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8 November 2020

Mother Tongue Rights In The Carpathian Basin - A Hundred Years after Trianon - Part II

"In Transylvania, the Partium, the South Máramaros (Maramures) region, and the East Bánát – territories that have belonged to Romania for a hundred years – the prospects of native minority languages look reasonably good on paper. Regardless of the fact that the Romanian constitution is no less exclusionary than those of the countries previously discussed, and that Hungarians are not considered or treated as essential, organic parts of the state in their native land despite having built and defended Transylvania and the southeastern parts of the Great Plain for a thousand years, there are a large number of regulations in force that must be deemed laudable by European standards."


In Transylvania, the Partium, the South Máramaros (Maramureș) region, and the East Banat – territories that have belonged to Romania for a hundred years – the prospects of native minority languages look reasonably good on paper. Regardless of the fact that the Romanian constitution is no less exclusionary than those of the countries previously discussed, and that Hungarians are not considered or treated as essential, organic parts of the state in their native land despite having built and defended Transylvania and the southeastern parts of the Great Plain for a thousand years, there are a large number of regulations in force that must be deemed laudable by European standards. However, these provisions hardly serve any purpose besides than that of window-dressing for a generally chauvinistic state policy, as the Romanians themselves seldom abide by their own rules in practice. For instance, Hungarian civilians invoking a provision of law in an official process have been told, in several astonishing cases, that “the point of the law is not to be cited by you”. What is its purpose then, one might ask? The real answer is: to deceive and mislead international public opinion. Instead of listing hundreds of examples, let us review a few cases carried by the Institute for the Protection of Minority Rights (IPMR).

The partners of the IPMR have striven to bring strategic lawsuits aimed at enforcing the use of the Hungarian language in public administration, education and the courts, along with the posting of bilingual settlement names and street signs. In Marosvásárhely (Târgu Mureș), for example, where Hungarians still make up half of the city’s inhabitants at about 65,000 souls, the rules of bilingual street names have been set forth by decree of the city council. The authorities, however, remain reluctant to implement their own resolution, and have recourse to the most bewildering reasoning in attempting to justify their refusal to post bilingual street signs. Organised by the Civilian Commitment Movement (CEMO), a number of Hungarian residents have posted the bilingual street signs as required by the regulations, except that they did so on their own house walls or fence, and at their own cost. What happened next? Lo and behold, the police immediately imposed massive fines upon them for “engaging in illicit advertising activity”, and followed up by keeping the law-abiding citizens under constant surveillance and other forms of harassment. Marosvásárhely, the city of the Hungarian-speaking Szeklers has been the scene of NGO litigations for years. A civilian initiative originally embraced by the IPMR and put back on the agenda by a society named Minority Rights involved the posting of Hungarian signs at the city limits of Kolozsvár (Cluj-Napoca). Even though the activists emerged triumphant in this case, in a deplorable turn of events the local Romanian chauvinists placed on top of the official sign another one which read, against a yellow background, “This is Napoca, ancient city of the Dacian people”. Although this may be seen as scarcely more than a footnote to the half-baked speculations about the alleged Daco-Romanian continuity, manifestations like this should not be underestimated, for they do not bode well for the future. Elsewhere in the city, the Advocacy Group for Identity has achieved success in enforcing multilingual signs at the entrance of the famous Házsongárd Cemetery, and many suits have been filed to vindicate bilingualism in signs posted at the City Hall.

Our partners in Transylvania have also mounted an impressive effort to enforce language rights in the justice system, particularly on account of the notorious prevention of parties with an insufficient grasp of Romanian to exercise their rights in judicial processes. The Kolozsvár-based NGO named Alliance for Our Rights (AOR) conducted a remarkable survey on the issue in 2019. By way of legal background, the survey cites Article 21 of the Romanian Constitution, which declares the right of any individual in its jurisdiction to seek remedy in court for the protection of his/her rights, liberties and lawful interests, and prohibits the restriction of this right by any other legal instrument. Under Article 128, said Constitution provides for the use of mother tongues in justice, mandating Romanian as the default language in proceedings while upholding the right of minorities to make their statements before the court in their native tongue. The rules of exercising these rights, including the use of translation and interpretation services, must be determined with a view to not interfering with the proper conduct of the process or imposing the burden of extra costs on the subjects.

By the same token, the Romanian Civil Procedure, Criminal Code, Criminal Procedure Act, and Act on the Organisation and Operation of Courts all empower national minorities to use their mother tongues in court, free of charge. In particular, this means that the courts are liable to secure certified translators and/or interpreters for parties whose native tongue is not Romanian, at no cost to those parties. As far as regulations go, this requirement is compatible, by and large, with the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.

But how does this work in real life? Regrettably, in the majority of cases it does not work at all, or if it does, the implementation remains partial at best, mounting obstacles even in settlements predominantly concerning native Hungarian speakers. Indeed, the minority citizen often does not know his or her exact rights in this regard. This is an impossible situation, and AOR has spent many years trying to bring an end to it. They place an emphasis on legal education (especially of the younger generations), holding talks and conferences and disseminating important material on the rights of Hungarian-speaking Romanian citizens.

The amazing story of Gábor Landman, a Dutch citizen, who decided to repatriate from the Netherlands to a settlement in Transylvania mostly populated by Hungarians, serves as a case in point. Having studied Romanian regulations, Landman arrived in the village of Tordaszentlászló (Săvădisla) secure in the belief that his lack of understanding Romanian would not pose any problems. According to 2011 census data, the residents of the village include 955 Hungarians, 99 Romanians, and four Roma individuals. In December 2013, Landman decided to speak in Hungarian at a police station after realising that English, German, French or Dutch would not suffice. As the officers refused to even have a word with him in Hungarian, he resorted to citing the Romanian Constitution and associated laws passed by Parliament. As it happened, he had a legal compendium on him, which he held up as evidence demonstrating his rights, only to have the volume wrenched from his hand and shoved into the waste basket. When the police moved to throw him out of the building, he refused to budge, only to find himself handcuffed, dragged into another room, and given a good smack on the kidneys lest he get any further ideas. His cell door was locked behind him and he was left in darkness. After a while, three officers entered, one of whom spoke Hungarian. He called on Landman to identify himself. Instead of the personal ID card Landman presented a Dutch passport to the astonishment of the officers, who quickly apologised and let him go without further ado. However, he refused to leave, and insisted that minutes be taken documenting the incident. He had a neutral witness on his side, who made a voice recording of the process. I do not have the space here to recount the whole story. Suffice it to say that Landman filed charges, and the police denied any wrongdoing. As for the courts, they have sabotaged the process to this day (as of June 2020). Under the circumstances, it is hardly surprising that the case landed with the European Court of Human Rights, in May 2019. The facts, at any rate, cry out for themselves: the police force on duty in a village with a 90 per cent Hungarian minority comprises Romanian officers, and with a chauvinistic attitude at that!

It is also a fact that, “as a matter of course”, native language rights stand severely impaired in education as well. The crucial importance of this field was pointed out eloquently by the Transylvanian university professor and legal scholar Gyula Fábián in a study published in 2018: “The right to education [in one’s native language] is particularly vital for minorities, not only because it enables knowledge in culture, science and other fields of learning but because it serves as a tool of preserving a sense of national identity and ethnic values.” The Romanian Constitution of 1992 provides that “[e]ducation at all levels shall be carried out in Romanian”, adding that “[t]he right of persons belonging to national minorities […] to be educated in [their native] language shall be guaranteed; the ways to exercise these rights shall be regulated by law.” Mandated by the Constitution, Act 1995/84 on Education enshrines the “equal right of all Romanian citizens to education, regardless of any affiliation with a national minority” (Section 5). The law makes the teaching of Romanian compulsory and prohibits institutions from issuing diplomas and certificates in any language other than Romanian, although it does require those institutions to make out official translations on request. Finally, the Education Act devotes a full chapter (No. XII, Sections 118–126) to education in minority languages. Following a series of amendments, these provisions remain pro-minority in their overall thrust. Most importantly, they uphold the right of minorities to be taught in their native tongue at all levels of the educational system regardless of the type of course in question, as long as there is manifest need for it (Section 118). As for the universities, Section 123 of the 1995 Education Act allows the option of creating study groups, sections, colleges, divisions and schools in minority languages. The autonomy of universities is guaranteed in principle, although all institutions of higher education are overseen by the Ministry of Education (Section 89). At the same time, the law does not permit a state-run university to operate in a minority language exclusively. Even though the letter of the law “encourages” the foundation of multilingual universities, all attempts to turn that promise into reality have been sabotaged in Romania. A case in point is the Hungarian State University, founded in 1959, whose reinstatement has been thwarted by each consecutive cabinet since the democratic turn of 1989. The institutions of higher education allowed by the Education Law to teach in Hungarian must be private endowments, without any support from the Romanian state [Section 123 (3)].

As a major setback in practice, the laws provide for education in minority languages as a mere option. Virtually nothing can be achieved in this regard unless specifically requested, and the authorities tend to decline such petitions whenever they can. In a further detriment to the minorities, Government Decree 30/2000 declares that the material assets of universities constitute the property of these institutions de jure, but that the assets used by local lower-level institutions, from kindergarten to secondary schools, form the property of the given local government. This latter amendment may seem harmless on the face of it, but in effect it enables the powers that be, once again, to prevent the Hungarian minority and, specifically, the Hungarian churches, from reclaiming buildings that used to rightfully belong to them.

The year 2011 ushered in a change for the better for education in minority languages, at least on paper, with the adoption of a new Education Act (No. 1/2011). That said, it is obvious that Romanian legislators continue to struggle to strike a viable balance between meeting international standards and the expectations of a domestic policy intent on Romanisation. It is little wonder that the Act has been amended no fewer than 71 times. The most important amendments from the minority point of view are the following:

   Basic education is provided by the state free of charge. Financing, however, follows a head-count quota scheme, with minority students often exceeding the average quota [Section 9 (2), Section 45 (17)].

   In Romania, public education is considered a public service, delivered in Romanian, as well as in various minority and international languages [Section 10 (7)].

   Learning Romanian as the official language is compulsory for citizens in all schools [Section 10 (3)].

   School boards have a guaranteed ratio of minority faculties [Section 25 (8) and (9)].

Chapter II Section 12 sets forth the specific rules of minority education as follows:

   At all pre-college levels, all disciplines may be taught in Hungarian except for Romanian language and literature [Section 46 (1)].

   Secondary schools are allowed to teach minority histories and traditions [Section 46 (9)].

   The law permits the organisation of private and denominational education [Section 60].

   Also permitted are minority classes even if enrolment remains below the otherwise required minimum [Section 63 (2)].

The law prohibits all forms of discrimination in higher education [Section 116 (2)] and guarantees the autonomy of universities [Section 123 (1)].

The college-level education of minorities is carried out by:

   institutions of higher education, with schools, faculties and programmes run in the given native language;

   multicultural and multilingual higher education institutions degrees majors in national minority languages;

   institutions of higher education where groups or sections taught in minority languages are created [Section 135 (1)]

All things considered, the education system would seem to guarantee decent conditions for teaching minorities in their native tongues. The only thing missing is the endowment of a minority university in its own right, which should be a given by any European standard in the case of a native minority numbering a million and a half. This only became reality through the intervention and support of the Hungarian government, which helped establish the Partium Christian University in Nagyvárad (Oradea) in 2000, and the Sapientia Hungarian University of Transylvania (EMTE) with study centres in Kolozsvár, Marosvásárhely and Csíkszereda (Miercurea Ciuc).

In short, everything seems perfectly acceptable as far as the letter of the law is concerned. Reality, however, is an entirely different story. Barring a few exceptions, the bilingual ideal is only implemented where expressly ordered by a court ruling or a favourable resolution following the investigation of complaints lodged with the National Anti-Discrimination Council. The Hungarian political parties in Transylvania and the local partners of the IPMR have engaged in a decades-long fight to enforce bilingualism. Legal action and administrative complaints brought by the CEMO have ultimately resulted in the posting of bilingual signs on the front wall of every school and kindergarten in the education network of Marosvásárhely. After lengthy litigation that took two years, the National Anti-Discrimination Council issued a number of resolutions finding that several anti-discriminatory rules were violated, and the city elders finally remedied these violations. Inside the classrooms in Marosvásárhely, however, things have remained pretty much the same as before. All schools in Romania, including those teaching in Hungarian, continue to issue report cards and mid-term qualifications in Romanian only. (Evaluation is by verbal assessment rather than by numerical grades.) This is another area where the struggle has continued for years, often with the involvement of parents. Also for years, Hungarian students have faced their first classes each September without Hungarian textbooks, which routinely arrive late if at all. (The proactive stance of the Hungarian government goes a long way to surmount difficulties in this area, too.) In many localities, the Romanian authorities adopt all kinds of conniving measures to foil the launching of classes taught in Hungarian, at schools officially recognised as bilingual. In some cases, the local authorities go so far as to bar the implementation of resolutions brought by the National Anti-Discrimination Council in favour of Hungarian parents. Indeed, the resourcefulness of Romanian chauvinists is limitless when it comes to devising anti-Hungarian measures.

Minority languages fare hardly better in public administration. The formula is the same: Give them the right on paper, but block its exercise in the field. Section 19 of Act 215/2011 on Local Administration requires local authorities, public institutions reporting to them, and various decentralised public services in all regional units of public administration where more than 20 per cent of the inhabitants belong to a national minority to uphold the right of minorities to the use of their native language in official communications with them, in accordance with the terms of international treaties of which Romania is a signatory. Furthermore, the law mandates local councils in such settlements to post official notices and resolutions in the minority languages as well, making arrangements for translation services as needed. Minorities have the right to address a council meeting in their mother tongue; it is the responsibility of the mayor to provide an interpreter if they do. These rules apply to all local authorities, including those on the county level.

These are the principles then. But what do we find in practice? The police force is the worst case of all. Romanian officers speaking any Hungarian are few and far between. An ethnic Hungarian wearing a Romanian police uniform is an exceedingly rare sight and generally only in predominantly Hungarian-populated villages. Ironically, the rule of thumb everywhere is to disobey the rules. Institutions run by various local councils present a more varied picture, but the promise of bilingualism for the most part remains unfulfilled in this sector as well, from libraries to protected monuments to cemeteries. A particularly galling slight for Hungarians is the frequent absence of bilingual signs and public notices in Hungarian when such signs are routinely posted not only in Romanian but also in English, sometimes even in French. Most grievously of all, even in settlements with a majority Hungarian population, people often do not avail themselves of this legal right, perhaps out of fear, an ill-conceived inclination to toe the line, financial considerations, sheer indolence, or who knows what else. They do not realise that it is precisely the neglect of the mother tongue that constitutes the straightest path to assimilation. The partners of the IPMR have been filing lawsuits in this area as well, albeit with little success thus far.

Signed on 16 September 1996 in Temesvár (Timișoara) behind the back of the RMDSZ, the political organisation of Hungarians in Transylvania, the Basic Treaty between Hungary and Romania addresses various issues of bilingualism and education in the native language of the national minority. Among other provisions, it lays down the understanding that the parties will take steps to ensure that the minority has access to education in their native tongue in all forms and at all levels of the education system, according to their needs [Article 15 (2)–(3)]. The document, conceived under an ill-advised sense of pressure, rules out even the faintest notion of Hungarian autonomy in Romania (among other shortcomings), but it does articulate a few welcome objectives. Regrettably, even fewer of these have been spelled out in actual laws, and those that have are either not being obeyed in practice or merely provide grounds for sanctioning those who do abide by them.

We must conclude that, in all the areas we have examined, the letter of the law is quite broad-minded in permitting the use of the mother tongue, but in practice this leniency seldom manifests itself in spite of various attempts at legal remedy and court rulings that have become final and fully enforceable. This leaves one with little choice other than to characterise Romanian language policy as quintessentially hypocritical and dishonest – no better than Romanian minority politics on the whole.

In the regions of Bácska (Bačka), West Bánság (Banat) and East Szerémség (Syrmia), all now parts of Serbia under the collective name of Vajdaság (Vojvodina), we have witnessed some very promising developments lately. The Serbian Constitution has recognised the right to autonomy of native national communities within its borders. National minority languages and alphabets thrive alongside Serbian. Everyone is free to use their own language in processes conducted by public agencies and organisations with discretionary powers regarding their rights and obligations as citizens, and this includes the right to access information and facts pertaining to one’s case in one’s native tongue. Local governments are liable to have their charter expressly guarantee the use of a national minority language and alphabet if the native speakers of that language amount to at least 15 per cent of the total number of residents in that settlement according to the most recent census. Laws and regulations must be published in minority languages. Members of minorities numbering at least two per cent of the total population of Serbia according to the last census have the right to address submissions to, and receive replies from, the agencies of the Republic in their own language. Minorities smaller than that enjoy the same rights but they must make their case via the local government of the jurisdiction where their language can officially be used. For them, the local government is responsible for making arrangements for translation or interpretation services and for paying for the costs thereof. Name signs of companies, institutions and other incorporated entities must be posted in Serbian and in the language of the national minority in official use in the locality where the given entity is registered. The Serbian penal code sanctions with a fine or imprisonment for up to one year any act of violating or restricting the right of a citizen belonging to a people, national minority or ethnic community living in Serbia to use his native tongue in processes conducted by government agencies and in seeking remedy for the infringement of his rights.

The above list sounds very impressive indeed. It reflects a welcome effort and constitutes a reassuring starting point. But, as the saying goes, all that glitters is not gold. These excellent regulations are often disregarded in daily practice, and attempts to enforce them do not always succeed. This is shown by the number of lawsuits conducted with the support of the IPMR, specifically including the case of the Law School of Novi Sad University. Unlike other universities in Vojvodina, this Law School refused for years to administer admission tests in Hungarian. In 2017, the Union of Hungarian Students in Vojvodina (VAMADISZ) brought a lawsuit in the matter. It took two years, but the court finally ruled in favour of the Union in a verdict that has since become fully enforceable. The chauvinistic management of the Law School, however, has not desisted from inventing new ways of hampering Hungarian students seeking admission. In a recent example, in 2019, students taking the admission test in a language other than Serbian, including of course Hungarian, were made liable to pass a Serbian language test as a further eligibility condition. This stipulation clearly constituted a repeated transgression of anti-discrimination laws by virtue of denying equal terms of evaluation to some of the applicants. A new lawsuit brought by the VAMADISZ culminated, on 10 January 2020, in a first-instance ruling in which the court determined another instance of discrimination and ordered the Law School to guarantee equal treatment for all applicants in the future. The institution is expected to appeal the ruling. The good news is that, in 2019, two applicants chose to exercise their right to take the admission test in Hungarian – for the first time in seven years. Both applicants passed the mandatory Serbian language test successfully, achieving a total score that put them in the ranks of students of the Law School in Novi Sad.

The IPMR was less fortunate in another case when the presiding judge point-blank refused to allow the plaintiff and his witness to make their statements in Hungarian. After a protracted tug-of-war, she finally relented on condition that the plaintiff place the cost of interpretation in escrow. This stipulation plainly contravened the law, which provides that the costs of interpretation and translation must be shouldered by the official body hearing the case. Regrettably, the prosecutor’s office disregarded the flagrant violation and came out in favour of the judge. The lawsuit is still in progress and may soon reach the stage where it will have to be brought before an international venue.

Sadly, this is not the only case of its kind pursued by the IPMR. At the end of the day, they demonstrate the fact that, while Serbia is bending over backwards to earn good marks as it eyes accession to the EU, the old and ingrained habits of nationalism and chauvinism remain at play. At the same time, the brave, proactive stance of the Hungarian community in Vojvodina, backed by support from Budapest, holds out the promise of eventual triumph.

The situation of the Hungarian minority in Croatia and Slovenia is settled to a reassuring degree, albeit not without its own problems. First of all, though, our neighbours to the southwest present an entirely different context, if only because here the Hungarian minority enjoys equal status as a constituent force of the state, duly recognised by the respective constitutions of these two countries. In other words, Hungarians are not considered second-class citizens, at least not on paper. Among other entitlements, they have the inalienable right to a single seat in Parliament. The problem in these two countries simply lies in the lack of sufficient support funds and openness for schools with low enrolment numbers and cultural institutions with similarly low attendance. Furthermore, the attitude of local representatives belonging to the national majority does not always prove conducive for handling the issue well.

Austria tends to measure native national minorities with a double standard. The country that fought with a lion’s heart for the autonomy of South Tyrol denies all kinds of collective rights to native national communities (Hungarians, Croatians, Slovenes) living in its territory. Burgenland, the East Austrian region created by the fusion of zones detached from the westernmost counties of Hungary by the Treaty of Trianon, is home to barely ten thousand Hungarians. Their underprivileged status is counterbalanced by the fact that they have enjoyed democracy and prosperity for decades, without ever being targeted by atrocities or persecution.

So what is the final tally of minority rights in the Carpathian Basin, and of native language rights in particular? The short answer is that it is a disaster. Hungarians in the annexed territories live in constant doubt, far too intimidated to claim the weak rights they are guaranteed by the letter of the law, and often driven to seclusion by disillusionment and despair. The performance of their local politicians is erratic, and the little support the minorities get from the outside means more in principle than in practice. The exception is the financial and economic aid and contributions extended by Hungary, which are significant and generous. Yet on the whole the situation is rife with contradictions. Even though Hungarians living in the annexed regions, as taxpaying citizens, should be of equal rank as the majority nationals of the same state, they do not have access to the same services as that majority does, despite the laws that would seem to guarantee such equal access in many places. Various groups of civil society, small and large, continue to fight for the cause, but it seems like a losing proposition more often than not. As a result, the mother tongue is less and less capable of fulfilling its role of sustaining the Hungarian nation.

What, then, should be done? Before we attempt an answer, a snapshot situation report seems to be in order. Using 2011 census data as our reference, the ratio of Hungarian minorities to the majority local populations in the annexed regions shows an unchecked decline from 30 per cent to 10 per cent in the Uplands (southern Slovakia); from 31 per cent to 12 per cent in Subcarpathia; from 34 per cent to 20 per cent in Transylvania; and from 28 per cent to 14 per cent in the Southern Lands (Vojvodina). The drop everywhere could seemingly be attributed to various forms of adversity that took place between 1920 to 1990, including coerced emigration, violent assimilation, deportation and mass murder. During the democratic transition, we deluded ourselves into the belief that this tendency would be reversed in the wake of the regime changes and the broadening of Euro-Atlantic integration. This never came to pass. Between 1991 and 2011, the number of Hungarians living in the annexed regions plummeted by at least 600,000. The trend remains unchanged well into the third millennium as the Hungarian presence in the neighbouring countries continues to fade. (Unfortunately, this is true for the mother country as well, albeit to a far lesser extent.)

Further support for the claim that the regime changes and integration have failed to stem the decline of Hungarian minority populations can be found by analysing the minority policies that Hungary’s neighbour countries have followed for the past thirty years. In general it seems safe to say that, for purposes of domestic and foreign policy, the majority nations only have a need for their Hungarian minority citizens as long as they can be bought with cheap promises as coalition partners, or as accessories of earning good grades to parade before the international community. The moment they stop serving these purposes they are simply abandoned and the pledges made to them are promptly rescinded. Sometimes even the modest concessions they have won cannot escape erasure. In short, the policy of “one step at a time” has failed to produce any meaningful results. Hungarian communities outside the mother country’s borders continue to “crumble like a rock”, to quote the title of Barbara Bauer’s recent novel. We cannot ignore the fact that, in all regions annexed from Hungary, majority politicians are driven by the ambition, sometimes veiled but always tenacious, to assimilate their Hungarian minorities or, should they refuse to assimilate, to drive them away from their native lands. If we fail to face this truth, we shall be found guilty of “aggravating trouble by covering it up”, as Gyula Illyés put it in his famous poem “On Bartók”.

What are the prerequisites of survival? First and foremost, it would take the unconditional ability to use the mother tongue from cradle to the grave, to practice and nurture national culture, along with equal citizen rights and economic autonomy. In EU parlance, this is known as the comprehensive application of the subsidiarity principle. Since Hungarian minorities are not recognised as citizens of equal rank and constituent elements of the state in Slovakia, Ukraine, Romania and Serbia, they will not survive, let alone prosper, in these countries unless they are vested with genuine and comprehensive autonomy. By “genuine autonomy”, I certainly do not mean constructs like the Hungarian Autonomous Province in Transylvania under Petru Groza. What is called for is nothing less than full-fledged, individual-based autonomy, both cultural and territorial, in one form or another, or in a combination thereof. This would be the only way to guarantee and uphold the self-determination of Hungarian minorities, whether they live scattered in isolation or in larger blocks of native communities.

The fight for the welfare of Hungarians abroad must continue on the dual levels of politics and the civilian sector. As we carry on tirelessly toward the eventual victory of meaningful, comprehensive autonomy, joining our forces and not shying away from sacrifice, we must find ways to force majority national leaders to abide by and implement their own laws regarding native language rights in all fields of public affairs, most notably in education and culture. By the same token, we must not cease from our efforts to enforce the minority-related provisions of international treaties, guidelines and recommendations signed or ostensibly assented to by the given state. From the frontline of this uncompromising battle to vindicate the existing native language and cultural rights of Hungarian minorities, weak though they may be, this is the message we send to our neighbours and the major powers of Europe: The Carpathian Basin will never enjoy social peace, political stability, or economic prosperity until native Hungarian communities in the annexed territories are given the genuine and comprehensive autonomy that they deserve. The battle must be fought under the banner of solidarity and determination, in the name of the principle that all Hungarians are responsible for each and every Hungarian. “Words no longer suffice; it is time for action!” This admonition by the architect Imre Makovecz is more appropriate today than ever before. As Petőfi famously said in his poem “National Song”, “Now or never, our time compels!”*

Translation by Péter Balikó Lengyel

* Translated by Alan Dixon.


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