Letter to the Ministries of Foreign Affairs of the States of the Schengen Area
In the European Union, Romania's accession to the Schengen Area is on the agenda. As Romanian citizens, we pay close attention to the related events, and specifically to the opinions of Austria, the Netherlands and Sweden abstaining or rejecting the accession. Although the Hungarian national community in Romania is interested in the country's accession to the Schengen Area, at the same time we accept the reservations of these states with great understanding. We believe that all member states of the Schengen Area should be aware of the two-faced behavior that characterizes Romania's attitude towards international and community law in the last thirty years.
After the regime change, Romania signed the European Convention on Human Rights, thus preparing its accession to the Council of Europe. It unilaterally undertook to fulfill the recommendations of the Council of Europe, which was a condition for accession. He promised to return the formerly church-owned schools and other property arbitrarily confiscated by the communist government, to the Hungarian churches in Romania. Accession took place on October 7, 1993, but soon after, Romania’s head of state of at the time, Ion Iliescu, declared that the recommendations of the Council of Europe were not binding, the restitution of church schools and church property stalled, and schools that were previously returned were being renationalized (Mikó college, Sepsiszentgyörgy, Wesselényi college, Zilah). The Romanian political class and the Romanian government assessed the possibilities of the Council of Europe and considered that they did not have enough power to oblige a country to comply with the commitments it had made.
On January 1, 2007, Romania joined the European Union, partially fulfilling the conditions for accession and making a promising to not take the fulfillment of these conditions off their agenda. Foremost among the so-called Copenhagen criteria, is the respect for and protection of minority rights. To this day, Romania fails to respect the rights of minorities living on its territory and does not guarantee them. As was the case of the Council of Europe, the Romanian government rejects the Copenhagen criteria with the excuse that they were only applicable for the period in which they were joining the EU.
We emphasize once again that as citizens of Romania, as Hungarians in Romania, we are interested in Romania's accession to the Schengen Area, but we see this as the last chance for the Schengen Area’s member states to force the Romanian state to comply with its obligations:
- the unconditional and immediate return of all assets of the Hungarian churches;
- the restoration of Hungarian church education on a normative basis, i.e. by funding from the state, since the children of tax-paying Romanian citizens study at these institutions;
- unconditional and full compliance with the recommendations of the Council of Europe, including recommendation No. 1201/1993, which states in its eleventh point: "In the regions where they are in a majority the persons belonging to a national minority shall have the right to have at their disposal appropriate local or autonomous authorities or to have a special status, matching the specific historical and territorial situation and in accordance with the domestic legislation of the state.";
- compliance in full and in good faith with the provisions of the European Charter of Regional or Minority Languages.
With this letter, we advise the member states of the Schengen Area to consult with the leaders of the Hungarian churches and organizations representing Hungarian interests in Romania before making a decision, to ask them for information on the observance of basic human rights, including minority rights, and to evaluate the degree at which Romania's former commitments made upon joining the Council of Europe and the European Union have been violated.
Izsák Balázs, president of the Szekler National Council
Marosvásárhely, November 22, 2022.