January 1999

January 29, 1999

The Harghita/Hargita County Police Directorate has sued the mayor and city council of Miercurea Ciuc/Csíkszereda for not permitting the police department to erect a statue "on behalf of Interior Ministry cadres murdered during the revolution." The city’s refusal is based on the fact that no one was killed from the Interior Ministry in this Hungarian-majority inhabited city on December 22, 1989. The police’s lawsuit mentions "loss of blood in the County," undoubtedly reference to the militiaman in Zetea/Zetelaka who fired into the demonstrating crowd. [Romániai Magyar Szó (Bucharest), Jan. 29, 1999]

January 28, 1999

The Timisoara/Temesvár Ecumenical Foundation - a new organization promoting ethnic and religious reconciliation - celebrated its founding. The three founders – Rumanian Orthodox theologian Iulian Cosma, president; ethnic Hungarian Lutheran minister Zsombor Kovács, vice-president; and doctor Maria Ciorba, executive director, were joined by among others, Chief Rabbi of Timisoara Ernô Neumann and Roman Catholic Diocesan Bishop Sebestyén Krauter. [Romániai Magyar Szó (Bucharest), Jan. 29 and Feb. 1, 1999]

January 28, 1999

Prime Minister Radu Vasile accepted the nomination of Péter Eckstein-Kovács to take the place of György Tokay as Minister for Minority Affairs. [Népszabadság (Budapest), Jan. 27, 1999]

January 27, 1999

In order to preempt an appeal by Tudor, the Senate’s Standing Committee reinforced the Disciplinary Committee’s decision on January 22 to suspended president of the extremist Greater Rumania Party Corneliu Vadim Tudor's participation in the body's work for 30 days. [Magyar Nemzet (Budapest), Jan. 28, 1999]

Current President of the Council of Ministers of the Council of Europe Hungarian Foreign Minister János Martonyi said at the meeting of the organization's Parliamentary Assembly that he would like the body to take major steps in minority protection during his tenure. The Council will provide the necessary financial support for bodies monitoring implementation of the Framework Convention on the Protection of National Minorities as well as the European Charter on Regional or Minority Languages, both going into effect in February. In addition, discussions are underway to establish the office of a Council of Europe Commissioner on Human Rights, noted Martonyi. [Népújság (Tirgu Mures/Marosvásárhely), Jan. 29, 1999]

January 26, 1999

The Operative Council of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Rumania (DAHR) accepted Minister for Minority Affairs György Tokay’s resignation. DAHR will recommend 43 year-old lawyer Péter Eckstein-Kovács, who is currently a senator in the Parliament and a member of its human rights and legal committees, for the position. No objection is anticipated on the part of the Prime Minister. [Napi Magyarország (Budapest), Jan. 27, 1999]

The Rumanian daily, Curentul, vigorously criticized Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Rumania Senator and newly-elected deputy chairman of the Council of Europe's Legal Committee György Frunda's initiative to establish an ad hoc committee on minority affairs in the Council of Europe. Editor Claudiu Harceaga asserted that the committee aimed at granting "lopsided rights" and "collective privileges" to Rumania’s ethnic Hungarian community, and was instigated by Lord Russell-Johnston, president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe who, for example, submitted a proposal on autonomy still in 1995. The article gave voice to politicians condemning the initiative, among others, Paula Ivanescu, Democratic Party, Adrian Nastase, Rumanian Social Democracy Party, and Rasvan Dobrescu Peasant Party. Valeriu Tabara, President of the extremist Rumanian National Unity Party, went further and called Frunda’s proposal "the most dangerous one after World War II," threatening European and world security. The recognition of collective rights paves the way for autonomy, which, however, could only be achieved through violence, contends the article's author. [DAHR News Watch (Bucharest), Jan. 27, 1999]

Greater Rumania Party president Corneliu Vadim Tudor responded to Justice Minister Valeriu Stoica's announcement by threatening to "cut him down with a lawnmower and shove him in prison." Stocia had stated that banning the Greater Rumania Party should be considered if investigations confirm its participation in the miners' aggressive affront. According to Stoica, Tudor's January 16 letter to the miners and the Greater Rumania Party's January 21 statement calling for support "for the miners' revolution against the Mafioso state" violated the Law on Political Parties which mandates respect for the rule of law and the principles of constitutional democracy. [Szabadság (Cluj/Kolozsvár), Jan. 25, DAHR News Watch (Bucharest), Jan. 26, 1999]

January 25, 1999

The Rumanian-language daily Adevarul reported that Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Rumania Senator György Frunda was elected deputy chairman of the Council of Europe's Legal Committee during the meeting of the Council's Parliamentary Assembly. The daily Cotidianul criticized Frunda's initiative to establish a committee on minority affairs in the Council of Europe. Ten parliamentarians including the Austrian Walter Schwimmer and former special rapporteur on Rumania Gunnar Janson from Finland support the proposal. [DAHR News Watch (Bucharest), Jan. 26, Szabadság (Cluj/Kolozsvár), Jan. 27, 1999]

The Office of Minorities of the Ministry of Education issued a communiqué requesting that drafts and not printed versions of textbooks translated into minority languages from Rumanian be submitted to the appropriate Ministry bodies for review. The Ministry thereby hopes to make the selection process of new alternative textbooks more efficient. [DAHR News Watch (Bucharest), Jan. 26, 1999]

In an interview with Szabadság, Hungarian Reformed Bishop Kálmán Csiha spoke about the Church's property on Avram Iancu Square in Cluj/Kolozsvár that has been returned to its rightful owners [see report of October 27, 1998]. The Bishopric plans to begin negotiations next month with the building's current occupants - half the space is used by the Agricultural Ministry - on their departure. The Church would like their College of Catechists to be able to move in by the beginning of the next school year. While he's counting on two-three years for evacuation, "we want to be charitable under all circumstances," concluded the Bishop. [Szabadság (Cluj/Kolozsvár) , Jan. 25, 1999]

January 23, 1999

Although they require self-sacrifice, economic reforms have to continue, said White House Spokesman Joe Lockhart as he assured United States support "for the democratically elected Rumanian government's attempts to restore order and respect the rule of law" following disturbances by striking miners. [Népújság (Tirgu Mures/Marosvásárhely), Jan. 25, 1999]

Although the perpetrators who burglarized the headquarters of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Rumania (DAHR) Brasov/Brassó office [see report of Jan. 3, 1999] have not been caught, the organization has invested in an alarm-system in the hope of thwarting a future reoccurrence. [Romániai Magyar Szó (Bucharest), Jan. 23, 1999]

January 22, 1999

"The European Union continues to support Rumania in the difficult process of transformation" reads a statement issued by the EU presidium. Economic reforms, including steps recommended by international bodies, are extremely important on the road towards EU membership that the country has to undertake - points out the statement. [DAHR News Watch (Bucharest), Jan. 25, 1999]

The Senate's Disciplinary Committee suspended the president of the extremist Greater Rumania Party, Corneliu Vadim Tudor's, participation in the body's work for 30 days. [DAHR News Watch (Bucharest), Jan. 22, 1999]

January 20, 1999

According to Transilvania Jurnal, the Brasov/Brassó County Prosecutor decided not to file criminal charges against Greater Rumania Party Covasna/Kovászna County Chairman Gica Agrigoroaie for his October 13 announcement of the creation of a national guard to "collect leaders of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Rumania and execute them based on an ad hoc jury's verdict" [see report of October 15, 1998] since it found no evidence of the existence of such a entity. The decision follows Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Rumania Parliamentary Representative Árpád Márton's request for the Prosecutor General to investigate the incendiary remarks. [DAHR News Watch (Bucharest), Jan. 25, 1999]

January 16, 1999

The presidium of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Rumania held a meeting in Ilieni/Illyefalva to discuss the 1999 national budget scheduled for parliamentary debate and agreed to support small and medium-sized enterprises, new health care reform and the development of educational and cultural institutions. [Népújság (Tirgu Mures/Marosvásárhely), Jan. 20, 1999]

January 15, 1999

The Tirgu Mures/Marosvásárhely court sentenced Pavel Bucur, Petru Bucur, Nicolae Gall, Vasile Dorel Bucur and Ioan Precup Severius to 5 to 6 years imprisonment for brutally murdering three Roma inhabitants and setting 14 houses on fire in Hadareni/Hadrév on September 20, 1993. If the verdict is appealed within 10 days, the case will go to the Supreme Court. [Népújság (Tirgu Mures/Marosvásárhely), Jan. 16, 1999]

January 14, 1999

Europe’s cultural diversity is an extremely important value, therefore the continent’s minority cultures should be afforded support and respect — was the message brought back from Brussels by representatives of the Alliance of Csángó Hungarians in Moldova who attended a two-day exhibition entitled "A Europe of Cultures in a Europe of Regions" held in the European Parliament. The exhibition, organized by the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation, the Committee of Regions (European Union) and the Assembly of the Cultures of Europe, called attention to endangered and long-forgotten ethnic minorities such as the Roma community in Rumania and Spain, the African community in Portugal, Pomacs in Bulgaria and Slovenians in Austria. The Csángó Hungarian community introduced its folk culture, traditional music, artwork and folk costumes through photographs, videotapes and informational material. Antal Csicsó and Mihály Nisztor, leaders of the Alliance, spoke of the many difficulties Csángó Hungarians currently face, for example, the total lack of Hungarian-language religious service and Hungarian-language classes in elementary schools. [Erdélyi Napló (Oradea/Nagyvárad), Feb. 2, 1999]

Education expert Ildikó Fischer-Fülöp told Népújság, that the Hungarian-Rumanian Equivalency Agreement, signed by President Emil Constantinescu on December 30 1998, does not necessary mean that diplomas, certificates and academic ranks are automatically recognized. The advantage of the agreement is that it makes equivalency easier and within 4 months the two education ministries must establish a joint committee to tackle disputed and unresolved issues. [Népújság (Tirgu Mures/Marosvásárhely), Jan. 14, 1999]

January 13, 1999

An ethnic Hungarian businessman, Gábor Kerekes, was appointed deputy chairman of the newly-established National Development Agency responsible for the encouragement of foreign investments and the dissemination of relevant news and information to financial investors. [Szabadság (Cluj/Kolozsvár), Jan. 15, 1999]

In line with European codification, the government approved a new bill on law enforcement, seeking to grant special public administration status to police officers. The bill would abolish military ranks among police and reinstate designations used during the inter-war years. After the government meeting, Interior Minister Gavril Dejeu stated that policemen will continue to wear uniforms, carry guns and stand military trial if necessary. Despite the effort to demilitarize the police, the bill falls short of transferring any police duty to the local level, including civilian registration or traffic regulations. The bill also stipulates that local public administrative bodies can only recommend candidates for police chief positions with ultimate decision-making power remaining in the Interior Ministry's hands. Human rights organizations criticized the bill for the secrecy surrounding its drafting, the lack of civilian control and its failure to ensure some degree of public administrative jurisdiction in police matters. [Szabadság (Cluj/Kolozsvár), Jan. 9, 1999]

The trilingual (Rumanian, Hungarian, German language) Public Administration College in Satu Mare/Szatmárnémeti, which opened its doors in Fall 1998, is currently undergoing difficulties as students must study in a poorly-heated building, only two subjects are instructed in Hungarian and the school library is lacking the necessary Hungarian-language literature. The Cluj/Kolozsvár-based Babes Bolyai University (the mother institution) pledged to upgrade the library with relevant Hungarian and German language books and install a computer network. Director Calian Sergiu said the college would initiate the establishment of the Foundation for a Democratic Society to improve the relationship between the citizens and public administration offices, and implement citizen and minority rights. [Romániai Magyar Szó (Bucharest), Jan. 9, 1999]

January 8, 1999

The Rumanian daily, Adevarul, reported that Lord Russell-Johnston, Chairman of the liberal faction of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe introduced a proposal entitled "Extremist Parties Threaten Democracy." The proposal calls attention to the growing popularity of political parties advocating racial discrimination, ethnic and religious hatred, thereby seriously threatening democracy. Signatories of the proposal insisted that human rights-minded political organizations refuse to support these parties, and appealed to member states to tighten the rules allowing for the functioning of extreme parties or prevent their members from holding public offices. [DAHR News Watch (Bucharest), Jan. 8, 1999]

January 6, 1999

The Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Rumania has suggested former Labor state secretary Szabolcs Lányi to fill the position of chairman of the newly created Scientific, Technological and Innovation Bureau and former transportation state secretary József Birtalan as vice chairman of the Bureau for Small and Medium-sized Enterprises. In addition, Gyula Bara has been named counselor in the Prime Minister's Office. [Népújság (Tirgu Mures/Marosvásárhely), Jan. 8, 1999]

January 5, 1999

During talks with President Emil Constantinescu, Eberhard-Wolfgang Wittstock, President of the Democratic Forum of Ethnic Germans in Rumania called for adoption of a bill on minorities, saying that it would benefit the relationship between the majority and minorities. Wittsctock stressed that the bill is all the more necessary because "Rumanian public opinion is not as tolerant towards minorities as it was in the first few years after 1989." The Office for the Protection of National Minorities has already prepared the minority bill which was also approved by the Council of National Minorities. Wittstock appealed to the President for the return of properties illegally confiscated during Communism and said that ethnic Germans support the establishment of a Petôfi-Schiller bilingual university because it would enable the community’s young people to continue their studies in their native-language. [Romániai Magyar Szó (Bucharest), Jan. 8, 1999]

The government introduced mandatory instruction of Holocaust studies at all education levels in order to revise and correct the errors and shortcomings of currently used textbooks, said Mircea Muresan an education ministry official. Students will learn about the Holocaust in history, literature, art history and psychology classes, while teachers will participate in training courses in Israel. Professors of the Center for Historical Studies of the Jewish Community welcomed the government’s decision, saying that the issue of the Holocaust was a taboo during Communism when anti-Semitism prevailed and so many Jews left Rumania. Half of the 800,000 Rumanian Jewry perished during World War II and almost 400,000 Jews immigrated to Israel during the dictatorship. The current Jewish population of Rumania is estimated at 14,000. [Népújság (Tirgu Mures/Marosvásárhely), Jan. 6, 1999; Szabadság (Cluj/Kolozsvár), Jan. 7, 1999]

January 3, 1999

During the night, unidentified perpetrators burglarized the headquarters of the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Rumania (DAHR) Brasov/Brassó office, taking office equipment including two sets of computers, a laser printer, a photocopier, television set, fax machine and two lamps. The burglars also broke into four iron safes but found no money. A police investigation has begun. Loss is estimated at 50 million Lei. [Romániai Magyar Szó (Bucharest), Jan. 5, 1999; Szabadság (Cluj/Kolozsvár), Jan. 6, 1999]

January 1, 1999

As a result of a 99-year rental agreement between the Timisoara/Temesvár Roman Catholic Diocese and the Arad County School Board, the Hungarian-language secondary school in Arad — the Csíki Gergely Gymnasium — assumed use of the dormitory facilities built over 80 years ago. The fundraising drive for the necessary extensive renovations is being spearhead by the Alma Mater Foundation which hopes that the once finished, the building will house 80-120 students. The school accommodates ethnic Hungarian students from all over Arad County. [Romániai Magyar Szó (Bucharest), Feb. 18, 1999]