The Cluj City Hall and its Love Affair with the Far Right

The Emil Boc administration has continuously accommodated and even encouraged the rise of the local far-right. We are listing below some examples of this position.

In February 2022, the City Hall made public an initiative to name a street after Nicolae Paulescu, one of the most virulent interwar antisemitic militants. The same year, shortly after the ultranationalist AUR leader George Simion burst into Timișoara City Hall with the far-right New Right group, Emil Boc warmly received Simion in the city hall while publicly exchanging positive impressions about each other:

George Simion: ‘We love the mayor. I've been to see him and he's a reasonable man to talk to. We thank him very much for seeing us’.

Emil Boc (on George Simion): ‘We have many things in common: among them the support of national values and national interest and everything that means national perspective in a Europe formed by a concert of nations...

In 2017, Emil Boc decided to keep the name of Radu Gyr street. As we have recently seen in the case of the name change of the Mircea Vulcănescu high school in Bucharest, various ultranationalist and far-right groups are constantly lobbying and mobilizing to rehabilitate war criminals such as Marshal Antonescu, Mircea Vulcănescu or Radu Gyr. The latter, who was a commander in the Iron Guard, was sentenced to 12 years for war crimes, which makes the preservation of the street name contradictory to the Emergency Ordinance 31/2002. His conviction is still in force, contrary to other opinions that speak of his supposed rehabilitation.

Mr. Boc explained his decision by referring to one petition that he received from the citizens of Cluj. In fact, the petition was initiated by the Ion Gavrilă Ogoranu Foundation, known for its neo-legionary profile and involved also in the Vulcănescu rehabilitation. According to the Cluj press, one person involved in this petition was also the head of the culture office of Cluj-Napoca City Hall, Ionuț Țene, known for his extremist and neo-legionary positions, and for rehabilitating Marshal Antonescu. Țene has expressed his political views on numerous occasions in defiance of the civil service statute, but the City Hall did not seem troubled.

Ionuț Țene was also a columnist for Sputnik Romania and is the founder and columnist of the website napocanews.ro – one of the favourite sources of Romanian ultranationalists. He is, according to PressOne, close to other far-right groups from Europe. In 2012, Țene wrote nostalgically about the Cluj-Napoca City Hall’s rehabilitation initiatives in the 2000’s for Marshal Antonescu, in which he was also involved. The ultranationalist former mayor, Gheorghe Funar, had appointed him to head the commission to build the statue of Antonescu in the Mănăștur district. The same mayor held the City Council meetings with the Marshal’s portrait next to him, and he also decided to name one street in Cluj after Antonescu.

Ironically or defiantly, on March 9, 2015, Țene ran for the position of member of the Board of Directors of the National Council for Combating Discrimination (CNCD), a public institution tasked with protecting minorities from hatred, racism, xenophobia, sexism, etc. Not a week later, Țene was speaking at the xenophobic anti-Magyar march of the New Right in Cluj. Several organisations challenged his candidacy to the CNCD.

A year later, in 2016, Țene, despite being a civil servant in City Hall, was giving political speeches at the Congress of the United Romania Party (PRU) – a far-right party. The president of the Altart Foundation at the time, István Szakáts, accused him of violating Law 161/2003 which prohibits civil servants from making political propaganda.

Despite several complaints from intellectuals and members of Cluj civil society to Cluj-Napoca City Hall and Mayor Emil Boc about Ionuț Țene’s misconduct since 2017, the administration has not reacted and he is still in office.

In addition, in 1997, the Cluj-Napoca City Hall named Iosif Constantin Drăgan as an honorary citizen. This was a former sympathizer of the Iron Guard and one of the biggest financiers and supporters of the post ‘89 legionary movement, and was actively contributing to the rehabilitation of the Antonescu regime and the denial of the Holocaust. Though Emil Boc was not a mayor at the time, he did not revoke the title during his terms in office. Drăgan had ties with the far-right leader Vadim Tudor and was also honorary president of the far-right organization Uniunea Vatra Românească, of which the notorious antisemitic Holocaust denialist Ion Coja was also an active leader. The description of Drăgan on the City Hall website, section Honorary Citizens, still in 2023 does not mention anything about his fascist leanings.

Adina Marincea

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