Aspects of Romania foreign policy in the 1980’s. Romanian – Hungarian relations

Revista ERASMUS, nr. 14/2003-2005, Bucureşti, Tipografia Media & Marketing, 2005.


The main purpose of this paperwork is to analyse a few aspects of romanian diplomacy during the 1980’s, especially those aspects related to Hungarian-Romanian relations, a very complex issue by the nature of its historical implications.
The Romanian foreign policy under the leadership of N. Ceausescu was unanimously considered the most spectacular aspect of the communist regime. Respected Western politicians approved and encouraged the anti-Soviet policy of N. Ceausescu, and they applauded Ceausescu’s denunciation of the Czechoslovakia invasion. The whole course of Romanian foreign policy seemed to make Ceausescu a special protégé of the West, particularly of the United States.
The decade of 1980’s was one of the most complex period of the international relations of the XX-th century. It has begun with Reagan Doctrine (1981), which inaugurated „the hottest period“ of the Cold War, continued with Gorbachaev „new thinking policy“ and ended with the collapse of communism and the end of Cold War. All these caused a succession of deep changes in the evolution of international relations, which called for a diversification of methods and a  serious re-examination of the previous patterns.
Romania’s principal claim to international attention for more than 30 years was its autonomy from the Soviet Union. The „deviation“ from Moscow foreign and bloc policies was pursued in strategically steps, from 1958 when Soviet troops left Romania, to 1958-1959 when Romania rejected the Valev plan for a labour division within the CMEA countries, culminating with the famous „Statement of RCP“ from 21 April 1964, considered a Romanian nationalist and an essential anti-Soviet document. Deflection and anti-isolationism was a constant of Nicolae Ceausescu diplomacy1. This position adopted by Romanian diplomacy within communist movement was manifested by the absence of its representants to international conferences organised by USSR. Ceausescu guested a few foreign personalities who disaproved soviet politic towards soviet block states: Santiago Carillo – General Secretary of Spanish Communist Party; Gian Carlo Pajetta – one of the leaders of Italian Communist Party, strongly contested by Kremlin.
This tactic was, at least temporary, very fruitful: Romania was the only Warsaw Pact country to have diplomatic relations and close connections with both Israeli and Arab States; the first Communist country to have diplomatic relations with FRG, in spite of Soviet and GDR opposition, anticipating the Realpolitik. Accordingly, Romania enjoyed an increase international status at the United Nation, in relations with West or with non-aligned countries. Romania was the first communist country to receive the visit of an American president (R. Nixon, 1970, followed by Ford in 1972), and of French President De Gaulle. This foreign policy gave Romania concrete economic benefits, too. Romania benefited by special financial aid from Bonn, and was the first communist country, along with Poland, to enjoy MFN status from USA. It was also the first communist country member in GATT (1971), in the International Monetary Fond and World Bank (1972), in the „Group of 77“ in 1976, and benefited by Western credits for development.
Nicolae Ceausescu prefered to continued his politic based on Romania neutrality within the Warsaw Pact, on Romania statute to U.N., on his efforts to mediate the Sino – American and Sino – Soviet relations and on his connections with non-aligned states, instead of addapting his foreign policy to the new international  realities. This politic, soon, proved to be inadequated beacause the Third World was not anymore a reliable political and economic partner. China foreign policy had gradually changed; Peking Government had improved his diplomatic relations with Moscow and Washington; therefore, Ceausescu claims of beeing a mediator proved to be useless.
A very important issue which influenced Romania foreign policy was its domestic politic. Rural sistematization, megalomanic urbanization projects, repetead bulges and Ceausescu obstinacy to pay, with any price, the external dept influenced Romania image on the international arena. The infrigement of human rights, the „Securitate“ coercition were condamned by Western governments, even by Moscow, which led to Romania international isolation.
Another important constant of Romanian diplomacy in the 1980’s was its dynamic. Among all socialist states, which were or were not part of some economic, politic or military alliances, Romania had the most divesified and dynamic diplomacy2. Romania had diplomatic relations and economic or cultural relations with 140 socialist or non-socialist states. Romanian diplomacy was very active among third world states, especially in Asia and Africa3. Hereby, Bucharest has been the host of pompous visits of some important lidears of the third world: the presidents of Zair – Moubutu, of Cameroun – Ahidjo, of Zambia – Kaunda, of Guinee – Sekou Toure etc. Dozens of asian, african or latin-americam delegates visited Romania, while Romanian governmental delegations continued „to sweep the world“4.
One of the most complex and problematic issues of Central and Eastern Europe history during the XX-th century was the diplomatic relations between Hungary and Romania. It must be mentioned here the military conflict during the First World War, the soviet republic of Bela Kun and the romanian military intervention, ended with Budapest occupancy; the hungarian politicians never accepted the stipulations of Trianon Treaty, and during inter-war period, Hungarian foreign policy promoted the regain of those territories lost by the mentioned treaty, most of them part of Romanian territory. After the Second World War, Romania and Hungary was part of the same block – the communist camp. Therefore, on the 24-th of January 1948, Romania and Hungary signed the 20 years Treaty of Frienship and Mutual Collaboration. The new relations were based on the principles of marxism-leninism, on the mutual respect for the national suveranity and independence, on the laissez faire politic and on the mutual aid5. However, the relations between the two states did not improve, but its got worst, reaching some some critical points: 1971, 1978,1982 etc.
The divergence between Romania and Hungary  reached the most critical point during the 1980’s6. The treaty of Frienship, assistance and mutual cooperation has never been signed.
In 1975 the Helsinki Agreement was signed, which represented a turning point in the recognition and observance of human rights by international community, including the minorities rights7. Respecting human rights became a basic condition of economic ties, of credits approvals and the unroll of commercial exchanges. In the field of human rights during the communist regime the situation in Romania became one of the most serious from the entire socialist block8. Although it ratified and signed a series of international treaties and agreements relating to the observance of human rights and the rights of the minorities, including the Helsinki Agreement, the Romanian communist government arbitrary put them into practice.
By signing the Helsinki Agreement, Nicolae Ceausescu opened the way to international investigations related to the situation of German and Hungarian minorities from Transylvania and Banat, encouraging the interested states to take attitude on the international arena. Thereby, the Hungarian communist regime became aware of the pressure it could exert on Romanian government, by exploiting any critics addressed to Romania autonomous policy, based most of it on Western support.
One of the main cause of the strained diplomatic relations between Romania and Hungary, was Ceausescu policy toward hungarian minority from Transylvania. Another major cause was the standard of living disproportion of the two countries. The economic reform and soviet subsidies allowed Hungary to improve its standard of living, which caused a feeling of frustration and envy among Romanians, but also among Hungarian minority from Transylvania.
A major issue which influenced the dynamic of Romanian-Hungarian relations was the possibility of Hungarian minority to breast the repressed rage they considered to be the communist policy of discrimination9. Thus, it was printed illegaly samizdat publications by which several information related to Hungarian minority opinions. The first publication of this kind appeared by the end of 1981, at Oradea, and it was named „Ellenpontock“ („Counterpoints“). On January 1983, after publishing just two numbers, the editors was arrested, then expeled in Hungary. The second samizdat publication – „Ederly Magyar Hurugynokseg“ („The Hungarian press agency from Transylvania“) – has been launched in May 1983.
The communist regime from Bucharest was obliged to face the increase contestation of Hungarian minority, by voice of some individuals, like Janos Torok, Gyorgy Lazar, Layos Tokacs10. Tokacs protest had an incredible impact in Western newspapers; thus, „The Times“, „The Financial Times“ and „The Guardian“ published Tockacs 60 pages protest in which he emphasized the discrimination of Hungarian minority, especially in the field of education11. By the beginning of 1980’s Ceausescu regime had to face the contestation of Karol Kiraly – former leader of Romanian Communist Party. He denounced, in an letter addressed to the prime minister – Ilie Verdet – the discrimination to which the Hungarian minority was undergone, „contrary to marxist principles“ and „which violate the human rights“12.
All these takings of positions constituted an precedent which influenced ulterior diplomatic contacts between Romania and Hungary. By the middle of 1980’s the an increasing tensition emerged between the two states. The message of Hungarian Communist Party transmitted with the occasion of the XIII-th Congress of RCP, emphasized the need of „protecting the culture, the language and the development of nationalities“13. In the same time, an article published in „România Literara“ on December 6-th 1984, acused the Hungarian revue „Kritika“ of promoting tesis against Romanian people, by publishing the memoirs of an horthist general on August 23-rd 1984 – Romania national day.
On March 1985, with the occasion of the XIII-th Congress of HCP precise references were made to Hungarian role from countries neighbouring Hungary in developing of national language and culture, as a reply to Romanian government decree, from June 1984, to limitate the number of Hungarian students to 5% of the total. This decree was sanctioned by foreign newspapers; thus, the British gazette „The Times“ related: „The 1,7 Hungarian inhabitants [of Transylvaniat must endure the gradual process of romanisation under the leadership of Ceusescu regime. The last measures were some decrees which limited the number of students to 5%. The government also insisted, that history and geography teachers from Transylvania to be Romanianss…]“14.
The elections for the Great National Assembly from March 17, 1985 constitued a proof of regime crisis and of its relation with the minorities. Hereby, 2.27% of the votes were negative, the highest cotes beeing registred in Harghita (4,8%) and Covasna (5,9%)15.
The Hungarian-Romanian diplomatic relations got worst during the Budapest Cultural Forum, from september-november 1985. During the conference, Hungarian part denounced the „asimilation“ to which the Hungarian minority from Transilvania was undergone16. The case of Geza Szocs – a Hungarian poet from Transylvania investigated by Romanian autorities for dispatching a open address to the Central Commitee of RCP and to United Nation, in which he claimed for cultural rights. The Cultural Forum adopted an official position for the observance of cultural rights of national minorities; therefore they asked Romanian government to join this position, but the Romanian part rejected it17.
On December 1986 the Hungarian Academy of Sciences published a history of Transylvania in three volumes, coordinated by Bela Kopeczi – the ministry of education from Hungary, therefore it was considered to be an official opinion. The authors of the books were dening the existence of Romanians in Transylvania before the XIII-th century. On March 12, 1987 „România Libera“ has published an article signed by three important historians: Stefan Pascu, Mircea Musat and Florin Constantiniu, as a reply to the „History of Transylvania“. The authors were apreciating the book as being „layed down in chauvinist and revisionist spirit“18. On April 7, 1987 „The Times“ has published an article which was condamning the „History of Transylvania“, using the same logic of argumentation like the article published one month earlier by „România Libera“. The authors of the book, according to „The Times“, „were not preoccupied of the fate of Hungarian from Transylvania, but of incitement of spirits and mistification of public opinion. This action is part of the attempt to create a false problem of minorities from Romania, without an objective base, because, during the years of socialism, the communist state had definitely and globaly solved this problem“19.
During the 1988, Ceausescu proposed a plan for rural sistematization which provoked Budapest reaction; thus, on June 27, 1988, in Budapest took place a big demonstration against rural sistematization, to which participated 40.000 people – the most ample demonstration after 1956. As a reaction, Ceausescu decided to close the Hungarian Consulate from Cluj and the Cultural Center from Bucharest. The Hungarian Parliement adopted an rezolution which condamned Romania, accusing it of infrigement of human rights. This was the moment of maximum tension of the relation between the two states.
On June 28, 1988 Ceausescu accused, in a public statement, the Hungarian government of interference in Romania domestic affairs, asking Karoly Grosz – the prime minister of Hungary – „to end the nationalist and chauvinist activities“20. On June 30, Grosz declared in Hungarian media his intentions to visit Romania for discussig the problem of Hungarian minority. Therefore, Nicolae Ceausescu asked Grosz to have an meeting at the end of August , which proved to be effectless. The meeting took place at Arad, on August 28, and it was marked by the intrasingense of Ceausescu21. The Romanian leader promised Grosz that the conditions of Hungarian minority in the field of education would have been improved. Grosz reaction was quite positive; he declared that the meeting has been a success.
On November 1988, Karoly Gyorffy – commercial counseler of Hangarian Embassy from Bucharest –  was arrested, accused of implication in a car accident. Hungarian reaction came quickly, by the voice of M. Szuros – Foreign Affairs HCP Secretary: „The facts the declarations of Romanians proves that it was a militia planned action“22. He was expeled by the consideration he distributed ostile publications. As a response, Hungary expeled Pavel Paloma – Political Counseler of the Romania Embassy from Budapest.
The hostile tones of public statements were observed in the newspapers from Bucharest and Budapest. On September 4, „Scinteia“ accused Hungarian press of distorsion of  Romanian reality. In 1989, Romanian newspapers published only articles speaking about Hungarian economic failures, ignoring the its political reforms.
The tensions between Romania and Hungary were also present in the field of historigrafy. On April 1988, Ilie Ceausescu published an article in revue „Lupta întregului popor“, in which he qualified Hungarian as beeing part of some migatory tribes inferior to Romanian people. He also accused Hungary of „territorial revisionism“23.
To sum up, during the 1980’s the diplomatic relations between Romania and Hungary reached the highest level of their modern history. The Helsinki Agreement and the deep crisis of communist regimes created the conditions of tensioned relations within soviet block or between socialist and Western states.
Ceausescu pursued a Stalinist domestic policy, but he developed a very dynamic and relatively independent foreign policy, but Romania’s internal developments, coupled with external changes and Ceausescu obstinacy, determined a dramatic decrease of Romania’s international statute. These facts, associated with the historical controverse and the problem of Hungarian minority from Transylvania had an important influence on the Romanian-Hungarian relations.

1 Fejto, F., Mink, G., Roumanie 1965-1980: 15 ans de ceausescisme, „Notes et Etudes documentaires“, no.4587-4588, La Documentation Francaise, Paris, 1980, p. 59.
2 Schreiber, Thomas, Roumanie – relations internationa-les, „Notes et Etudes documentaires“, no. 4673-4674, La Documentation Francaise, Paris, 1982, p. 210.
3 Schreiber, Thomas, Roumanie – relations internationa-les, „Notes et Etudes documentaires“, no. 4673-4674, La Documentation Francaise, Paris, 1982, p. 210.
4 Ibidem, p. 252.
5  Iordachi, Constantin, The anatomy of a historical con-flict: Romanian – Hungarian Conflict in the 1980’s, Budapest, Central European University, 1996.
6  Ibidem.
7  Deletant, Dennis, Ceausescu si Securitatea. Constrange-re si disidenta în Romania anilor 1965-1989, Bucuresti, Editura Humanitas, 1998, p. 126.
8 Ibidem, p. 127.
9 Deletant, Dennis, Romania sub regimul comunist, Bucuresti, Fundatia Academica Civica, 1997, p. 152.
10 L. Takacs was vice-presient of Hungarian Council of Employers, trusty from regime.
11 Witnesses to Cultural Genocide, American Transyl-vanian Federation, New York, Comitte for Human Rights in Romania, 1979, p. 117-129.
12 Fejto, F., Mink, G., Roumanie 1965-1980: 15 ans de ceausescisme, „Notes et Etudes documentaires“, no.4587-4588, La Documentation Francaise, Paris, 1980, p. 72.
13 Lhomel, Edith, „Notes et Etudes documentaires“, no. 4793, La Documentation Francaise, Paris, 1985, p. 178.
14 Basset, Richard, „Romania turns screw on its Magyars“, in „The Times“, no. 6185 Wendsday, June 6 ,1984, p. 6.
15 Lhomel, Edith, „Notes et Etudes documentaires“, no. 4793, La Documentation Francaise , Paris, 1985, p. 177.
16 Lhomel, Edith, „Notes et Etudes documentaires“, no. 4818, La Documentation Francaise, Paris, 1986, p. 167.
17 Ibidem.
18 Pascu, Stefan, Musat, Mircea, Constantiniu, Florin, Falsificarea constienta a istoriei sub egida Academiei Ungare de Stiinte, in „Romania libera“, an XLV, nr. 13171, 12 martie 1987, p. 4-5.
19 The Times, no. 6185 Wendsday, June 6, 1984.
20 Ibidem 7, p. 140-141.
21 „Notes et Etudes documentaires“, no. 4891-4892, La Documentation Francaise, Paris, 1989, p. 207.
22 Ibidem 20, p. 142.
23 Ibidem, p. 143.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: