Romanian Hungarian Relations 1918 – 2018 full version – 1

(last chapter of the paper)
The Hungarian offensive against Romania lasted between 1985 and 1989 on three sides – on the cultural and historical side, in order to prove that Transylvania belonged to Hungary; secondly there was the “phenomenon of the refugees”, which attacked the Romanian establishment and Ceaușescu’s dictatorship; and the third aspect was the support of the Hungarian community in Romania claiming that it had been deprived of its rights and freedoms.
Culturally and historically speaking, the highlight was reached when, in 1986, the publishing house of the Hungarian Academy of Science published “The History of Transylvania” in three volumes, a series coordinated by Bela Köpeczi, the Hungarian Minister of Culture at that time. The work was issued three times, amounting to 130,000 copies. They later published a one volume synthesis in English, French, German and Hungarian, sufficient numbers to send to all the greatest libraries in the world. In a communist state such as Hungary at that time, such a work with such a circulation, which referred to a region belonging to another communist country under political patronage, could not have been published without the approval of the leadership of the party and of the country. Romania’s reaction at the highest level – the head of the state, ensured the book’s international promotion.[105] The issue of the refugees, and the migration of Romanian citizens – Hungarian ethnics, but Romanian ethnics too – from Romania to Hungary, mostly illegal, significantly affected the bilateral relation. Between 1988 and 1989, the process became a phenomenon, amplified and encouraged by the Hungarian authorities, who obtained support and financing from the UNHCR. Propaganda stimulated donations from individuals and humanitarian organisations. The phenomenon received support due to an action taken by the Hungarian authorities – free access to a passport and travel abroad, by lifting domestic visas to get out of the country, starting with the 1st of January 1988. Therefore, many Hungarian citizens, mainly experts, left the country and never came back. The free spots in schools, universities, hospitals, factories and research centres were filled with specialists from Romania, Hungarian ethnics, who integrated perfectly in the Hungarian society. In this case, we are referring more to an economic migration, instead of a political one. Romania will take this step – free access to a passport – two years later, on the 31st of December 1989.

The issue of the Hungarian minority in Romania was permanently on the agenda of the bilateral relations between Romania and Hungary. Constantly bringing up this unilateral and aggressive matter, which worsened Romanian-Hungarian relations considerably, was part of an ample and professionally orchestrated joint Hungarian-Soviet propaganda against Romania. During this propaganda, Hungary advertised among the domestic and foreign public opinion, the transfer of Transylvania’s sovereignty (or at least some part of it) from Romanian authority. The Hungarian manager of this propaganda all through the ‘80s was Mátyás Szürös, the head of the Department of Foreign Relations within the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party, trained in the USSR, János Kádár’s faithful collaborator and the former Hungarian ambassador in Moscow (1978-1982).[107]

For the matter of the minorities, Budapest adopted the principle of the collective rights of the national minorities, which becomes a tool of its revisionist policy. Bucharest maintained its principle of the individual rights of the persons categorised as national minorities. Under those circumstances, Romania never interfered to try to protect the Romanians in Hungary, precisely not to fuel or justify the demands of the Hungarians. However, institutions, politicians and people of culture, organizations and professional associations in Hungary demanded rights and freedoms for the Hungarian community in Romania, as if it had been threatened with extinction. It is worth mentioning the fact that the Hungarian intellectual elites in Romania were similar to those in Hungary, they had writers and artists perfectly integrated in Hungarian culture, they spoke literary Hungarian and many simple folks did not even know Romanian. Not only did the doctors, engineers, teachers and other highly qualified people from the Hungarian community in Romania, educated and trained in this communist country, who left their native country to replace those who migrated to the West, adjust quickly to their work places, but they made sure Hungary didn’t feel the brain-drain in the years that followed communism. The huge anti-Romanian propaganda in Hungary took full advantage of the Romanian systematization of the villages. The Hungarians displayed it as a destruction policy of the Hungarian and German villages in Transylvania. This issue caused in Hungary and in the Western countries a massive psychosis against the regime in Bucharest given that none of the Hungarian and German inhabited villages were touched.[108]

The tense Romanian-Hungarian bilateral relations made the Romanian authorities close the General Consulate of the Socialist Republic of Romania in Cluj-Napoca (July 1988), and the Central Committee of the Romanian Communist Party even took into account the usefulness of the Romanian Embassy in Budapest. These circumstances required a meeting at the highest level. The initiative belonged to the Romanian head of state at that time, Nicolae Ceaușescu. The Hungarians, represented by Károly Grosz, the Secretary General of the Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party, and Prime Minister of the Hungarian government,t came with a positive answer. The meeting took place in Arad, on the 28th of August 1988, and managed to ease for the moment the tensions in the bilateral relations.

Only a year after, in 1989, the great geopolitical changes caused by the fall of communism, the European hinterland of the USSR, followed in 1991 by the break-up and the disappearance of the Soviet conglomerate, directly affected Romania and Hungary. Even if in Bucharest and in Budapest they are still wondering if a revolution did indeed take place in December 1989, the changes which took place in the relation between the two countries justify the term. The totalitarian, ideologically polarised political system, which was based on a closed, centralised and state controlled economy, was overturned and replaced with a democracy, which included various political parties, and economically speaking, it changed into a free market economy, open to international trade. At the same time, both states became democracies and returned to the national and nationalistic policy from before World War II.
Between 1988 and 1989, Hungary managed to peacefully break away from communism. The experience of the violent events in 1956, after 32/33 years, determined the reformist-communists to sit down at the same table with the democratic opposition and together find a new institutional formula. Going West and the Euro-Atlantic integration process was filled with debates concerning Hungary’s new status in Europe, as well how to preserve its national identity. The fact that Hungary changed its neighbours – except for Austria in the west and Romania in the east, its neighbours in the north, Slovakia and Ukraine, and those in the south, Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia are new countries – made Budapest go one way, “for a better past”, politically speaking. In order to make yourself noticed among the political elites, no matter the orientation, left or right, you must fulfil two demanded conditions considered national interests – denounce the WTreaty in Trianon and support the Hungarians outside the borders.[109] The Hungarian Socialist Workers’ Party turns into the Hungarian Socialist Party and adopts the two new national conditions. The omnipresent Mátyás Szürös will lead the Parliament and ensure alternance in power. In 1990, the Hungarian Democratic Forum forms a government led by József Antall. The Prime Minister dies during his mandate and, following the end of this mandate, the Forum disappears from Hungarian political life. In 1994, the socialists, led by Gyula Horn, a member of Matias Szürös’ team, take the leadership of the government.
In Romania, breaking away from communism was violent, but well directed and broadcast live on national television. Even if the political change strongly opposed communism and lead to the disappearance of the communist party, the leadership was assumed by its former members. In Bucharest, the construction and consolidation of the democratic institutions took a long time, six years, having the same president, Ion Iliescu. The change would come only in 1996, when historical parties such as the National Liberal Party and the Christian Democratic National Peasants’ Party formed the Democratic Convention.[110]

Romanian nationalism slowly faded after 1990. The interethnic episode between the Romanians and the Hungarians, which started on the 19th of March 1990 in Târgu Mureș, and which could have caused a general conflict in Transylvania, was quickly overcome by the Romanian majority. However, it lingered in the political discourses of the Hungarian minority in Romania, but also in the political discourses of the centre-right Hungarian politicians. The Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania entered the parliament, joining the Romanian government, and toned down the power of the Romanian nationalist discourse and set astray the fears regarding Hungarian secessionism.
Turning to NATO and joining the EU were the main objectives both in Bucharest and in Budapest. For this, the two capitals needed to prove to Europe that Romania and Hungary ended their disputes and mutually recognised their borders and that they had normal diplomatic relations. After rushed negotiations between the Romanian government, led by the Social Democratic Party and its Prime Minister Nicolae Văcăroiu, and the socialist Hungarian government, led by Gyula Horn (the former minister of foreign affairs in the communist government, led by Miklos Nemeth), the two parties signed in Timișoara, on the 16th of September 1996, the Treaty of Understanding, Cooperation and Good Neighbourliness between Romania and Hungary.[111]

The Romanian-Hungarian Treaty was signed in peacetime, in a relaxed atmosphere of cooperation. However, it has several shortcomings regarding the way to approach the evolution of the relationship between the two countries. Thus, the treaty treats the matter of the borders superficially, mentioning only the fact that the “inviolability of the borders” is necessary, but it does not mention what those are or how they were settled. The document goes around referring to the basic document, the most important in this case, the Treaty in Trianon, signed on the 4th of June 1920.[112] Instead, the document puts more emphasis on the matter of the status of national minorities; true that there are only two articles, but one of them is two pages long and has multiple attachments. In the list of attachments, it mentions that Recommendation 1201 of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe does not refer to “collective right”. Even if this is evidenced, the error is that Recommendation 1201, which is a political document, is given legal force due to the mere fact that it is included in a legal document.[113] Practically when it comes down to minorities, the Hungarian community in Romania is granted an advantage, which is not comparable to that granted to the Romanian ethnics in Hungary. Perhaps the Romanian and Hungarian negotiators alike took into account the fact that in Romania live 1,434,377 Hungarian ethnics, while in Hungary only live 7,995 Romanian ethnics (data at the level of 2002, 6 years after the signing). They did not consider that even then, back in 1996, as well as today, in 2018, all European minorities must enjoy the same rights, no matter their number. This is while the Hungarians in Romania are members of the parliament in Bucharest, and they take part of the governing process, while in Hungary not only the Romanians, but also the other 13 national and ethnic minorities are far from being represented in the Parliament in Budapest.[114] Since 1918 until today, in 2018, for 100 years, Hungary does not wish to have minorities in the parliament in Budapest. The explanation comes from the fact that the small number of minorities – Romanian, Slovakian, Serbian, Croatian etc. – who were present in October-November 1918 in the Hungarian Parliament are still blamed for the disappearance of what was once the “Autonomous Kingdom of Hungary” in the late Austro-Hungarian Empire.

Consequently, the Treaty of Understanding, Cooperation and Good Neighbourliness between Romania and Hungary was and is a formal agreement, which enabled Hungary and Romania to join the Euro-Atlantic structures. Hungary joined NATO on the 12th of March 1999, and on the 1st of May 2004 became a member of the European Union.[115] Romania became a full member of NATO on the 29th of March 2004, and on the 1st of January 2007 it joined the European Union.[116] Now, in the beginning of the 21st century, Romania and Hungary are again in the same system of alliances. The sensitivities related to Transylvania and the minorities are still there in the bilateral relation, however not as evident as in the 20th century. So long as no country becomes an arbitrator in the relations between Romania and Hungary, tranquility in the Carpathians and in the Danube basin is ensured.

NOTE: The study was published in Ion M. Anghel (coord.) “Romania’s Foreign Policy and Diplomacy over a Century since the Establishment of Greater Romania” – Romanian Academy Publishing, 2018, volume II, pag. 303-334.

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Asociația Anima Fori - Sufletul Cetății s-a născut în anul 2012 din dorința unui mic grup de oameni de condei de a-și pune aptitudinile creatoare în slujba societății și a valorilor umaniste. Dorim să inițiem proiecte cu caracter științific, cultural și social, să sprijinim tineri performeri în evoluția lor și să ne implicăm în construirea unei societăți democratice, o societate bazată pe libertatea de conștiință și de exprimare a tuturor membrilor ei. Prezenta publicație este realizată în colaborare cu Gazeta Românească.

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Asociația Anima Fori - Sufletul Cetății s-a născut în anul 2012 din dorința unui mic grup de oameni de condei de a-și pune aptitudinile creatoare în slujba societății și a valorilor umaniste. Dorim să inițiem proiecte cu caracter științific, cultural și social, să sprijinim tineri performeri în evoluția lor și să ne implicăm în construirea unei societăți democratice, o societate bazată pe libertatea de conștiință și de exprimare a tuturor membrilor ei. Prezenta publicație este realizată în colaborare cu Gazeta Românească.