Washington, DC – The Hungarian American Coalition has issued a statement in support of recently articulated autonomy proposals by representatives of the 1.5 million-member Hungarian national minority in Transylvania, Romania.
In December 2003, the newly formed Hungarian National Council of Transylvania adopted a declaration calling for legal measures establishing autonomous institutions, in line with Western European models, including special autonomy status for regions and localities inhabited in the majority by ethnic Hungarians.
The Hungarian American Coalition statement affirms that “efforts to promote autonomy by the Hungarian National Council of Transylvania […] are reasonable, timely and necessary.”
The statement notes that the Hungarian minority needs autonomous structures for its culture and language to survive, citing the failure of the Romanian government’s minority policy in areas such as church restitution, ethnic Hungarian representation in the civil service and police force, and the lack of a Hungarian-language state university.
Autonomous institutions for the purpose of promoting minority language, culture, education and political representation are familiar in many regions of Western Europe, and are endorsed by the Council of Europe.
The Coalition statement also calls on the U.S. to join in voicing its support for minority autonomy: “As longstanding, strong supporters of the U.S. foreign policy goal to promote stability and democracy in Central and Eastern Europe, we call upon American policy makers to urge Romanian leaders to recognize and act in a timely manner to fulfill the legitimate demands of the Hungarian national minority.”
The full text of the Hungarian American Coalition’s statement is attached.
To read the Hungarian National Council of Transylvania’s Declaration Regarding Self-Government for the Hungarian Minority in Transylvania, see www.hhrf.org/attachment1-5.htm
Statement Of The Hungarian American Coalition
The Hungarian American Coalition supports the autonomy proposals of the Hungarian national minority community in Transylvania, Romania. Hungarian minority communities in Romania, Slovakia, Serbia, and Ukraine have served as important catalysts for regional stability and democratization in post-communist Central Europe. Ethnic Hungarian political parties in the region have supported power-sharing arrangements in order to promote Western democratic values and to assume responsibilities for governance beyond their own particular interests. Their autonomy proposals aim to protect ethnic identity and to strengthen local democracy and self-governance within the existing state structure. These proposals would fulfill the legitimate needs of sizeable communities.
The Hungarian American Coalition believes that if the 1.5 million-strong historic Hungarian community in Romania is to survive, it must secure effective methods to preserve and nurture its unique cultural, ethnic, religious and linguistic identity. Territorial and cultural autonomy are such methods. Romanian leaders have repeatedly claimed that Romania’s minority policy is exemplary, but the facts prove otherwise. While the Romanian government has granted some concessions to reverse long-standing minority rights abuses, its progress has been lacking in other key areas. Most notably, the Romanian government has failed to make significant progress in returning the 2,140 properties illegally confiscated from Hungarian churches. Other shortcomings include the following: 1) denial of the aspiration for a Hungarian-language state university; 2) under-representation of ethnic Hungarians in the civil service and police force; and 3) the Romanian authorities’ opposition to any suggestions of regional economic development for Hungarian-inhabited counties. Romanian officials continue to depict ethnic Hungarians as “internal enemies” of the state.
Arrangements securing territorial or cultural autonomy date back to the Middle Ages in Transylvania and this tradition has inspired the present-day aspirations of the Hungarian minority community. More than a decade ago, at its delegates’ assembly held on October 25, 1992 in Kolozsvár/Cluj, the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania adopted autonomy as part of its political program. At a meeting on July 5, 1996, representatives of ethnic Hungarian organizations, the Hungarian government, and Hungary’s political parties unanimously endorsed the concept of autonomy.
The international community increasingly recognizes autonomy arrangements as viable and constructive solutions to the peaceful coexistence of national minorities and governing majorities. The Council of Europe recently resolved that “[s]tates must prevent tensions from developing by introducing flexible constitutional or legislative arrangements to meet minorities’ expectations… Autonomy, as applied in states respectful of the rule of law which guarantee their nationals fundamental rights and freedoms, should … be seen as a ‘sub-state’ arrangement,’ which allows a minority group within a state to exercise its rights and preserve its cultural identity, while providing certain guarantees of the state’s unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity.” (Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 1334, adopted June 24, 2003, entitled Positive experiences of autonomous regions as a source of inspiration for conflict resolution in Europe)
The Hungarian American Coalition believes that efforts to promote autonomy by the Hungarian National Council of Transylvania and the Székely National Council are reasonable, timely and necessary. We deplore the statements of Romanian government officials, and police actions taken locally, which seek to criminalize the constitutionally guaranteed right of every citizen of Romania to free speech. As longstanding, strong supporters of the U.S. foreign policy goal to promote stability and democracy in Central and Eastern Europe, we call upon American policy makers to urge Romanian leaders to recognize and act in a timely manner to fulfill the legitimate demands of the Hungarian national minority.