Despite attacks on Hungarians, German Charlemagne Prize board upholds award to Romanian President Iohannis

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Responding to a letter by independent Hungarian MP János Bencsik, in which the politician warned the German board of the Charlemagne Prize that their latest nominee, Romanian President Klaus Iohannis, was unfit for such a recognition on account of his anti-Hungarian remarks, the foundation replied they saw no reason to reconsider their decision.

The President may have used an opinion that was unusually sharp for his circumstances, but I cannot recognize an attack on the Hungarian minority or the degradation of it,” board director Jürgen Linden replied in a letter dated June 12. “The foundation’s board for awarding the international Charlemagne Prize of Aachen has no doubt that Klaus Iohannis is a convinced and convincing European, and we see no reason to revise this decision.”

Bencsik wrote his letter to the Charlemagne Prize board on May 12, nine days before the Romanian president was awarded the prestigious distinction “for lasting services for the unity of Europe”, whose previous awardees include Winston Churchill, Robert Schuman, Henry Kissinger and Pope John Paul II.

Bencsik drew the board’s attention to the fact that in a public address on April 29, Iohannis accused the leader of the Romanian opposition Social Democratic Party, Marius Ciolacu, and the main representation of ethnic Hungarians in Romania, the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (RMDSZ), of plotting to hand over Transylvania to Hungary. The Romanian president even directly involved Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán, asking “What did the leader from Budapest, Viktor Orbán, promise you in exchange for this agreement?”

“German intellectuals obviously have no idea of the condition of the people nations of Central Europe. They only care for one thing, that the Bavarian industrial giants can pump out the profit and the available workforce from these countries. They have no direct economic or financial incentive to either acknowledge or solve the problems,” Bencsik wrote in reaction to the board’s letter on his Facebook page.

Iohannis, who himself belongs to the German ethnic minority, that still lives in Romania, has been fined 5,000 Romanian leu (€1,032) by the country’s National Anti-Discrimination Council (CNDC) for his anti-Hungarian remarks on May 20 but was awarded the Charlemagne Prize of the German city of Aachen the following day. Iohannis has appealed the fine in court.

Title image: Romanian President Klaus Iohannis delivering his inflammatory speech on April 29. (

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