad as he can muster.

I'm intrigued however if this kind of autonomy proposal (official 2nd language, flying their own flag, pass their own laws, and "manage [their] own finances"--not sure what that entailes exactly) has been equated in such blunt terms of giving "Transylvania to the Hungarians" in prior speeches or statements of Iohannis. He clearly opposed the idea before, according to Wikipedia, but it seems he used less acerbic language to describe it (using a ref found there that has pretty lengthy quotations from a older, 2017 speech)

ethnicity-based autonomy is not desirable because it would inhibit development

So, has the discourse of Iohannis against Székely autonomy suddenly taken a sharp tone in 2020, or was there some progression/gradient in that direction since 2017?

The Hungarian foreign ministry has (now) responded to Iohannis' [latest] speech by calling it "a rude statement that incites to hatred". But they also recalled/said that

“It must be clear to Mr. President Iohannis that most part of the Magyars living in Transylvania and Szekler areas have voted for him in the presidential elections. [...] Unfortunately, the representatives of the Romanian state, one by one, have made statements in the past days that are particularly hindering the good neighbourly relations“, [Hungarian Foreign Minister] Peter Szijjarto added.

So, I'm not the only one to get the impression that Iohannis' speeches on the matter weren't always like this last one... So, to repeat my question, was this a brusque change or did Iohannis make a more gradual transition in this direction or rejecting Székely autonomy in such blunt terms?

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It is very hard to prove a negative, but it is extremely unlikely that this has happened before because Iohannis used to be a very relaxed president before the COVID related crisis.

In the first five years, he was often accused of being too silent and this style was confirmed during an interview several years ago (also check this source).

However, this style began to change after being reelected. Some political analysts argue that he played very safe during the first five years as opposed to the former President Basescu who managed to get impeached in 2007 and after being reelected he can afford to be much more involved since he has nothing to lose. Even the Parliament impeaches the President, he is so popular that he would comfortable be re-validated by the subsequent referendum.

His second term began at the beginning of December 2019 and only a couple of months passed until SARS-2 also affected Romania. He kept his balanced style of rare discourses, so one could easily follow each and every one of them (virtually all mainstream media channels put on hold everything to broadcast his discourses live or at least provide a live text).

So, it is extremely unlikely that Iohannis had such a blunt language before.

This is just a speculation, but it might also be a new nationalistic trend in National-Liberal Party after Rares Bogdan joined the party. He used to be a journalist with a strong nationalistic message.

It is also possible for National-Liberal Party to adopt a stronger nationalistic discourse to counterbalance the Social-Democrats who have won the 2016 elections using similar tactics (local and general elections are getting closer).

A notorious local political analyst also provides an explanation related to the significant decline of the National Liberal Party, which forced the president to go beyond his normal discourse.

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