Hungarians fight on for ethnic Transylvanian university

December 10, 1999

Max Van der Stoel, commissioner on national minorities at the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, is to recommend that the European Commission aid Romania's multicultural Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca, Transylvania.

Bela Marko, president of the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania (HDUR), announced the development after talks with Mr Van der Stoel in Romania.

However, he said his party would continue to campaign for an autonomous Hungarian-taught university in Romania even though the OSCE interest in multicultural education was "quite important".

Mother-tongue higher education is a burning issue for the Hungarians of Romania.

In 1997, after many years of campaigning, they won a promise from the Romanian government that the multi-cultural Schiller-Petofi University would be established within the state system, with courses taught in Romanian, Hungarian and German.

There has been no practical progress on this project, however, which many commentators attribute to political house cleaning by the Romanian government in the run-up to the 1997 Madrid Nato summit. When Romania failed to gain admission to Nato, the government showed no eagerness to implement its promises.

The Hungarians of Romania are trying to establish a private Hungarian-taught university. Hungary last year announced that it would give two billion forints (Pounds 5.2 million) towards such an institution. The gift caused controversy among HDUR leaders, with some advocating that it should be used to strengthen Hungarian-taught courses in existing higher education institutions or to expand the private Hungarian-taught theological college established by Bishop Laszlo Toekes, honorary party president.

A joint statement last week from Mr Marko and Hungarian secretary of state Zsolt Nemeth announced that agreement had been reached on the use of the money: it will all go to the proposed private university.

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