Misbeliefs about Autonomy

The Constitutionality of the Autonomy of Szeklerland

by Attila Dabis (Author)
Thesis 186 Pages


The book aims to eliminate the misbeliefs that surround the question of the constitutionality and the feasibility of the territorial autonomy aspirations of Szeklerland, a predominantly Hungarian-speaking part of south-east Transylvania, Romania. The main hypothesis of the book is that the territorial autonomy of Szeklerland does not contradict the constitutional order of Romania. There are only political obstacles that are being presented as legal ones to avoid a dialogue on regional power-sharing. The doctrinal legal analysis outlined in the book, complemented with the comparative analysis, shows that the false presupposition that territorial autonomy would violate the constitutional system of Romania arises from the misinterpretation of the connection between state and autonomy, and as such can be falsified by the experience of functioning autonomies, the corresponding scientific literature, as well as the recommendations and documents of various international fora.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Acknowledgements
  • Contents
  • List of Abbreviations
  • List of Tables and Figures
  • 1 Introduction
  • 1.1 Novelty and Relevance of the Analysis
  • 1.2 Structure of the Book
  • 1.3 Theoretical and Methodological Framework
  • 1.4 Primary Concepts
  • 1.5 Relating Concepts
  • 1.6 Historical Background
  • 1.7 What and Why
  • 1.7.1 Basic Features of the Draft Law on the Autonomy of Szeklerland
  • 1.7.2 Driving Forces Behind Szekler Autonomy Aspirations
  • Linguistic Rights, Cultural and Educational Issues
  • Religious Discrimination
  • Economic Discrimination
  • Constraints on the Use of Symbols
  • Lack of Dialogue and Insufficient Administrative Practices
  • Securitization of Autonomy Aspirations
  • 2 Autonomy and the Constitution of a Nation State
  • 2.1 Romanian Constitutional Traditions
  • 2.1.1 Liberal Constitutionalism
  • 2.1.2 Communist Period
  • 2.1.3 Post-communist Period
  • 2.1.4 Constitution in Force
  • 2.2 Opinion No. 405/2004 – the Essential Summary of All Arguments
  • 2.2.1 Substantive Objections
  • 2.2.2 Procedural Objections
  • 2.3 Decision No. 80/2014 of the Constitutional Court of Romania Rejecting the Constitutional Amendments Proposed by the Special Committee of the Parliament – the Constitutional Court and the Recognition of the National Ideal
  • 2.4 Political Assertions
  • 2.5 Similar Approaches
  • 3 Deconstructing the Constitutional Barrier
  • 3.1 Counterarguments to Opinion No. 405/2004
  • 3.1.1 Counterarguments to Substantive Objections
  • 3.1.2 Counterarguments to Procedural Objections
  • 3.2 Counterarguments to Decision No. 80/2014
  • 3.3 Legal Entrenchment – Flexible Solutions to Accommodate Autonomy Arrangements
  • 4 Policy Implications
  • 4.1 Romanian State
  • 4.1.1 Options Requiring the Amendment of the Constitution or the Adoption of a New One
  • 4.1.2 Options Not Requiring Constitutional Amendments
  • 4.2 Minority Community
  • 4.3 Kin-State
  • 4.4 International Community
  • 5 Conclusions
  • Bibliography

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List of Abbreviations


Advisory Committee of the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities


Constitutional Court of Romania


Constitutional Court of Spain


Constitution of Italy


Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of



Council of Europe


Committee of Experts of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages


Constitution of Romania


Constitution of Spain


Conference on Security and Co-operation in Europe


Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania


Directorate for Investigating Organized Crime and Terrorism

(Direcția de Investigare a Infracțiunilor de Criminalitate

Organizată și Terorism)


Draft Law on the Autonomous Status of Szeklerland


National Anticorruption Directorate (Direcţia Naţională Anticorupţie)


Overseas Departments and Territories (départements et territoires d’outre-mer)


Day of Szekler Freedom


European Convention on Human Rights


European Commission against Racism and Intolerance


European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages


European Court of Human Rights


European Union

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Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities


International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights


International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights


Legislative Consent Motion


National Council for Combating Discrimination


Non-Governmental Organization


New Statute of Autonomy of Catalonia


Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe


Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe


Democratic Party (Partidul Democrat)


National Liberal Party (Partidul Naţional Liberal)


Social Democratic Party (Partidul Social Democrat)


Romanian Intelligence Service (Serviciul Român de Informaţii)


Szekler National Council


Territorial Autonomy


United Nations


Universal Periodic Review

Venice Commission

European Commission for Democracy Through Law

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1 Introduction

1.1 Novelty and Relevance of the Analysis

With approximately 650,000 members, the Hungarian-speaking Szekler community is one of the largest nationalities of Europe that, despite corresponding efforts, has not yet obtained regional autonomy. The many public protests, demonstrations, the numerous drafts, programs, and manifestos of Hungarian political organizations, scientific institutions, and NGOs show a permanent discontent of the Hungarian minority regarding their legal status in Romania. Given that such discontent was present in different forms ever since the territorial changes after the First World War occurred, the question of the Hungarian minorities in the successor states of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (see Fig. 1) is characterized by some as one of the major unresolved questions of Central and Eastern Europe.1 It is no great surprise, however, that this opinion is not widely shared by state officials of countries having extensive Hungarian minority communities. As a matter of fact, the most common viewpoint one would hear is that the minority question in Romania is solved in an exemplary manner. Any subject which continues to polarize the public opinion so vividly is worthy of scientific analysis.

On the theoretical, conceptual level, Misbeliefs About Autonomy offers a multidisciplinary approach, blending legal studies, social sciences, and history in analysing the arguments of a nationalizing state against regional autonomy.2 The book presents a multi-tier approach to scrutinize the validity of these “nation-state arguments” based on a doctrinal legal analysis, combined with a comparative legal analysis. In this sense, the analysis presented in this book has an educational and awareness-raising core, as it aims to falsify widespread misinterpretations regarding the connection between regional autonomy and its effects on state unity and territorial integrity in general and those of Romania in particular. The book wishes to clarify various minority-related issues and present how these affect Romanian public policy decision, while also introducing, for the wider public, the Szekler community of Transylvania, and the self-determination aspirations thereof.


ISBN (Hardcover)
Publication date
2021 (September)
Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Warszawa, Wien, 2021. 186 pp., 8 fig. col., 3 tables.

Biographical notes

Attila Dabis (Author)

Attila Dabis is a political scientist and public figure, based in Budapest, Hungary. He earned his PhD degree in 2018 at the International Relations Multidisciplinary Doctoral School of the Corvinus University of Budapest. Since 2012 he has been functioning as the Foreign Affairs Commissioner of the Szekler National Council. Since 2016 he has been the International Coordinator of the Institute for the Protection of Minority Rights. As of 2019 he is co-founder, and editor-in-chief of the of the academic journal, Kisebbségvédelem / Minority Protection.


Title: Misbeliefs about Autonomy