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                 Statement of László Hámos, President
                  Hungarian Human Rights Foundation

                                 at Hearing on
                     The Future of NATO and Enlargement

                                  before the
                           Subcommittee on Europe
                      International Relations Committee
                        U.S. House of Representatives

                                 April 17, 2002
                    Room 2172, Rayburn House Office Building

         NATO Enlargement: Thorough Examination Needed
            Will Romania and Slovakia Fulfill Expectations?

  Mr. Chairman, the Hungarian Human Rights Foundation (HHRF) was formed 26 years
  ago to articulate the human rights concerns of 1.6 million Hungarian-Americans. The
  purpose of the organization is to promote the cultural, linguistic and religious rights of
  Hungarian minorities living in countries surrounding Hungary.

  We appreciate the opportunity of this hearing to convey our position on selecting
  Slovakia and Romania for NATO membership at this time.

  After 1989, HHRF was an early and vocal proponent of NATO enlargement to include
  those countries in Central and Eastern Europe which met the criteria of
  institutionalized human rights reforms, including full protection of the rights of national
  minorities. During the first round of expansion, the breadth and depth of domestic
  reforms achieved by the Czech Republic, Hungary and Poland in establishing
  functioning, sustained democracies was the primary focus. Now, during the next round
  of admissions, closer examination of and attention to the domestic realm is again
  warranted as NATO faces of the specter of admitting ten countries concurrently in
  what would be an irrevocable move. It is important that the United States not make a
  superficial and premature decision.

  It is HHRF's firm opinion that it is in the interest of NATO, Romania and Slovakia, and
  the sizeable Hungarians minorities in these two countries for Romania and Slovakia to
  be fully integrated into the trans-Atlantic alliance. Admission, however, should occur
  only based upon performance and compliance with the culture of democracy, a
  sustained, demonstrated commitment to the common values which NATO members
  share. Ambassador Nicholas Burns, U.S. envoy to NATO, recently described "two tests"
  for the enlargement of NATO (Financial Times, April 3, 2002): "Will the new members
  strengthen the alliance rather than weaken it? And can we be assured each new
  member is fundamentally committed to democracy and will achieve political stability?"

  Unfortunately, 12 years after the fall of communism, numerous serious human and
  minority rights abuses-a linchpin of true democracy-remain in these countries to be
  rectified. The following brief overview represents ongoing, significant inadequacies in
  redressing the legacy of communism as regards the 600,000 and 2 million-strong
  Hungarian communities in Slovakia and Romania. We understand that the challenge
  facing these two countries is enormous due to a lack of progress for the past 12 years
  in the specific, critical issues we enumerate below. However, an unparalleled
  opportunity exists now for Slovakia and Romania to provide the evidence in living up to
  their promises and demonstrate their commitment to democratic ideals. The ball is in
  their court.


  1. Continued Violation of the Sanctity of Private Property: Failure to Return
  Church and Communal Properties Illegally Confiscated Under Communist Rule

  The four historic Hungarian religious denominations (Roman Catholic, Protestant,
  Lutheran and Unitarian) have extensive documentation of at least 2,091 church
  properties illegally confiscated from them between 1945-1989 under communism. None
  of these properties-save six- have been returned to their rightful owners. 11 years
  after the fall of communism a Law on Restitution of Private Property was adopted on
  January 17, 2001 and is touted by the Rumanian government as having "settled" the
  restitution issue. But in fact, this law explicitly excluded communal and church
  properties on the promise that these would be covered under a separate law. Today,
  there is still no such law. While neighboring countries long ago addressed and resolved
  this matter, the decade-long delay by Rumania constitutes an ongoing, major blow to
  religious freedom, civil society and the Hungarian minority's ability to maintain
  community and church life.

  The inviolability of private property is a fundamental pillar of democracy and
  indispensable element of a functioning market economy. But this principle is not
  entrenched in Rumania and the government is recalcitrant on the issue: the Rumanian
  constitution's provision that "private property shall be equally respected by law
  irrespective of its owner" (Article 41/2) is ignored; repeated Council of Europe and
  European Union documents calling on Rumania since 1993 to settle this issue on the
  principle of restitution in integrum are snubbed; although the relevant international
  instruments have been ratified by Rumania, they are immaterial. Even the United
  States' Special Envoy on Property Restitution Issues, Stuart Eisenstat, couldn't make
  headway on this issue. It is also become patently clear that even the numerous
  government decrees passed since 1996 as temporary, good-will measures to return
  select, high-profile buildings until a comprehensive law could be enacted were hollow
  promises, propagandistic in nature to obtain credibility for Rumania abroad and lacking
  the requisite intention and means for their implementation. While the six properties
  mentioned above were returned to their rightful owners in this manner; the
  constitutional court, local councils, judicial system and even the government's very
  own Ministry of Culture stymie, hinder, and oppose restitution of the other properties
  identified in these decrees. On what grounds then is the latest deadline of April 30
  agreed to by the ruling PSD to submit the above-mentioned necessary legislation to
  Parliament to be expected?

  2. Failure to Restore the Independent Hungarian State University in Cluj

  Native-language education is the single most important factor in securing a national
  minority's identity and survival. Immediately after the 1989 Romanian revolution, the
  governing National Salvation Front explicitly pledged to restore the independent
  Hungarian-language Bolyai state university, which the former dictator abolished in 1959
  by forcibly merging it with the Romanian Babes University. In the past decade,
  successive Romanian governments have dishonored the pledge through extra-legal
  measures (unlawfully ignoring a 1995 petition signed by a half-million citizens),
  diversion (offering a German-Hungarian university never seriously intended), deceit
  (claiming that the supposed "multi-cultural" character of the rump institution somehow
  compensates for the real article) and even threatening to disallow a privately-funded
  initiative (through proposals to deny accreditation unless "sufficient"
  Rumanian-language instruction is offered).

  Today, after so much obfuscation, the government still has not issued the necessary
  instructions to allow two Hungarian-language divisions (Humanities and Natural
  Sciences/Mathematics) at the Babes-Bolyai University, and additional departments
  instructing in Hungarian in other divisions of the institution. Nor is there adequate
  Hungarian-language instruction at other, key state institutions such as the Gheorghe
  Dima Music Academy in Cluj, the University of Agricultural Sciences in Cluj, the Tirgu
  Mures Technical University and the Oradea University. These expansions are another
  commitment that the ruling PSD promised the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in
  Rumania in Article 7 of their Agreement for the year 2002. Babes-Bolyai President
  Andrei Marga has promised to take the issue before the university's senate should the
  needed government directive materialize-which hasn't- but the body can still veto the
  initiative, as it has done in the past.

  3. Official Harassment of Csángó Hungarians

  The right to identity and native-language education is not secure in Rumania. In fact,
  you can be harassed for asserting these as is the case with the Csángós, a culturally
  distinct, centuries-old ethnic Hungarian community numbering more than 100,000 who
  live in the northeastern part of Rumania. The Csángós very existence is continually
  denied by the authorities, coupled with the falsification of census data, and forceful
  action is taken when they attempt to assert their aspirations through legitimate

  Although the legal mechanism for their native-language instruction exists in the Law on
  Education and the Council of Europe's Framework Convention on National Minorities,
  local and national-level authorities refuse to implement these in the case of the
  Csángós. For example, on November 14, 2001, the Council of Europe's Committee of
  Ministers adopted a resolution supporting the Parliamentary Assembly's
  Recommendation 1521 (2001) on Csángó Minority Culture, among others, urging the
  Rumanian government to ensure their native- language education.

  Nevertheless, on the very same day, Deputy School-Inspector of Bacau/Bákó County
  Livia Liliana Sibisteanu threatened with fines and house searches those Csángó families
  in Cleja/Klézse who offered native language classes held in their own homes. Five days
  later, inspectors of the local Institute of Public Health visited the houses in question,
  banning the holding of classes.

  4. Continued Imprisonment and Harassment of Ethnic Hungarians

  The continued selective prosecution and conviction of ethnic Hungarians for resistance
  to the Ceausescu regime in December 1989 present compelling evidence of a strong
  anti-Hungarian bias in the judicial system. Of the six police fatalities that occurred in
  the two Hungarian majority inhabited counties of Hargita and Covasna-three ethnic
  Rumanian and three ethnic Hungarian-prosecution occurred only in the ethnic
  Rumanian cases. 12 years after the overthrow of the Ceausescu dictatorship, as
  recently as July 2001, an ethnic Hungarian from Targu Secuiesc/Kézdivásárhely, Antal
  Reiner, was imprisoned.

  A total of six ethnic Hungarians were singled out for the lynching of the local
  representative of dictatorial rule, Aurel Agache, a particularly brutal police major who,
  on December 22, 1989, armed with his service revolver, tried to prevent the mob from
  entering the local Communist Party headquarters in the town. The Council of Europe's
  Opinion 176 of 1993 specifically called on the Rumanian authorities to "reconsider in
  positive manner the issue of releasing those persons imprisoned on political or ethnic
  grounds." Yet, these six defendants were sentenced to several years in 1999, a full six
  years after the recommendation, four of them in absentia, while Reiner and Dezso Héjja
  (who was granted a presidential pardon this March) were imprisoned. The government
  could introduce a law in the Parliament which would exonerate these individuals, but
  until now has not shown a willingness to do so.

  5. Shortcomings in the Implementation of the Law on Public Administration

  Implementation of the Law on Public Administration, adopted May 23, 2001, is
  frequently obstructed at the local level. The law mandates the use of the native
  language in localities where the given minority population exceeds 20 percent and
  includes the display of bilingual government institution, street- and place name signs in
  these settlements. Outside of compactly Hungarian-inhabited areas though, this law is
  blatantly ignored despite the will of the people. Moreover, those in a position to
  intervene on the part of the central government do not do so.

  The most egregious examples occur in Cluj County. The ultra-nationalist Mayor of
  Cluj/Kolozsvár ( 22 percent ethnic Hungarian), Gheorghe Funar, has repeatedly
  declared that the signs will not be displayed as long as he occupies his post, thereby
  overriding the local council's decisions. Similarly, mayors of several localities in Cluj
  County: Cornets/Magyarszarvaskend (59 percent ethnic Hungarian),
  Luncani/Aranyosgerend (35 percent), Bontida/Bonchida (22 percent) refuse to display
  bilingual inscriptions. The central government's representative, County Prefect Vasile
  Soporan, obligated with upholding the law according to Rumanian law, has so far failed
  to take action in any of these cases, nor has the Minister for Public Administration


  1. Benes Decrees Discriminate Against Ethnic Hungarians

  Post-communist property restitution is a tough, painful , though unavoidable issue that
  Slovakia has still not faced in order to become a truly functioning democracy. The
  1945 Benes Decrees-as a precursor to the infamous modern-day practice of ethnic
  cleansing-- sought to create an ethnically pure nation-state, among others, by
  summarily revoking the citizenship of all ethnic Hungarians, confiscating all of their
  properties, closing their centuries-old schools and ordering their en masse expulsion.
  But, the discriminatory legal impact of the Benes Decrees remains in effect today.
  Even though, upon its July 1993 accession to the Council of Europe, Slovakia obligated
  itself to overcome this legacy, it has failed to do so. Today, ethnic Hungarian Slovak
  citizens are denied rightful claim to property restitution to which ethnic Slovaks are.
  Thousands of acres of land confiscated from ethnic Hungarians and given to ethnic
  Slovaks under the decrees still remain in the latter's possession. The assets of all
  Hungarian community organizations confiscated between 1945 and 1948 have yet to
  be returned to their rightful owners. The 100,000-member Hungarian Reformed Church,
  which had the majority of its buildings and schools confiscated, still has no legal
  recourse. Nor is there any expressed intention to redress these legal inequities. Most
  recently, Prime Minister Mikulas Dzurinda exclaimed "I take the liberty to declare with
  certainty that the Benes Decrees need not be abolished and will not be abolished"
  (OMRI-Slovak Digest, March 11, 2002). Can NATO embrace an aspirant country which
  refuses to overcome this anachronism?

  2. Ethnic Hungarians Gerrymandered and Denied Representation

  The adoption of the laws on redistricting and regional election in July and December,
  2001, precluded a Hungarian majority in any of the eight new territorial units and
  therefore prevented the election of a single ethnic Hungarian chairman to head up any
  of these units. Through a combination of gerrymandering, a two-round election
  system, and fierce propaganda for Slovaks to vote for "Slovaks" (criticized by
  European Parliamentary Rapporteur Wiersma to no avail), Hungarians, who were
  previously relatively well-represented at the local level, now suffer serious
  under-representation on precisely those local issues (education, culture, public
  administration) of greatest importance to the cohesiveness of a minority.
  On July 4, 2001, in an about face, all members of the governing coalition-save the
  Hungarian Coalition Party (HCP)-allied themselves with the opposition Meciar-led
  Movement for a Democratic Slovakia (HZDS) and the ultra-nationalist Slovak National
  Party (SNS). As a result, the Slovak Parliament actually voted in favor of the existing
  Meciar-era eight district system in force since 1996! The implicit anti-Hungarian bias of
  these measures, coupled with certain provisions in, and omissions from the laws, cast
  serious doubt on the Slovak leadership's commitment to the principles of devolution,
  regionalism, and promotion of a democratic and civic society and seriously questions
  whether in fact public administration reform occurred at all. But the Slovak leadership
  considers this issue to be behind it and has not indicated any willingness to amend the

  3. Hungarian-Language Higher Education Imperiled

  The state of Hungarian-language higher education has reached crisis proportions in
  Slovakia: Today, nearly half as many ethnic Hungarians graduate from institutions of
  higher education (3.6 percent) than ethnic Slovaks (7.5 percent) at the national level.
  The number of ethnic Hungarian graduates from Konstantin University-where
  enrollment by minority students has dropped by a whopping three-fifths in the past
  five years-does not replace retiring teachers. Yet, for more than a year, the senate
  and accreditation committee of the university have failed to take up the issue of
  implementing a January 2001 government recommendation to create an independent
  Hungarian-language division of six departments within the institution for which monies
  have already been allocated. The purpose of the college would be to provide adequate
  training of ethnic Hungarian teachers for the 600,000 strong community as no such
  independent facility exists in the country. Upon joining the government coalition, the
  Hungarian Coalition Party relinquished its goal to establish of an independent
  Hungarian-language university, which would be necessary to reverse the declining
  trend in native-language education, in favor of pledges by the government to create
  the division at Konstantin University and narrow the gap between ethnic Hungarian and
  Slovak graduates. The government has failed on both counts.

  4. Continued Legal Inconsistencies between the Law on the Use of Minority
  Languages and International Norms

  The Minority Language Law needs to be amended to bring it into full compliance with
  the European Charter on Regional or Minority Languages, which Slovakia ratified in June
  2001, the last country with a Hungarian minority to do so. The Hungarian Coalition
  Party voted against the Minority Language Law adopted in July 1999 because of its
  serious shortcomings. Yet, a law who's ostensible intention is to benefit minorities can
  actually be passed in Slovakia over and above the objection's of the largest minority,
  representing ten percent of the population. There is no indication on the part of the
  Slovak government that it intends to reverse the discrimination contained in the law.

  5. Failure to Adopt a Law on National Minorities

  Legislation has not even been drafted, let alone adopted which would establish an
  institutional system to promote and preserve national and ethnic minority culture. All
  other countries in East Central Europe with Hungarian minorities have adopted, or in
  the case of Yugoslavia, at lest drafted such a law. In addition, funding for minority
  culture has not been institutionalized and is subject to annual haggling during
  budgetary debates.