Hungary and Romania Get an Offer They Can't Refuse: Make Up or Else to Gain Entry Passes into NATO and EU They Sign a Historic Treaty

By Michael J. Jordan, Monitor | The Christian Science Monitor, October 4, 1996 | Go to article overview
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Hungary and Romania Get an Offer They Can't Refuse: Make Up or Else to Gain Entry Passes into NATO and EU They Sign a Historic Treaty


Michael J. Jordan, Monitor, The Christian Science Monitor


In the seven years since revolution swept through Romania, Elemer Kincses has lost a number of his prized actors.

They left this city's venerable Hungarian theater for the bigger venues of neighboring Budapest and beyond.

It's not only stardom they've sought, but a ticket out of a homeland grown hostile. The 1.6 million ethnic Hungarians of northwest Romania allege increased discrimination in housing, schooling, and use of their mother tongue. And despite a landmark basic treaty between Hungary and Romania, ratified in Bucharest Sept. 26, few here in the region known as Transylvania expect things to improve. "For us Hungarians, oppression is a normal way of life," said Mr. Kincses, director of the Tirgu Mures theater. "It would feel abnormal without it." Still, Kincses and most ethnic Hungarians are cautiously optimistic about the treaty, hailed by the West as a huge stride toward historic reconciliation between long-hostile neighbors. But the agreement sprang less from goodwill than cool pragmatism. The United States-led Western powers made the fledgling democracies an offer neither could refuse - no treaty, no chance to join NATO. The security alliance has already learned, from conflict between member states Turkey and Greece, the pitfalls of incorporating border disputes within NATO. With an eye on the prize So Hungary and Romania have recognized the inviolability of their respective borders - a prickly issue for 76 years - and vowed to treat their mutual minorities according to high "European standards." Officials in both countries proclaimed it would raise their international standing, enhance regional stability, and boost trade relations. But the agreement also elicited howls of protest from the right wing in both countries, who view any compromise as a betrayal of national interest. They warn ominously that interpretation and implementation of the agreement will get messy. "We know from history that a treaty signed under international pressure is not a treaty, but a dictum," said Corneliu Vadim Tudor, a member of Romania's parliament and president of the nationalist Greater Romania party. Territorial tug-of-war Territorial rights to Transylvania, the rolling, verdant swath of land at the base of the Carpathian Mountains, best known as the home of the legendary Count Dracula, have been a source of enmity for centuries. The Romanians claim it as their 2,000-year-old ancestral land, while the Hungarians regard it as the cradle of Magyar culture. Transylvania belonged to Hungary until the post-World War I Trianon Treaty dismembered the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The treaty deprived Hungary of two-thirds of its land and population. The territory and people were distributed among Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia, and Croatia. Hungarians stewed for two decades before lending their support to Hitler in hopes of recovering their land. Indeed, they reclaimed Transylvania in 1940 and kept it until the Soviet Army rolled into the region and restored the Trianon borders in 1945.

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Hungary and Romania Get an Offer They Can't Refuse: Make Up or Else to Gain Entry Passes into NATO and EU They Sign a Historic Treaty
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