Romanian delay could backfire

January 30, 1998

Romania's reluctance to establish a Hungarian-language university in Transylvania could bring down the government, Romania's minister for ethnic minorities, Gyoergy Tokay, has warned.

The country's coalition government was formed with the support of the Hungarian Democratic Union of Romania, the main political voice of the ethnic Hungarian minority. However, if the Romanians drag their feet over the promised university, the HDUR will withdraw its support.

The Hungarians of Transylvania have long campaigned for Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj-Napoca - which was "Romanianised" during the era of Communist rule -to be returned to their control. Short of that, they would like to see the institution split into parallel streams, with one being taught in Romanian and the other in Hungarian.

The Romanians have consistently refused to hand back Babes-Bolyai University. Last year, however, they agreed in principle to set up a Hungarian-language higher education institution, but they did not commit themselves on the issue of where it should be sited.

The government's commitment to establish such an institution was written into the "basic treaty" of friendship between Romania and Hungary. The Romanians signed that and similar treaties with other neighbours in the hope that the July 1997 Nato summit would result in Romania's being invited to join that alliance. Once it became clear that such an invitation would not be forthcoming - at least for the first tranche of admissions - the government began to drag its feet over implementing the promises it had made.

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