Angry minority withdraws support

September 25, 1998

Demands by ethnic Hungarians in Romania for an independent university have been fuelled by the new Hungarian government's emphasis on the needs of Hungarian communities beyond its frontier.

Romania firmly opposes the idea. At the beginning of September the parliament's education committee adopted an amendment to the education law to enable ethnic minorities to receive higher education in their mother tongue - but only in a "multicultural" university.

Anghel Stanciu, committee chairman, said: "Academic education in the mother tongue is permitted in Romania, and this is a right granted in only a few European countries. But it is not permitted to separate tuition in the mother tongue of national minorities from that in the Romanian language in the sense of having separate higher education establishments."

The Hungarians of Romania can study at, for example, the multicultural Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, created during the Communist era by the forced merger of the Hungarian-taught Bolyai university with a Romanian establishment. The law also allows them to set up private universities.

When the education committee made its opinion known, the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania, the chief political voice of the Hungarian minority, announced that it would withdraw from its participation in the coalition government as of September 30 and would immediately cease to follow the coalition's voting line in parliament. It would vote against the government on amendments to this year's budget.

Meanwhile, Andrei Marga, Romania's minister of education, has proposed the establishment of a "multicultural" university of the Danube, with campuses in both Romania and Hungary. Mr Marga, a former rector of Babes-Bolyai, said the languages of instruction would be Romanian, Hungarian and German.

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