Romania set for new row with Hungary

ADRIAN BRIDGE

Budapest

The Romanian government is distributing a book that claims ethnic Hungarians in Transylvania committed atrocities against Romanians following the 1989 revolution.

The book, called Romanians Hunted Down in their Own Country, claims that ethnic Hungarians transformed the revolution against the former dictator, Nicolae Ceausescu, into an anti-Romanian crusade.

The book speaks of Hungarians "bathing in Romanian blood", and of "savage" killings of police and Securitate officers in which "the victims were trampled underfoot".

The new account of the December 1989 revolution is certain to re-ignite quarrels between Bucharest and Budapest. Although the revolution was triggered by the arrest of an ethnic Hungarian priest, Laszlo Tokes, it quickly spread to embrace Hungarians and Romanians alike, more than 1,000 of whom died.

The book, whose author has signed himself as "Z. Dragos", is being distributed by the Ministry of Information in Bucharest. In addition to Romanian, it has been printed in English, German and French.

A spokesman for the ministry yesterday defended the book as a well-researched piece of documentation, describing it as an "objective" account. Officials at Hungary's embassy in Bucharest said they were unaware of any cases of Romanians being hunted down or persecuted by ethnic Hungarians.

The publication of such a provocative work seems certain to damage an already stalled attempt to agree a basic treaty, in which Hungary would recognise the inviolability of Romania's borders in return for cast-iron guarantees concerning the rights of an estimated 1.8 million Hungarians in Transylvania.

Budapest is pushing for Romania to adopt Council of Europe norms on minority rights, particularly those concerning cultural and educational autonomy. But many Romanians fear concessions could lead to demands for regional self-rule.

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