“On 23 October 2018, the very day when Hungarians and many others remembered the 1956 uprising of the Hungarians against the Communist dictatorship, you called the unification of Transylvania, a province which had belonged to the Crown of Hungary for a thousand years, with the Kingdom of Romania ‘a great moment in Romanian history and a great moment in European history’.”
H. E. Jean-Claude Juncker
President of the European Commission
On 23 October 2018, the very day when Hungarians and many others remembered the 1956 uprising of the Hungarians against the Communist dictatorship, you called the unification of Transylvania, a province which had belonged to the Crown of Hungary for a thousand years, with the Kingdom of Romania “a great moment in Romanian history and a great moment in European history”. Romania can indeed be congratulated for having annexed the eastern half of the Kingdom of Hungary by a royal decree supported by the decision of a popular assembly of Romanians on 1 December 1918. It was a skilful combination of diplomacy and military action. The acquisition of a territory where only 54 per cent of the population was Romanian was made possible by the Romanian Army invading Hungary five days after an armistice was signed with the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy on 3 November 1918 at Padova. The Hungarians, who formed 32 per cent of the population, declared their attachment to Hungary at another popular assembly on 22 December. The German-speaking Saxons, whose ancestors were your people of Luxembourg and who formed 11 per cent of the inhabitants of Transylvania, reconciled themselves to the fait accompli in January 1919. The annexation was legitimised by the Treaty of Trianon, signed on 4 June 1920 by Hungary and the victorious powers of the First World War.
The popular assembly of the Romanians held a hundred years ago was cognizant of the multinational and multicultural character of Transylvania, therefore its resolution promised “full national freedom for the coexisting peoples. All of the peoples have the right to public education, public administration, and the administration of justice in their own languages, provided by individuals chosen from among their own members”. That pledge meant territorial and personal autonomy, self-government, in EU-term subsidiarity. Unfortunately Romania’s leaders have never honoured that pledge, and today autonomy is anathema for them. If on the hundredth anniversary of unification Romania’s parliament met the long-standing demand of its Hungarian community and introduced genuine self-government for its towns and regions, including the land inhabited by the Szekler-Hungarians, that would indeed be a great cause for celebration, to use your term truly “a European celebration”. That day we, Romanians, Hungarians and all Europeans would celebrate together.
Sadly even such a manifestation of the spirit of Europe would not change the fact of what happened to the descendants of the 12th-century settlers who arrived from today’s Luxembourg, Flanders, Wallonia and Westphalia, who, upon the invitation of the Kings of Hungary, arrived into what they called Siebenbürgen, built wonderful towns and churches, and whose number – augmented by new German immigrants in the 18th century – reached close to 700,000 in the early 20th century. They were deported, sent to Soviet Gulag camps, and were finally sold for deutschmarks to the German Federal Republic by Romania after the Second World War. Today the Germans of Romania count hardly more than 30,000. In order to avoid such a fate the Hungarians of Romania demand rights to use their language, to administer their own affairs and to cultivate their own culture. The European Commission, presided by Your Excellency, can do a lot for that legitimate aim.
Géza Jeszenszky, historian, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Hungary in 1990–94.