As it happens, a good chunk of Romania's Magyars seems to be redefining itself as non-Magyar. Recently, the leadership of a population known as the Szeklers, a Magyar-speaking population concentrated in eastern Transylvania that not only retains a distinctive sense of history but is the majority population in a large territory, has agitated for this territory to be made into an autonomous district of Romania to be known as Székelyföld. This failed, not least because of the sensitivities of Romania nationalistst to perceived Magyar expansionism. Already, at least one Internet flamewar has started because of this. What's interesting about this latest crisis in Magyar-Romanian relations is that, as suggested by John Horvath at Telepolis, the call for a Székelyföld has been made despite the Hungarian-Romanian leadership's siding with the Romanian state.
For the past couple of years, a split has emerged within the ethnic Hungarian community in Romania. The Hungarian-Romanian Democratic Alliance (RMDSZ) is the largest ethnic minority party in Romania and used to be considered the de-facto representative of Romania's 2 million ethnic Hungarians. An internal power struggle and disagreement over how best to secure minority rights in Transylvania led to a split within the RMDSZ. One faction, now independent from the main party, favours a more direct approach and direct autonomy; the RMDSZ, meanwhile, favours a more indirect approach and change from within the system.
As a a coalition partner in the present government, the RMDSZ is against the proposed declaration at Szekelyudvarhely, noting that over 16 years of political effort to initiate changed from within is being put to risk. Others, however, point out that after 16 years very little has been achieved by the RMDSZ, and that anything progressive which has been done thus far has been inadequate and usually the result of pressure coming from Brussels under the guise of EU membership, and not the result of the RMDSZ's efforts.
If the Székelyföld became an autonomous district of Romania, perhaps on the model of Catalonia as some have wistfully suggested, the situation for Magyars outside of the Székelyföld would become serious. The Magyars in Slovakia form a coherent majority population in areas close to the Hungarian border, while the Magyars in Vojvodina form another like coherent pocket that could one day become a proposed controversial Hungarian Regional Autonomy. Outside of the Székelyföld, Magyars form a minority vulnerable to assimilation, via individual assimilation, growing Magyar-Romanian intermarriage, and perhaps economic migration to a Hungary steadily advancing into the First World. The Szeklers don't seem to care, not especially. Why? It seems as if, in a democratic Romania where individual rights are generally secure and the Romanian state has to concede minority groups a certain amount of space, the Szeklers don't feel particularly bound to the fate of the Magyars with whom they share a language and the memory of a shared state.
The disassociation of closely related ethnic groups united by some shared features but separated by identities isn't new in central Europe. To Hungary's north, the Czechs and Slovaks have disassociated peacefully despite their cultural similarities; to Hungary's south, the South Slavic peoples of Yugoslavia managed the same task with much more bloodshed. It's rare enough for a minority group to do this, though. The situation bearing the closest similarity to the Szeklers' is that of the Acadians, a Canadian Francophone group concentrated in eastern Canada which traces its origins to a French colony with a separate history from the main French colony in Québec, and which has felt at leisure to distinguish itself from its Québécois neighbours once its fate has been secured by the expansion of official bilingualism. Romania is still far from attaining Canada's debatable level of interethnic peace but it isn't nearly as far as it used to be under Ceaucescu. Assuming that these positive trends continue in the years to come, the split between the Szeklers and the other Magyar-speakers of Romania may only widen, weakening the community's bargaining power at the national level and introducing interesting new dynamics into Hungarian-Romanian state relations. Perhaps ironically, the call for a self-governing Székelyföld might be the thing to do the most for Romanian state unity after the Cold War.