Vol. 1, No. 96, 15 August1997
HUNGARIAN OPPOSITION LEADER CLEARED OF SECRET AGENT
CHARGES. The panel of judges examining the past of all
parliamentary deputies has ruled that Independent Smallholders'
Party chairman Jozsef Torgyan was not involved in secret agent
activities during the communist era, Hungarian media reported on 14
August. Torgyan has demanded Interior Minister Gabor Kuncze's
resignation for allegedly violating the legal principle of presumption
of innocence. In November 1995, Kuncze sent a document to the
screening panel indicating that Torgyan had been involved in secret
agent activities. The panel, however, found that police threatened
and repeatedly tried to recruit Torgyan in 1957. Although Torgyan
managed to avoid collaboration, he was registered as a secret agent
under a code name. Torgyan subsequently spent some time in a
psychiatric institute following a false diagnosis in an attempt to fend
off further harassment by the secret police. His name was removed
from the register on 29 May 1958.
HUNGARIAN PREMIER PRAISES ROMANIAN REFORM POLICY. Gyula
Horn, in a 14 August telephone conversation with Romanian Premier
Victor Ciorbea, praised the Romanian government's reform policy
and its consistent efforts to meet what he termed the legitimate
demands of the country's ethnic Hungarians, Hungarian media
reported. Horn said the Hungarian government fully supports
Romania's efforts to fulfill the conditions for Euro-Atlantic
integration. Horn also hinted that Hungary, the Czech Republic, and
Poland will discuss how to support Romanian goals at the 22 August
meeting of the three countries' premiers in Krakow.
TRANSYLVANIA'S GLASS STILL HALF-EMPTY
by Michael Shafir
It is well-established truism that different people can look at
the same phenomenon and see different things, depending on what
they want to see. In other words, the same glass can be "half-empty"
on the pessimist's table and "half-full" in the hand of the optimist.
Transylvania is a case in point. Following the 1996 elections in
Romania and the Hungarian Democratic Federation of Romania's
(UDMR) inclusion in the ruling coalition, the grievances of the
Hungarian minority in that country seemed to have finally come to
an end. The new government of Victor Ciorbea agreed to amend an
education law to which the UDMR had objected as discriminatory. It
had also agreed to bilingual signs in localities with a minority
population of at least 20 percent. Moreover, the Hungarian consulate
in Cluj, closed by former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu in 1988, was re-
opened in late July, just two months after Hungarian President Arpad
Goencz's visit to that city.
Those developments, however, did not occur without incident.
Gheorghe Funar, the ultra-nationalist mayor of Cluj, was behind
demonstrations against Goencz's visit; and, following the opening of
the consulate, he twice engineered the theft of the Hungarian
national flag from the building in which the consulate is temporarily
quartered. During his visit to RFE/RL in Prague in early August,
Goencz dismissed the significance of those incidents, pointing out that
Hungary has "its own extremists." Goencz's glass was obviously "half-
In reality, the situation is less encouraging -- and the Romanian
side cannot shoulder all the blame. The government was unable to
pass the amended education law, prompting the UDMR to threaten to
leave the coalition unless the amended legislation went into force as
of 1 September. The cabinet was therefore compelled to pass an
"ordinance," which made the amended law effective immediately but
has not yet been approved by the parliament.
It is by no means certain that the legislature will give its
approval, since it is not merely the extreme nationalists (the Party of
Romanian National Unity, or PUNR and the Greater Romania Party)
and the former ruling Party of Social Democracy in Romania (PDSR)
that oppose the amended law. The government was, in fact, forced to
resort to the ordinance owing to the strong opposition of George
Pruteanu, the chairman of the Senate's Education Committee.
Pruteanu is a member of the National Peasant Party Christian
Democratic (PNTCD), which is the most influential component of the
Democratic Convention of Romania (CDR), the main alliance in the
ruling coalition. (When the original version of the education law was
passed in 1994 by the former, PDSR-dominated legislature, it had
enjoyed the support of many CDR representatives.)
Also contributing to the perception of the Transylvanian "half-
empty glass" is the issue of the Hungarian-Romanian signs, which
were similarly instituted by ordinance and, for this reason, may
likewise not survive the vote in the parliament. Bilingual signs were
painted over in the colors of the Romanian national flag twice in
Targu Mures, at the obvious instigation of the PUNR. But in mid-
August, a member of the Democratic Party, one of the ruling coalition
formations, suggested that the percentage allowing bilingual street
signs be changed to "more than 22.7 percent" to avoid their use in
Cluj. The UDMR has wisely decided not to push with the attempt to
have bilingual signs in Cluj as long as Funar remains mayor of that
Unfortunately, not all UDMR representatives have displayed
such wisdom. In July, the local authorities in Odorheiul Secuiesc,
where the UDMR has a majority on the local council, evicted the
occupants of an orphanage set up with Swiss donations and run by
the Greek Orthodox Church, claiming that the needs of the local (that
is, Hungarian) community should come first. Such gestures only
provide the opponents of reconciliation with "convincing arguments."
Yet another example shows that it would be wrong to reduce
the camp of such opponents to known extremists. While on a visit to
Transylvania in early August, Minister of Interior Gavril Dejeu (a
PNTCD member), virtually exonerated Funar, saying that the opening
of the Hungarian consulate in downtown Cluj had been a
"provocation" against the ethnic majority. Dejeu argued that other,
"more peripheral" premises should have been found. He "forgot" to
mention that Funar had refused to provide any premises whatsoever
and that the consulate is temporarily housed in a building owned by
On the other side of the Romanian-Hungarian border, Viktor
Orban, the leader of the Alliance of Young Democrats, accused Gyula
Horn's cabinet of insufficiently promoting the interests of Hungarian
minorities abroad. Again, one is not dealing here with "extreme
nationalists" but with a mainstream political party, which the latest
polls show leading the field ahead of the 1998 elections.
This may be putting too much stress on the "half-empty" glass.
But, as one East European joke has it, the optimists are convinced
that this is the best of all possible worlds and the pessimists agree
with them. That appears to be the case even in Transylvania.
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