Saturday, March 14, 2009

The perils of translation

The president of Hungary, Laszlo Solyom, was due to visit here this weekend, as part of the March 15th (national Day of Hungarians) celebrations. Some of the most well-known battles in the 1848 uprising (which March 15th commemorates) were fought in this region, and there are therefore some important monuments and events that happen round here. He planned to fly in today to Targu Mures/Marosvasarhely, then helicopter down to Csikkozmas just south of here for one of these events, before high tailing it back to Budapest to take part in whatever celebrations go on there.

However, now, as far as I know the trip is off, and it seems the cancellation is down to some translation issues (plus some populists seizing a chance to make political capital out of shit stirring). Solyom was officially invited here by the president of Harghita County Council, and as protocol demands, the Hungarian government sent word to the Romanian government that he planned to visit and set out his itinerary. Now the original invite was in Hungarian, the diplomatic letter between capitals was in English, and the Romanian media and various members of the PSD (part of the governing coalition) are reporting its contents in Romanian. But somewhere along the line what came as an invite from the "Local government of Harghita County" has turned into the "Self-government of Harghita County". This has caused the aforementioned shit-stirrers to get all righteously het up and cancel permission for his plane to land, thus sparking something of a diplomatic incident. They were even whining on TV last night about how he would be flying in on a "Hungarian Air Force" plane - which is of course true, but then all presidential aircraft are actually officially air force planes, including Basescu's (and most famously "Air Force One" in the US), it doesn't actually mean he's coming in on some heavily armed fighter jet. Also they have concluded that he was coming to make a speech in favour of autonomy for the Szekely - on what basis I'm not sure, since nobody knows what the contents of his speech were going to be, but the PSD lackey on TV last night was reporting this as fact.

I have no idea if the translation issue was an honest error in Budapest or Bucharest, or a purposeful bit of shit-stirring by someone in either one of those two capitals, but it's certainly caused a stir. Hopefully it will all blow over in a few days, and the good relations between Budapest and Bucharest can resume, but if the PSD (nominally a left wing party, but in fact a party who love playing the nationalist anti-minority card) have anything to do with it, I suspect not. (And then of course if FIDESZ come to power in Hungary next time out, which the polls suggest they will, this trans-Transylvanian sniping is going to ramp up a few more notches).

[Slightly later update: In this article , Smaranda Enache, who is by far and away the most believable and worthy politician (of any party and any ethnic origin) in Romania, says that the translation issue is an honest mistake because of how Hungarian renders the idea of local government ("önkormányzat" being most directly translated into English as self-government)]


Anonymous said...

It is Smaranda Enache dude!

Gadjo Dilo said...

Bollocks, trust the PSD to get back to that caveman stuff regarding ethnic minorities. I confess I don't know who Smaranda Urnache/Enache is - can you enlighten us? And tell us why he is better than the new prime minister and our dapper former mayor Mr Boc?

Andy H said...

Hi, sorry, anon, I misspelled it.

GD: She's the Founder and president of something called the Liga Pro Europa. I don't have time to go into everything I know about her, but a quick bio is here:

She once stood to be mayor of Cluj, I believe, and lost to your dapper Mr Boc (and Mrs H still holds that against him, though it would seem to me that it's the electorate that needs to be blamed :-)).

Gadjo Dilo said...

Yep, her credentials look impressive; maybe her time will come. "it would seem to me that it's the electorate that needs to be blamed" - you want Gheorghe Funar back again, Andy? ;-)

csl said...

S.E. is better than Boc ... well, maybe 'cause S.E. is she, not he :)
Nevertheless, for all Boc-fans: enjoy your Cluj with Mr. Ap(r)ostu!

Anonymous said...

Well, according to the European Charter of Local Self-Government, signed and ratified by Romania, the term "self-government" can very well be a synonim for "local government of Hargita County" so it's not actually a translation error since their meaning is the same.