The usage of the ethnic minorities, mother tongue within the administration of the state institutions Bilingualism in the institutions of the local public administration

Mures County, May 2011.℘

The representatives of Civic Engagement Movement have implemented a series of trainings with the aim to raise awareness, inform and build capacity in relation to the use of the ethnic minorities’ mother tongue within the state institutions as regulated in the Romanian legislation. The trainings have focused mainly on the idea of bilingualism that includes the usage of the official language of the country – the Romanian language – alongside with the language of the national minorities in the Regions where the ethnic minorities live. The County of Mures is a Region where the proportion of the ethnic Hungarians is more than 40%.  As a consequence of this the practice of bilingualism would be very much required given that the representative of the Hungarian community have the right to use their mother tongue in the administrative procedures of the local public administration such as mayor’s offices and their affiliated institutions as well as the local self-government’s decisions are to be mandatory translated into the language of the national minorities. The practice of bilingualism would not detriment the use of the state’s official language it would only add the mother tongue of the ethnic communities living in certain regions.
The present project was funded by the Bethlen Gabor Foundation from Hungary.
The partners of the project were the experts of the Romanian Institute for Research on National Minorities alongside with the Linguistic Department of the Babes Bolyai University from Cluj, from where we have invited linguistic experts to take part in our trainings. Another major partner of our project responsible mainly for the organization of the trainings’ location and logistics was the County Office of the Democratic Alliance of the Hungarian from Romania.

Regrettably the present practice is primarily monolingual (held in Romanian) especially when it comes to official papers and the usage of the official forms used within the daily administration. Therefore the citizens that belong to the ethnic minorities have difficulties using their mother tongue within the local administration as set in the country’s legislation (Law of Local Public Administration nr. 215/2001).
The series of trainings have  been implemented in several localities within Mures county in the period between 10 and 27 May, 2011. The locations where the trianings were held were the followings ones: Sovata, Reghin, Târnăveni, Sânpaul, Acă?ari, Sângeorgiu de Pădure, Peri?, Miercurea Nirajului, Pănet.
There have been around 150 participants altogether including mayors, deputy mayors, representative of the local self-governments, administrative personnel, lawyers, and other representatives of the local public administrations.

The aim of the Trainings were to inform, raise awareness and practice (simulation) the bilingual administration and work processes. In the first part of the Training the trainers have presented the legal background regulating the use of mother tongue within the state institutions regarding the ethnic minorities living in Romania. Given that the majority of these laws and regulations have been introduced in the Romanian legislation quite a while ago, in 2011, we can clearly state that the level of application of these legal obligations is seriously deficient. The responsibility is at the level of the state institutions, including central administrative organs such as Ministries and other institutions. We can also add the existence of legal provisions without proper will and regulations will not bring viable results. This can be the motive of the missing bilingualism that is characterizing the state institutions throughout the entire regions where the percentage of the ethnic minorities is high.

After presenting the legal background regulating the use of minority languages within the state institutions (including international treaties signed and ratified by Romania) the Training has continued with the preparation of an inventory prepared by the participants presenting the actual  daily practice regarding the use of ethnic minorities’ mother tongue both oral and written form. The spoken languages are both Romanian and Hungarian in this case the concept of bilingualism is an existing reality but when it comes to the written form the only language used is Romanian, although the legislation includes the possibility of the usage of the mother tongue of the ethnic minorities.
After examining the present practice and daily administration the participants have prepared a draft strategy where they have included within the daily practice the practical use of the bilingualism. This meant that all the fields such as finance, legal department, social workers and administrative personnel have had the task to prepare a simulated plan that would include the usage of both Romanian and Hungarian language within the oral and written daily procedures.
At the end of the Training we have had the conclusions and the lessons learned part where the participants have shared their opinions on the issues discussed during the training as well as they have presented their plans regarding the possible implementation of the training’s outcomes.
All the participants agreed that the issues presented especially the legal background have been extremely important and helpful albeit regarding the implementation of the bilingualism they had been much more pessimistic given that the introduction of the bilingual administration is money and time consuming therefore additional funding is required in order to be realistically implemented. This aspect doesn’t fall under the responsibility of the personnel the state and the central administration needs to allocate funds and means with the aim to properly implement the long (more than ten years!) existing legal provisions.

In the end we can clearly state the Trainings implemented by Civic Engagement Movement were distinctive and innovator, given that previously haven’t been developed and introduced similar type of trainings although the issue of proper usage of the ethnic minorities ‘mother tongue, more precisely the introduction of the real bilingualism are extremely important aspects that also display the dynamic of the coexistence between the majority and ethnic minority within Romania.