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
Voices
On the last day of campaigning before the polling booths open, the SNP leader has written to voters in a final attempt to convince them to vote for independence
voicesIs a huge gamble on oil keeping the First Minister up at night?
Life and Style
tech

Apple has been hit by complaints about the 1.1GB download

Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC
tv

Much-loved cartoon character returns - without Sir David Jason

Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff
tv

Arts and Entertainment
Rosalind Buckland, the inspiration for Cider with Rosie died this week
booksBut what is it like to be the person who inspires a classic work of art?
Arts and Entertainment
tv

Life and Style
i100

Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife
film

Matt Smith is set to join cast of the Jane Austen classic - with a twist

Arts and Entertainment
Lionel Messi in action for Barcelona
filmWhat makes the little man tick?
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me
tv

Actress to appear in second series of the hugely popular crime drama

Arts and Entertainment
tvReview: An undercooked end (spoiler alert)
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding
musicThe singer said 'the last thing I want to do is degrade'
Sport
Cesc Fabregas celebrates his first Chelsea goal
footballChelsea vs Schalke match report
Arts and Entertainment
Toby Jones (left) and Mackenzie Crook in BBC4’s new comedy The Detectorists
tvMackenzie Crook's 'Detectorists' makes hobby look 'dysfunctional'
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

News
i100
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

Network Infrastructure Technical Lead - up to £45k DOE - Surrey

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Year 2 Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Technical Architect - Surrey - £35k-£45k DOE - Permanent

£35000 - £45000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Year 3 Teachers needed for supply roles

£110 - £130 per day + Competitive rates of pay: Randstad Education Reading: Ye...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week