Romania’s prime minister is in hot water with Budapest over comments appearing to threaten ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania.
A row has broken out between Bucharest and Budapest over autonomy for ethnic Hungarians in part of Romania’s Transylvania region.
It was sparked by Mihai Tudose, Romania’s prime minister, who appeared to physically threaten those wanting a degree of independence.
He was referring to the Szekler people, who account for a large chunk of ethnic Hungarians living in Transylvania.
Transylvania used to form part of Hungary but it became a region of Romania at the end of World War One.
Tudose, reacting to a resolution signed by three ethnic Hungarian political groups calling for autonomy in Transylvania, appeared to criticise officials who fly the Szekler flag.
“If they hang the Szekler flag on institutions in Szeklerland, the people who fly these flags will hang as well. Autonomy for Szeklers is out of the question,” Tudose told private television Realitatea TV.
He later added on his own Facebook page: "As a Romanian and a prime minister, I refuse any dialogue concerning the autonomy of a part of Romania. It would go against the constitution of this country, which guarantees from the first line, the unity and indivisibility of the Romanian state."
Budapest, which has been supportive of ethnic Hungarians' autonomy aspirations, summoned Romania's ambassador to complain about Tudose’s remarks.
Hungary’s foreign minister, Peter Szijjarto, was cited by national news agency MTI as saying that Tudose's "comments in which he practically threatened representatives of … a national community with execution, are entirely unacceptable".
Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who will seek re-election for a third consecutive term on April 8, had granted ethnic Hungarians in neighbouring countries citizenship shortly after he took office in 2010 as part of his efforts to restore a battered sense of national pride.
Many Hungarians view the 1920 Treaty of Trianon as a national tragedy because it took away two-thirds of the country's territory and left millions of ethnic Hungarians living in what are now Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine and Serbia.
Orban has won popularity at home by reaching out to Hungarians outside the country's borders who were allowed to vote in the national election for the first time in 2014.