Letter: Peace in the East depends on the West

Share
Related Topics
Sir: Alone among the British papers, you rightly highlighted in your leading article (16 September) the importance of the newly concluded Hungarian- Romanian treaty: the potential settlement of one of Europe's most thorny security issues, affecting large numbers of ethnic Hungarians, is a matter which deserves careful attention.

You are also correct in pointing out that respect for the provisions of this treaty is more important than the symbolic act of its signature. Nevertheless, your assessment of the current situation remains unnecessarily gloomy.

Minority problems do not have a "solution" as such; handling them with care while limiting the potential for violence is usually the only choice, as the British, Spanish and French - to name but a few Europeans - have discovered.

One of the biggest problems which all former Communist countries face is that neither the majorities nor the affected ethnic minorities know the limits of their actions: governments are loath to accept even minor compromises, fearing that these may lead to more demands, while ethnic groups advance fantastic claims, in the hope that they may at least achieve something.

There is little doubt that elements within the current Romanian government had a vested interest in baiting their Hungarian minority in the past. But it is equally plain that some ethnic Hungarians did the same by demanding various autonomy schemes that often amounted to barely disguised secessionist claims.

The current Hungarian-Romanian treaty contains many ill-defined clauses. But, at least for the moment, this is fairly irrelevant, for the treaty's greatest achievement is in breaking the cycle of claims and counter-claims, thereby laying the foundations of future co-operation.The fact that Romanian and Hungarian extreme nationalists have denounced the treaty in almost identical terms is probably the most encouraging sign currently discernible.

Yet these extreme nationalists will only be permanently silenced if Western institutions - and particularly Nato - seize upon this opportunity. The idea that Hungary can join the Western alliance soon while Romania is still kept in the cold is, to my mind, the surest recipe for disaster: safe under Nato's umbrella, Hungary would be able to advance whatever claims it wants, while Romania will have no incentive to comply as long as it is sidelined.

Western pressure played an important role in the conclusion of the current Hungarian-Romanian deal. Only a continued and equal Western attention to both countries can now ensure the treaty's application.

Dr JONATHAN EYAL

Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies

London SW1

Over the hill

Sir: You quote Billy Bragg, a singer, as complaining that new Labour is failing to "excite" young people ("Parties vie for the support of young voters", 13 September). Mr Bragg is 38. How would he know?

AIDAN FOSTER-CARTER

Shipley,

West Yorkshire

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Energy Consultant – Building Management

up to £45,000 + benefits: The Green Recruitment Company: Our Client The Green ...

Senior Industrial Energy Consultant

Up to £45,000 + benefits: The Green Recruitment Company: Our Client The Green ...

Mechanical Building Services Energy Engineer

up to £45K basic + benefits: The Green Recruitment Company: Our Client The Gr...

Building Services Energy Engineer

up to £45K basic + benefits: The Green Recruitment Company: Our Client The Gr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: Wages are on the rise (so long as you skew the figures)

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
 

It’s two decades since ‘education, education, education’, but still Britain’s primary school admissions are a farce

Jane Merrick
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit
Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics

Is sexual harassment a fact of gay life?

Westminster is awash with tales of young men being sexually harassed - but it's far from being just a problem in politics
Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith: The man behind a British success story

Moshi Monster creator Michael Acton Smith

Acton Smith launched a world of virtual creatures who took the real world by storm
Kim Jong-un's haircut: The Independent heads to Ealing to try out the dictator's do

Our journalist tries out Kim Jong-un's haircut

The North Korean embassy in London complained when M&M Hair Academy used Kim Jong-un's image in the window. Curious, Guy Pewsey heads to the hair salon and surrenders to the clippers
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A forgotten naval victory in which even Nature played a part
Vespa rides on with launch of Primavera: Iconic Italian scooter still revving up millions of sales

Vespa rides on with launch of the Primavera

The Vespa has been a style icon since the 1950s and the release this month of its latest model confirms it has lost little of its lustre
Record Store Day: Independent music shops can offer a tempting alternative to downloads

Record Store Day celebrates independent music shops

This Saturday sees a host of events around the country to champion the sellers of well-grooved wax
Taunton's policy of putting philosophy at heart of its curriculum is one of secrets of its success

Education: Secret of Taunton's success

Taunton School, in Somerset, is one of the country's leading independent schools, says Richard Garner
10 best smartphones

10 best smartphones

With a number of new smartphones on the market, we round up the best around, including some more established models
Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

Mickey Arthur: Aussie tells ECB to stick with Ashley Giles

The former Australia coach on why England must keep to Plan A, about his shock at their collapse Down Under, why he sent players home from India and the agonies of losing his job
Homelessness: Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Why is the supported lodgings lifeline under threat?

Zubairi Sentongo swapped poverty in Uganda for homelessness in Britain. But a YMCA scheme connected him with a couple offering warmth and shelter
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

When the world’s biggest shed took over Regent’s Park
The pain of IVF

The pain of IVF

As an Italian woman vows to keep the babies from someone else’s eggs, Julian Baggini ponders how the reality of childbirth is often messier than the natural ideal