- Associated Press - Tuesday, December 6, 2016

BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - The Romanian culture ministry has discriminated against Hungarians in the country by failing to win international recognition for a religious festival, an ethnic Hungarian politician said Tuesday.

Csilla Hegedus, deputy head of the Union of Democratic Hungarians in Romania, said 100 Hungarian experts had worked six years to secure UNESCO protection for a Catholic pilgrimage in northwest Romania where most of Romania’s 1.4 million Hungarians live.

Hegedus claimed a Romanian culture ministry official failed to provide UNESCO with documentation it requested about the festival. The ministry declined to immediately comment, but Culture Minister Corina Suteu said last week that Romanian authorities had withheld the file since it was incomplete.

The annual pilgrimage at Sumuleu Ciuc to celebrate Pentecost attracts more than 100,000 Catholics every year. Some even walk from outside Romania to the festival, the largest Catholic festival of its kind in Central and Eastern Europe.

Tensions have been rising between the two countries. Hungarian Foreign Minister Peter Szijjarto told Hungarian diplomats not to attend Romania’s national day celebration, saying Hungarians had “nothing to celebrate.”

Some ethnic Hungarians feel they have lost influence in Romania in the past two years, the last time an ethnic Hungarian politician held a ministerial post. Commentators say that the recent tensions are political maneuvers ahead of Romania’s Dec. 11 parliamentary election to increase voter turnout in areas where ethnic Hungarians predominate.

In her statement, Hegedus urged Hungarians to vote in the election. She is among those politicians running for a seat.

Transylvania became part of Romania in 1918. Before that it was part of the Austro-Hungarian empire.

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