Centenary – a chance for dialogue : Presentation of MEP Tőkés László at the conference he hosted at the European Parliament on 16 October

MEP Tőkés László (17.10.2018) – Today’s conference articulates the goal and hope of a “different kind of dialogue” between Romanians and Hungarians. In order to inform our foreign guests, I would like to clarify that our event is not about the inter-state communication between Romania and Hungary. Rather it concerns the dialogue between the majority Romanians of our common country and the one and a half million Transylvanian minority Hungarians. This dialogue is absent but all the more desirable. Keeping in mind our objective to resolve the situation of our bilateral relations and the situation of Hungarians in Romania, there is an extremely important circumstance to consider, namely that our nations are part of united Europe, whose entire system is based on dialogue and whose basic treaty foresees the protection of minorities in detail. It is no coincidence, therefore, that the case of Romanian-Hungarian dialogue was put on the agenda in Brussels today – since we are asking and expecting help from the European Union and its institutions to resolve our common matters.


Last Friday, in the capital of Transylvania, Romania, in Kolozsvár/Cluj a similar conference took place, entitled Our centenaries. How to go on with the Romanian-Hungarian relations? Our discussion based on trust between the Romanians and the Hungarians is now the sixth in the line in creating a tradition for the mutual understanding of Romanian-Hungarian relations, which are also traditionally bad. By analogy, I could mention the French-German reconciliation, which was the basis of the establishment of the European Union at the time. Following the example of the “fathers of Europe”, in the Carpathian Basin the Hungarian-Romanian reconciliation is equally important.


At our meeting in Cluj, we accepted a joint statement signed by twelve remarkable Romanian and Hungarian political-public figures on each side. In our resolution published for collecting additional signatures, we made a call for co-operation between the majority Romanians and native Hungarian minority in Transylvania, knowing that the land of Transylvania has been “the field of complementarity and could become once again the model of religious and cultural pluralism for centuries”. The Romanian and Hungarian lecturers recalled that Transylvania, once an autonomous Hungarian principality, the land of religious tolerance in 1568 was the first in the world to proclaim the freedom of conscience and religion, thus preceding the whole of Europe by centuries. We are aware and are rightly proud that our Transylvanian religious and spiritual heritage has preceded the universal value system of today’s common Europe, namely: European diversity, freedom of conscience and religion, and non-discriminatory tolerance. In our meetings in Kolozsvár/Cluj and Brussels, we also stood for these fundamental Transylvanian-European values, consistently and in a constructive dialogue for mutual understanding, peaceful settlement of Romanian-Hungarian relations, together with the settlement of the oppressed Hungarians’ situation.


Our endeavor is extremely timely, for our country celebrates the 100th anniversary of the birth of Great Romania this year. This centenary is, however, two-faced. The Transylvanian Hungarians are mourning this year for the beginning of their seizure away from Hungary, which led to the 1920 Trianon Peace Treaty. Our centenaries are therefore very ambivalent: for one of them – the Romanians – they brought overwhelming gains and for the other side – for the Hungarians – a tragic loss. This anachronistic historical contradiction is the main obstacle to convergence and dialogue of any kind.


In extremis, this opposition has lately gone so far that in my city Nagyvárad/Oradea, on October 12, the City Day was celebrated – exactly on the day when in 1918 the Romanian National Party of Transylvania accepted the Self-determination declaration of Romanians in Hungary, and in 1944 the Romanian troops following the Soviet invasion occupied the then predominantly Hungarian majority city. The overwhelming Romanian festivities, but also the provocative timing of Oradea’s Day itself, are also an open incitement against the Hungarian population of the city. It is a similar situation with the  Romanian National Day on the 1st of December, as in 1918 the Romanian People’s Assembly of Alba Iulia announced the disengagement of Transylvania from Hungary at the time.


The Transylvanian Hungarians believe that Oradea’s day and the national holiday of Romania should not be celebrated on these days, since they represent the painful loss for one and a half million Hungarians of their former country, Hungary, that they cannot be happy about. Therefore, Hungarians in Romania have in many cases demanded that the national and city holidays based on the Hungarian enemy image be changed in a way that they can become a common celebration for all the citizens of the country, both Romanians and Hungarians.


However, the present Romanian centenary is not only offensive and unacceptable in the symbolism of the holidays. The jubilee year of the majority Romanians is also used for the most violent anti-Hungarian attacks and official abuses. It was the climax of verbal aggression when Mihai Tudose, a former Socialist prime minister, threatened with hanging those Szekler Hungarians who dare to set their flags in public places. In Romania this year, anti-Hungarian manifestations and measures followed each other reminding directly of the anti-Hungarian Ukrainian retaliation (abolition of the Hungarian university, the re-nationalization of Hungarian properties, the imprisonment of political prisoners, etc.). The notorious President of the Romanian Academy of Sciences suggested that the mere mentioning of Hungarian autonomy be sanctioned by law in the name of Romanian national unity. Professor Gabriel Andreescu, present today, noted correctly, that „ This initiative is dangerous. By the academic call for public bodies, they want to achieve as a first step that the centenary of the Great Union become an anti-Hungarian manifestation. (…) Anti-Hungarianism was one of the strong pillars of national communism in Romania. If the founding of the Romanian statehood is celebrated in an anti-Hungarian spirit, then national communism is legitimized, with its former representatives and present followers.”


It is easy to admit that there is no room for dialogue under the current circumstances of the perseverance of the returning national communism and the still operating, although in a new shape, communist secret service –the notorious Securitate.


At the “liberating Christmas” of 1989, Romanians and Hungarians found each other in a miraculous way. Following the popular uprising in Timisoara, the road was opened for the Romanian-Hungarian reconciliation. The renowned Timişoara Declaration exemplified not only the ultimate struggle against communism but also the abolition of all nationalism and the cooperation of the Romanians and the nationalities of the country in the spirit of “tolerance and mutual respect”. But this is all the past. Nearly three decades after the change of regime, the spirit of Ceauşescu continues to haunt us in our country.


It is not enough that during the persisting domestic political crisis, the Romanian Socialist-Liberal government parties and their opposition are completely incapable of dialogue, but the same applies to the Romanian-Hungarian relations, so that without exception the entire Romanian political class is characterized by irreparable anti-Hungarianism – now, at the centenary. Not even President Klaus Iohannis is an exception, who as a German is seeking the favors of the Romanian nationalism in a compensatory manner, being the first with regard to anti-Hungarian manifestation. The Hungarian National Council of Transylvania and the ally National Szekler Council turned to him at the beginning of this year with the initiative of starting an institutional and representative Romanian-Hungarian dialogue – but our proposal fell on deaf ears at the head of state.


The discriminatory anti-Hungarian Romanian politics is an integral part of the lack of Romanian rule of law, which has even led the European Parliament to put the issue on its agenda. As a whole, the post-communist Romanian political class completely lacks the political will not only to overcome systemic corruption, which is a national peculiarity, but also to settle the traditionally unresolved minority issue, alongside other anomalies. Without this, however, in the long term, the realization of peace and stability in our society can hardly be imagined.


The initiators and supporters of the joint Romanian-Hungarian Centenary Declaration believe that “stable borders and respect for minority rights is a prerequisite for the safety of both national communities.” Accordingly, they stand out for the long-stalling Romanian-Hungarian dialogue, and call on their compatriots and the authorities, as follows: “Honour the Centenary by rejecting nationalist incitement, avoiding conflict, and giving room for hope and construction.”


In the European Parliament’s headquarters in Brussels, in a symbolic and political sense, we ask for this and call for strong support from the European Union!


Tőkés László
Member of the European Parliament



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