Can Romanians and Hungarians build a joint future in Transylvania?

There is a fragile balance between the Romanian and Hungarian communities in Transylvania, Hunor Kelemen, president of RMDSZ, told the audience that filled the room for a panel discussion on matters that, deliberately or otherwise, influence the daily decisions of people populating this area of Romania. There are centuries-old wounds that need to be addressed and this panel has assumed the role of restarting the dialogue on sensitive issues such as the Romanian–Hungarian ethnic dispute in Transylvania.

The multicultural diversity of Transylvania is often mentioned as a key driving factor of growth, but under this shell there are tensions that easily break the fragile shell. We just have to consider the interethnic scandal at the Úz Valley from this year or the Black Spring of 1990 in Marosvásárhely to understand the vulnerability of the delicate relationship between the two ethnic groups, as mentioned by Hunor Kelemen at the panel held just a couple days before ceremonies of the Great Union Day kick off throughout the country. The panel was part of a series of events organized by the RMDSZ under the “One Thousand Years in Transylvania, and One Hundred Years in Romania” program.

The “One Hundred Years of War” panel speakers agreed that the walls of mistrust must be broken. Ethnic communities don’t trust each other, and the lack of confidence unfortunately mars the relationship between individuals, which affects collaboration overall. “Without collaboration, there is no progress,” Kelemen said.

Psychologist and deputy rector of the Babes-Bolyai University from Kolozsvár/Cluj-Napoca Daniel David said that a good Romanian citizen simply means that you speak the country’s language and respect the country. One can love it or not; it’s their personal take. Once these prerequisites exist, one can promote one’s own culture and language. “If we promote our language and culture, and at the same time respect the languages and cultures of other ethnicities, it will benefit the whole country,” David continued.

The psychologist also highlighted that there is mistrust between ethnic Romanians as well, so the lack of confidence doesn’t apply only to Hungarians. His research shows that Romanian society has difficulties collaborating due to its psycho-cultural legacy, David said. There is much more openness in the young generation, so there is hope that the disadvantages will be addressed, he added.

Journalist Sabin Gherman said the government should terminate the use of double-standards. What is natural in a Romanian community, such as using their own flag, is considered a crime when it comes to the ethnic Hungarians. For example, Szeklers cannot use symbols such as their own flag publicly. It is possible to approach ethnic communities only by terminating the use of double-standards and speaking about the values created by the co-existence of the two ethnicities. For example, few Romanians know that Hungarian composer Franz Liszt composed a Romanian rhapsody, and that Béla Bartók composed a suite of six piano pieces titled “Romanian Folk Dances.”

“It was an important discussion because it shows that there are partners on the Romanian side open to discussing the delicate matter of the Romania–Hungarian conflicts,” political scientist and member of the RMDSZ István Székely told TransylvaniaNOW. “The conclusion of the panel was that these fragile topics aren’t talked through. Along with the Transylvania Hungarian civil sphere and the RMDSZ, there have been countless initiatives to start the conversation, but along with the indifference from the Romanian side, everyone got tired of being a conversation starter. The panel shows that there is a willingness to focus on areas of convergence because it seems enough time has passed since the troubled early 1990s, so there are partners to discuss such matters. This is interesting, because in the early 1990s, there were about half a dozen intellectuals from Bucharest who emphasized the need to accept the differences between viewpoints and focus on common matters instead,” he added.

One of the frequently mentioned keywords of the panel was the lack of confidence between the parties. Without confidence, there is no dialogue, and without dialogue there won’t be joint work, which obviously leads to a lack of joint results. “The key takeaway of the panel was that this is a process that must be continued regularly and consistently at all possible levels,” Székely said. Of course, the first step is that Hungarians should accept that December 1 is a reason to celebrate for all Romanians. But on the other hand, Romanians must accept that we can’t share their joy.

“Once we have taken into account the differences and accepted them, it is possible to build a joint future. What doesn’t work is what we experienced during the Ceausescu era, that the goal is to convert us, Hungarians, into ‘good Romanians’. We can’t become ‘good Romanians’; instead, we can become good Romanian citizens: obey the law and respect the country. The continuous questioning of our loyalty leads to mistrust, and we already know where that leads,” Székely told TransylvaniaNOW.

The big question is whether or not the dialogue will continue because the significance of the conversation depends on any follow-up, he added.

Video of the panel below [in Romanian]:

Title image: The flyer of the panel discussion. Image source: Osuta’s Facebook page

Author: István Fekete