|Transylvania - The Roots of Ethnic Conflict|
Hungarian Minister in Paris, representing the Hungarian Delegation at the joint meeting of the Territorial and Political Commissions for Hungary and Roumania at the Paris Conference, on August 31, 1946.
Mr. President, Gentlemen,
May I first of all express the thanks of the Hungarian delegation to the Conference for having decided to hear us. You can well understand what our feelings would have been if, for reasons of procedure, it would have been impossible to make our voice heard.
The two delegations which today stand before you are not formed of enemies; they represent two countries which, after having passed through grave historical changes, have taken the path of a radical transformation.
In Hungary, after the final collapse of feudal and chauvinist reaction, the democratic parties have come to power, parties which courageously opposed not only the inner policy of the former regime, but also its minority and foreign policies; parties which struggled against the policies of Hitlerite Germany and whose members, victims of the Nazis, had suffered imprisonment and persecution. These parties had always been hostile to the former regime's policy of revision and had always urged the need for understanding with neighbouring peoples, within a framework of friendship and sincere cooperation.
We are not unaware of the fact that at the head of Roumanian affairs are democratic statesmen who likewise desire understanding and friendship between our two peoples.
If we are now here, it is to lay before you a suggestion for the solution of the problem which the former regimes, blinded by their prejudices, were incapable of solving. This problem concerns a territory called Transylvania. Its area of 103,000 square kilometers equals that of Switzerland, Belgium, and Holland together. It considerably exceeds that of present-day Hungary. This province constitutes an integral part of the Carpathian Basin. To the south and east it is the chain of the Carpathian Mountains which forms its natural frontiers, while towards Hungary the Hungarian-Roumanian frontier cuts across the eastern edge of the Great Hungarian Plain. According to the Roumanian statistics of 1930, the total population of Transylvania amounts to 5.5 million people, of whom 3.2 million are Roumanian and 1.5
million Hungarian, the rest being divided among various other ethnic groups.
This territory has played a crucial role in history ever since the eleventh century. It formed part of Hungary until the end of the First World War, after having formerly constituted, for 150 years, an independent province, ruled by Hungarian princes. Transylvania has contributed a large number of eminent statesmen, poets and scholars to the civilization of Hungary and Europe.
After the end of the First World War, by virtue of the Treaty of Trianon, Transylvania was attached to Roumania. This was done without the population concerned being consulted. This treaty is one which was never signed by the Soviet Union nor ratified by the United States of America. These facts confirm that the frontiers, as drawn up, do not coincide with the ethnic boundaries of the population. It is a fact that neighboring states, one after the other, request permission to transfer to Hungary at least a part of the Hungarian population living within and along their borders. No better proof could be asked of the errors committed. It was thus that a population of a million and a half Hungarians was handed over to Roumania, a population whose fate cannot leave us indifferent. The territory in question was conceded to Roumania by the Great Powers only on condition that the racial, religious or language minorities inhabiting it should be granted in compensation certain rights, guaranteed constitutionally and internationally. Thus, on December 9, 1919, a treaty was signed between the Allied and Associated Powers on one hand and Roumania on the other, with a view to ensuring the protection of the minorities under the guarantee of the League of Nations. It is a well-known fact that the former Roumanian governments did not put into practice the measures stipulated for the protection of the minorities. To give a striking example, it is enough to recall that, from 1918 to 1938, 200,000 Hungarians, autochthonous inhabitants of Transylvania, had to leave that province. We thus find ourselves obliged to devote our attention to the Transylvanian problem, not with the intention of increasing the territory of Hungary and for chauvinistic reasons, but certainly with a view to ameliorating the fate of the Hungarians living beyond our frontier, and likewise with the intention of bettering the atmosphere ruling in the Danubian Basin, so as to create the conditions for a collaboration serving the interests of the peoples inhabiting it [and] thereby to further the cause and interests of a lasting peace.
We know perfectly well that nowadays frontier questions should no longer be of any major importance. If everybody could enjoy the full rights of man, in total political, economic, and cultural equality,
then the frontiers would, in fact, be only lines of administrative demarcation. Unfortunately, the experience of the last twenty-five years, confirmed by that of today, proves that the fate of the minorities in the Danubian Basin is not an enviable one and that it is impossible to remedy the situation by regulations which remain a dead letter or by high-sounding but empty declarations.
In raising the problem of the Hungarian population of Transylvania, we do not forget two facts of vital importance. The first is that, under the Armistice Agreement concluded between the United Nations and Roumania, Transylvania, or the greater part thereof, will have to belong to Roumania. The second fact which we want to take into consideration is the decision of the Council of Foreign Ministers which declared null and void the Arbitration Decision of Vienna of August 30, 1940, which, although not having been taken on our initiative, had restituted to Hungary some 44,000 square kilometers of the territory of Northern Transylvania. Keeping these two facts in view, all that the Hungarian government asked for, in its memorandum addressed to the Council of Foreign Ministers, as well as in the speech made by the Hungarian minister of foreign affairs before the Plenary Session of the Conference was for a part of the territory of Transylvania, amounting to some 22,000 square kilometers, to be reattached to Hungary. Unfortunately this suggestion has not been accepted by the Council of Foreign Ministers, nor was it favorably received by the Commission. Under these circumstances, and to return to one of the possible solutions, which had already been mentioned in our Memorandum addressed to the Council of Foreign Ministers and outlined in the speech before the Plenary Session of the Conference, we request the rectification of the frontier, corresponding to the ethnic realities.
This would be a question of transferring a territory of 4,000 square kilometers, which constitutes hardly four percent of that area which after the end of the First World War was attributed to Roumania. In these conditions the reattachment to Hungary of this strip of territory, which does not belong to the geographical unity of Transylvania, and which, throughout history, did not form an integral part thereof, would bear the character of a simple readjustment of the frontier. This territory comprises a Hungarian population of sixty-seven percent out of a total population of approximately 500,000 people. This rectification of the frontier would include the towns of Szatmárnémeti, (Satu Mare), Nagykároly (Carei), Nagyvárad (Oradea), Nagyszalonta (Salonta), and Arad.
Permit me, Mr. President, to put at your disposal a map which details the exact lines of the proposed new frontier. This modest solution
has the merit of reattaching to Hungary a territory on which the Hungarians form a considerable majority. I must remark here that this suggestion cannot be considered a new one, for our earlier proposals referring to a territory considerably larger necessarily also included the area to which I have just referred.
I must in any case, however, insist that our suggestion only represents a solution if it is closely linked with a settlement of all the required guarantees concerning the rights and the protection of the Hungarian minority of over 1.2 million persons which would still be left within the Roumanian state. The task of seeing the settlement duly respected would fall to the United Nations Organization, as suggested by the Hungarian government in the aide-memoire handed to the Council of Foreign Ministers on last June 11, and quite recently, in the suggestions for a draft treaty laid before the Conference.
If I have considered it essential to insist on the necessity of setting up a statute of local autonomy and protection of the rights of the Hungarian minority of Transylvania it is not only because, as I have indicated above, Transylvanian history teaches us to seek for a solution in this direction, but also because the present situation of the Hungarians in Transylvania has become extremely serious.
In view of the fact that at present, as I have just mentioned, both our countries are ruled by democratic governments, we consider it desirable that the Roumanian and Hungarian delegations, here present, open direct negotiations with each other so as to be able to submit later to the Commission a joint proposal concerning the rights to be guaranteed the Hungarians of Transylvania.
Why is it necessary to have recourse to these means? While recognizing that the democratic government of the Roumania of today, desirous of ensuring to the Hungarian population of Transylvania equality of rights, has already taken certain measures in this connection, we must note, unfortunately, that a large part of these measures is being retarded in application. In theory the Hungarian minority enjoys certain rights, but in practice this minority is the object of numerous discriminatory practices and is not removed from fear and destitution. I would also like to raise here the ever tragic question of the refugees, for whom remedy should likewise be found without delay. Let us recall, as an example, that out of a total population of 1.5 million, the citizenship of some 300,000 Hungarians has been put in question.
The loss of Roumanian citizenship entails disastrous economic consequences, such as the confiscation of property, suspension of salaries, wages, pensions, etc.
The new agrarian law is also no less unfavorable to the Hungarian
peasants, who are, in practice, excluded from its benefits. This is all the more serious as more than seventy percent of the Hungarians in Roumania are agriculturists.
It is only in passing that I shall mention the sequestrations and confiscations of property, discriminations mainly in economic life, enforced evacuations, expulsions and arbitrary arrests, the list of which is duly laid down in various sworn statements, but on which I do not want to dwell, so as not to get involved in details. I would not like to appear as accuser at the very moment when I seek reconciliation. But I have had to refer to all this so that you might have an idea of the gravity of the position of the Hungarian minority in Transylvania, and which thus also constitutes a factor which opposes reconciliation.
That is why we have allowed ourselves to ask for a rectification of the frontier, mentioned above, linked to the establishment of a local administrative autonomy and to measures of protection for the minority, under the control and subject to the sanctions of the United Nations Organization. Already the treaty signed in 1919 between the Allied and Associated Nations on one hand and Roumania on the other concerning the protection of the minorities had anticipated an educational and religious autonomy for this compact block of 600,000 Hungarians inhabiting an area of 17,000 kilometers in eastern Transylvania. Even this restricted autonomy was never implemented by the Roumanian governments. In our opinion it would be indispensable for a wide autonomy to be granted to this important homogenous ethnic group, to ensure for it the rights of man and basic liberties.
To conclude, here is a succinct summary of the requests we are respectfully making to the Commission.
First: that the Commission decide to accept our suggestion concerning the rectification of the Hungarian-Roumanian frontier, with a view to reattaching to Hungary the frontier zones with a Hungarian majority.
Second: that the Commission decide to invite the two delegations to open direct negotiations concerning the conclusion of special treaties covering the protection of the rights of the Hungarian minority, under the guarantee of the United Nations and with the assurance of a wide autonomy given to the compact ethnic group of Hungarians inhabiting the eastern part of Transylvania.
Third: In case that, within a fixed period, the two delegations should be unable to reach an agreement on the joint proposal, it is you whom we would allow ourselves to ask to kindly seek for a solution which would best conform to justice and equality, and to recommend it for approval to the Council of Foreign Ministers. We are convinced
that this is the direction that can lead to a definite reconciliation between our two countries. The Transylvania of yesterday divided us, but that of tomorrow, in which all the peoples will be free to enjoy their liberty, will serve to unite us. For, gentlemen, you may rest assured, as may Roumania, that what we want is peace. We aspire to it sincerely and with all our hearts. We know that it is in our interest, but we know likewise that it is also in the interest of Roumania. In our ears still ring the words of one of the greatest figures of Hungarian history, those of Louis Kossuth, president of the First Hungarian Republic, who said, when proclaiming his project of a Danubian Union: "In the name of Heaven I adjure the Hungarian, Roumanian, and Slav brothers to throw a veil over the past, to take each other's hands, to rise as a single man in the common struggle for liberty, fighting all for one, and one for all!" But we also recall the words written by one of the best Roumanian publicists of the nineteenth century, Emmanual Gojdu: "I assure the Hungarian Nation that there is no Roumanian thinker who is not convinced that Divine Providence, the God of all the peoples, has established for the Hungarian and Roumanian nations an ordinance that they must live in an eternal alliance. Only thus will they have a glorious future. One against the other, they will both perish." We must take these words to heart, Roumanians, and Hungarians. Through mutual understanding and thanks to your good offices, gentlemen, we shall find the solution which will put an end to the differences separating Hungarians and Roumanians, thus contributing to ensuring peace in Europe.
|Transylvania - The Roots of Ethnic Conflict|