Romania: Follow-up to ROM34917.E of 6 September 2000 on the treatment of ethnic Hungarians and members of the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR); state protection available to both of them (2001-April 2002)
|Publisher||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada|
|Author||Research Directorate, Immigration and Refugee Board, Canada|
|Publication Date||12 April 2002|
|Citation / Document Symbol||ROM38836.E|
|Cite as||Canada: Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada, Romania: Follow-up to ROM34917.E of 6 September 2000 on the treatment of ethnic Hungarians and members of the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR); state protection available to both of them (2001-April 2002), 12 April 2002, ROM38836.E, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3df4be9e4.html [accessed 20 January 2018]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
According to the Commission of the European Communities, Romania has "well-developed" provisions guaranteeing the respect of minority rights and policies which grant "extensive rights for education in minority languages" (13 Nov. 2001, 29).
After obtaining media reports that participants in a meeting of the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (UDMR) held in Targu Mures on 15 December 2001 had sung Hungary's national anthem, the Supreme Court's Prosecution Office ordered a preliminary investigation under Article 236 of the penal code on offence against national symbols (Mediafax 17 Dec. 2001). According to the Hungarian satellite television TV2, the criminal investigation concerned a few dozen UDMR representatives (23 Dec. 2001). If found guilty, perpetrators face a term of imprisonment ranging from six months to three years (Mediafax 17 Dec. 2001), although political analysts cited by Associated Press, stressed the unlikelihood of a prison sentence in this case (17 Dec. 2001). No further information on this investigation could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
However, on 8 March 2002, the government passed an ordinance which permits organizations representing minorities in Romania to publicly display national symbols, such as foreign national flags, and to play foreign national anthems (RFE/RL 8 Mar. 2002). According to Mediafax, a privately owned Romanian news agency (Mediafax 8 Apr. 2002), the ordinance was adopted on the eve of the anniversary of the 1848 revolution that members of the Hungarian minority celebrate on 15 March (RFE/RL 8 Mar. 2002).
On 19 June 2001, the Hungarian parliament adopted the "Status Law" (Xinhua 23 Dec. 2001) due to come into force on 1 January 2002 (TV2 23 Dec. 2001). Applying to ethnic Hungarians living outside Hungary, the law grants them the right to work for three months per year in Hungary, social and health care rights, free university education, training courses and travel allowances (AFP 13 July 2001). After several unsuccessful attempts to overcome their disagreement on the implementation of the status law, Hungary's Prime Minister Viktor Orban and his Romanian counterpart Adrian Nastase signed a declaration of agreement on 22 December 2001 (TV2 29 Jan. 2002). The signed declaration grants every Romanian national equal working conditions and treatment in Hungary regardless of his or her ethnic identity, herewith abolishing existing bilateral seasonal employment quota (TV2 23 Dec. 2001). It also excludes non-Hungarian family members of ethnic Hungarians from the list of beneficiaries of the status law (ibid.).
Referring to guidelines issued by Prime Minister Adrian Nastase to Hungarian language media, UDMR leaders denounced the Prime Minister's wish to "place the Hungarian language media in Romania under government control" (Romania Libera 24 Sept. 2001).
With reference to books imported from Hungary which are used in Hungarian schools in Transylvania, the Prime Minister indicated that his government could not allow the use of these books as many of them contained theses unacceptable to the Romanian authorities (ibid.). No details on the content of these books could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. The Prime Minister warned that principals of schools where these books were found would be fired (ibid.).
Following protests from leaders of the Jewish, Roma and Hungarian communities, the prosecutor's office initiated in August 2001 an investigation into the publication of a book believed to have an anti-semitic and xenophobic content (RFE/RL 23 Aug. 2001). Entitled The Nationalist, the book was written by an elected representative of the "ultranationalist" Greater Romania Party (PRM) to the parliament (ibid.).
On 21 April 2001, Ion Iliescu, Romania's president, enacted a bill allowing the use of minorities' languages in local administrations where they represent more than 20 percent of the local population (ibid. 4 May 2001). For example, members of such an ethnic minority may address public servants in their native language orally or in writing and may be answered in both Romanian and their native language (ibid.). Also, the names of villages and urban centres, as well as state institutions must be displayed in Romanian and in the languages of the minorities which account for more than 20 percent of the local population (ibid.). During official meetings, members of an ethnic minority who sit on local councils have the right to use their native language if more than one third of the councillors belong to this minority (ibid.). In this case, a translation into Romanian of speeches and documents is required by law (ibid.).
After examining a June 2001 incident where a marriage officer refused to marry an ethnic Hungarian couple as one of the spouses consented in Hungarian, a court in Cluj (northwestern Romania) declared the couple married (AP 8 Feb. 2002). Referring to the law mentioned previously, the court ruled that members of minorities were entitled to get married in their native language (ibid.).
In a number of local administrations, such as in Sfantu Gheorghe (RFE/RL 4 May 2001), the knowledge of Hungarian is required of applicants for certain positions (Radio Romania 23 May 2001). In Cluj, Gheorghe Funar, a mayor, who is "known for his anti-Hungarian stance" according to Associated Press, refused to comply with the new law although the Hungarian minority reportedly exceeds 20 percent of the population (AP 8 Feb. 2002).
For information on the current situation of Csango Hungarians, please see a January 2002 report by the APADOR-CH and the Pro Europe League entitled Report on the Situation of Csangos of Moldavia. The Problem of the Csango Hungarians, available at
No information on the treatment of UDMR members could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate.
However, on 29 January 2002, the ruling Romanian Social Democratic Party (RSDP) signed an agreement with the UDMR, in which the latter renewed its "parliamentary support" for the RSDP (TV2 29 Jan. 2002). Valid for a year, the agreement includes a number of commitments championed by the UDMR, such as the adoption by parliament of a bill on the return of church properties, the creation of Hungarian language departments and the development of teaching in Hungarian in a number of institutions of higher education (ibid.). The agreement also provides for the UDMR's participation in the committee overseeing the implementation of the Hungarian-Romanian declaration of agreement (ibid.).
This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.
Agence France Presse (AFP). 13 July 2001. "Romania Urges Hungary to Delay Disputed Ethnic Law." (NEXIS)
Associated Press (AP) . 8 February 2002. "In Romania, Ethnic Hungarian Couple Wins Right to Marry in Own Language." (NEXIS)
_____. 17 December 2001. "Prosecutor Orders Investigation of Lawmakers for Singing Hungarian National Anthem." (NEXIS)
Commission of the European Communities [Brussels]. 13 November 2001. 2001 Regular Report on Romania's Progress Towards Accession.
[Accessed 9 Apr. 2002]
Mediafax [Bucharest, in English]. 8 April 2002. "Electricity Price to Increase by 14 Percent in Romania Beginning 10 Apr." (FBIS-EEU-2002-0408 8 Apr. 2002/WNC)
_____. 17 December 2001. "Romania: Ethnic Hungarian Leader Rejects Prosecution Charges on Singing Anthem." (BBC Monitoring 17 Dec. 2001/LEXIS)
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL). Newsline [Prague]. 8 March 2002 . Vol. 6, No. 45, Part II. "Minorities in Romania Allowed to Display Own National Symbols." (firstname.lastname@example.org)
_____. 23 August 2001. Eugen Tomiuc. "Romania: Authorities Launch Probe Into Controversial Book."
[Accessed 9 Apr. 2002]
_____. 4 May 2001. Eugen Tomiuc. "Romania: Law Allows Use of Minority Languages in Public Administration."
[Accessed 9 Apr. 2002]
Radio Romania [Bucharest, in Romanian]. 23 May 2001. Alexandru Ioan. "Romania's Iliescu Discusses Impact of New Language Law in Covasna." (FBIS-EEU-2001-0523 23 May 2001/WNC)
Romania Libera [Bucharest, in Romanian]. 24 September 2001. "Romania: Premier Accused of Censoring Hungarian-Language Media." (BBC Monitoring 25 Sept. 2001/NEXIS)
TV2 [Budapest, in Hungarian]. 29 January 2002. "Romania: Ethnic Hungarians Sign Deal With Government Party." (BBC Monitoring 29 Jan. 2002/LEXIS)
_____. 23 December 2001. "Romanian Premier Suggests Solution for Hungarian National Anthem Dispute." (BBC Monitoring 24 Dec. 2001/NEXIS)
Xinhua. 23 December 2001. "Hungary, Romania Sign Statement on Ethnic Hungarians." (NEXIS)
Additional Sources Consulted
Internet sites including:
Association for the Defence of Human Rights in Romania-the Helsinki Committee (APADOR-CH) [Bucharest]
European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI)
Government Office for Hungarian Minorities Abroad [Budapest]
Human Rights Watch
Hungarian Human Rights Foundation [New York]
International Helsinki Federation for Human Rights (IHFHR)
Minorities at Risk Project [College Park, Md]
Minority Rights Group International
Open Society Institute. EU Accession Monitoring Program.
Project on Ethnic Relations
UK Immigration and Nationality Directorate Country Assessments.
US Department of State. Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2001.