Date: Wed, 9 Jun 1999 22:43:42 -0500 (CDT)
From: “colin s. cavell” <email@example.com>
Subject: Stratfor: Separatism in Romania
————— Forwarded message —————
Date: Tue, 08 Jun 1999 21:09:26 -0500 (CDT)
From: “firstname.lastname@example.org” <email@example.com>
Romanian President Emil Constantinescu has rejected the call— contained in a document circulating among intellectuals in the Transylvania region of western Romania—for Transylvanian self-government within a federal Romanian state. The devolution argument, while framed in economic terms, has clear ethnic overtones as Transylvania is home to a large population of ethnic Hungarians. The Transylvania question is but one of the ethnic minority issues that continue to plague the new NATO members and aspiring NATO members of Eastern Europe. With NATO seen as effectively sanctioning the devolution, if not independence, of an ethnically Albanian Kosovo from Serbia, keeping these other problems in check will be an increasingly difficult task.
During a visit to Mures and Teleorman counties in the Transylvania region of western Romania on June 5, Romanian President Emil Constantinescu responded to a document reportedly circulating among intellectuals in Transylvania that calls for a federal structure for Romania. The document reportedly asserts that, as Transylvania is more advanced economically than the rest of Romania, it could be integrated more rapidly into the European Union. The document argues for the devolution of Transylvania and the Banat region, with the establishment of a regional government and parliament. According to the proposal, Bucharest would then only deal with foreign policy and defense issues related to the Transylvania and Banat regions.
In his reaction to the document, Constantinescu said he would never accept “ideas leading to the sovereignty, unity, or indivisibility of a Romanian territory.” He stressed that his administration cannot accept “any form of federal governing system or regional-type legislative administrations, and we do not accept separatist ideas running counter to the interests of the Romanian nation.” He added, “intellectual adventures of this kind will cost the people of this country dear.” Constantinescu was echoed three days later by the main party of the governing coalition, the PNT-CD Christian Democratic National Peasants' Party. The party's spokesman, Remus Opris, said on June 7 that the President and the whole country had to “watch so that constitutional provisions regarding national, sovereign, independent, unitary, and indivisible state” were not attacked either from inside or outside of the state. Still, while ruling out a federated Romania, Constantinescu did accept the possibility of administrative autonomy for the region, noting that a juridical framework already exists to support such a move.
While sources claim that 80 percent of the document's signatories are ethnic Romanians, and the document reportedly stems from the 1998 manifesto “I am fed up with Romania,” written by Romanian separatist Sabin Gherman, any suggestion of Transylvanian devolution immediately raises the issue of the region's Hungarian population. Like Serbia's Vojvodina and sections of Slovakia and Ukraine, Transylvania is home to a large ethnic Hungarian minority, and has been recently experiencing increased ethnic tensions.
Anti-Hungarian demonstrations erupted on June 5 and 6 in the Transylvanian city of Cluj, following a victory by the Romanian soccer team over the visiting Hungarian team. The mayor of Cluj, Gheorghe Funar, who is also the head of the nationalist Party of Alliance for the Romanians' Unity, reportedly rallied the crowds with extremist anti-Hungarian comments, sparking a demonstration of several thousand people in front of the Hungarian Consulate in Cluj. The demonstrators shouted slogans such as “we will defend Transylvania” and “out with the Hungarians from the country.” Scattered incidents of vandalism by Romanians against Hungarian properties also reportedly occurred in large Transylvanian cities.
For their part, Hungarian nationalists are keying off of NATO's actions on behalf of ethnic Albanians in Kosovo and are calling for a broad revision of borders in the region. On the 79th anniversary of the signing of the Trianon peace treaty—which redrew the map of Central Europe in such way that a large number of Hungarian nationals remained on Romanian, Slovak, and Serbian territories—supporters of the radical Hungarian National front openly called for a “peaceful revision of the borders and a Hungarian state of the Carpathian basin.” Hungarian political groups, including six parliamentary parties, also issued a statement on June 6 backing autonomy for the Serbian region of Vojvodina. Inside Romania and Slovakia, ethnic Hungarian parties have been limiting their public activities to political fights for bilingual government in areas of greater than 20 percent ethnic minorities, but the independence calls form radicals within Hungary have not gone unheard.
With the conflict in Yugoslavia apparently leading to NATO- sanctioned and guaranteed autonomy for ethnic Albanians in Kosovo, radical nationalists in Eastern Europe seem encouraged to push their own similar agendas. As countries like Hungary attempt to settle into Western politico-military structures, and others like Romania and Slovakia seek admittance into NATO and the European Union, these cross-border disputes will become ever more critical. There are a great number of maps of Europe waiting to be redrawn, and a host of groups eager to start drawing. With Hungary in NATO and NATO heading into Kosovo, it is too late to talk about keeping these problems outside Western Europe. Pandora's box is opening, and unless these problems are addressed politically and economically, they may, like Kosovo, express themselves militarily. Constantinescu's willingness to discuss greater administrative autonomy for Transylvania may be a first step in the right direction.