Budapest and Bucharest bury differences over Transylvania

Critics dismiss a 'sell-out' to win EU entry.

Budapest - Timisoara, the town that provided the spark for the 1989 Romanian revolution, will today play host to another piece of history: the signing of a long-awaited bilateral treaty between Hungary and Romania.

Billed as a treaty of "reconciliation and friendship", the document aims to end decades of mutual animosity while at the same time boosting both countries' chances of joining Nato and the European Union.

Under the terms of the treaty, Budapest is to renounce any claim to Transylvania, the territory it ruled as part of the Austro-Hungarian empire up to the end of the First World War. Romania has agreed to guarantee a range of rights to its large ethnic Hungarian minority.

Western officials have joined the governments of both countries in hailing the move as a breakthrough and an important step towards enhancing stability in the region. "The treaty will benefit both nations as well as Europe," the Romanian President, Ion Iliescu, declared earlier this month. Robert Hunter, the United States ambassador to Nato, put it more bluntly: "It is now impossible for Hungary and Romania to go to war."

For all that, critics have denounced the treaty as a sham, a meaningless piece of paper which instead of genuinely seeking to settle old scores is designed simply to curry favour with Nato and the EU, institutions that both Budapest and Bucharest are desperate to join.

Romanian nationalists, who have long accused Budapest of harbouring territorial designs on Transylvania, have argued that it gives away too much. Hungarian nationalists, who still curse the 1920 Treaty of Trianon under which the country lost two-thirds of its territory, say it gives away too little. Meanwhile, members of Romania's 1.6 million-strong ethnic Hungarian minority - the very people whose rights the treaty is supposed to enshrine - have accused Budapest of a sell-out.

"It is clear that the treaty was signed under pressure from foreign countries," said Laszlo Tokes, the ethnic Hungarian priest who sparked the 1989 Timisoara protests and who is now a leading spokesman for the ethnic Hungarian cause in Romania. "But although it may look very good, it is totally lacking in substance."

After more than 70 years under Bucharest, ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania protested that they were victims of successive policies of assimilation, the end aim being the erosion of their Hungarian identity. Rather than ending with the downfall of Nicolae Ceausescu in 1989, moreover, they say the process has carried on unabated. For the ethnic Hungarians of Romania the only acceptable solution would have been extensive autonomy in the regions where they constitute a majority. But that was totally unacceptable to Bucharest.

In the treaty to be signed today, the issue has been fudged. Whereas it contains a host of regulations on minorities as laid out by bodies such as the United Nations and the Council of Europe, it also includes a footnote ruling out any form of collective rights or territorial autonomy along ethnic lines.

But for all its imperfections, others see it as a step in the right direction. "The treaty was a compromise and in a compromise you never end up with what you really want," said Gabor Szentivanyi, the Hungarian foreign ministry spokesman. "They may be limited, but after today ethnic Hungarians in Romania will have more rights that they do at the moment."

Leading article, page 11

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before