Language law gets stay of execution

September 22, 1995

Romania's ethnic minorities have won a one-year concession against the new education law which threatened to remove their right to take university entrance examinations in their own languages.

In the 1995/96 academic year, school-leavers from ethnic minority schools will be permitted, as before, to take their entrance examinations in their mother tongue but for one year only.

Next year all entrance exams will have to be taken in Romanian, with the exception of those to the (mostly very small) university departments and faculties dealing specifically with minority cultures.

The two million-odd ethnic Hungarians of Transylvania are the largest community to be affected by the new law.

Other centuries-old minorities, the Germans and Jews, were considerably reduced by emigration during the 1980s, when the dictator, Nicolae Ceaucescu, allowed the West German and Israeli governments to ransom them quietly - at several thousand dollars a head.

But Hungary had no resources, neither financial nor social (jobs, housing, etc) to absorb any major influx.

Hungary has consistently put moral pressure on the governments concerned to respect the rights of Hungarians "across the border" in Romania, Slovakia and Serbia .

This summer the Hungarian government has brought all the diplomatic force it could muster against new education laws which it considers discriminatory, both in Romania and in Slovakia.

At the end of last month, a world congress of Hungarians meeting in Debrecen, called for an intensified struggle for the educational rights of Hungarian minorities.

In Romania, the main political organisation of the Hungarian minority, the Hungarian Democratic Forum of Romania (HDUR), has said that it will continue its protest actions until all the restrictions imposed by the new law are abolished.

For, as the HDUR deputy chairman for educational and religious affairs, Jozsef Koetoe, said last week, the respite for this year's entrance examination does not rescind the law as a whole. "We have to think and plan in the long term," he said.

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