News from Rumania: AHF Calls for Church and Property Restitution
June 5, 2013 - Extended Deadline! AHF ACTION ALERT! CONTACT CONGRESS! The Romanian government has failed to restore a large number of religious and communal properties it illegally confiscated from the Hungarian and Jewish communities after the Second World War. Representatives Andy Harris (R-MD), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Chris Smith (R-NJ) and David Royce (R-OH) have prepared a letter to Secretary of State Kerry regarding this untenable situation. They have invited their colleagues to co-sign their letter. You can help! [learn how]
8/21/2012 - AHF sends letter to Romanian Ambassador and the Helsinki Commission regarding the Szekely-Miko Case: AHF is "deeply concerned that the prosecution of former state secretary Attila Marko, Silviu Vlim and Tamas Marosan in connection with the restitution to the Reformed Diocese of Transylvania of the Szekely Miko Evangelical Reformed College (“MEC”) in Sfantu-Gheorghe, Romania was not justified. It only serves to further stall, and in this instance reverse, the lawful restitution of church properties and discriminate against Romania’s Hungarian minority... [read more]
7/17/2012 - AHF releases statement, "Romania: Reversing Lawful Church Property Restitution, Through Criminal Prosecution." AHF is deeply concerned that the prosecution of former state secretary Attila Marko, Silviu Vlim and Tamas Marosan in connection with the restitution to the Reformed Diocese of Transylvania of the Szekely Miko Evangelical Reformed College (“MEC”) is a baseless and blatant attempt by the authorities to further stall and reverse the lawful restitution of church properties seized by the communists. [read more]
17.07.2012 - Aggódik az Amerikai Magyar Szövetség a Székely Mikó Kollégium ügye miatt. [tovább]
18.07.2012 - Mikó ügy: tisztességes és gyors restitúciót akar az Amerikai Magyar Szövetség [tovább]
6/28/2011 -- The American Hungarian Federation Expresses Concern About Romania Ignoring Minority Rights... The statement expressing AHF's concern that more than two decades after the collapse of Communism, Romania has yet to fulfill its promises to its ethnic Hungarians. Although Romania was accepted into NATO and the EU based, in part, on these promises, the irrefutable record demonstrates that its laws and practices continue to fail to conform to European and Western standards relating to human and minority rights, but in effect aggravate inter-ethnic tension. [read more]
6/4/2011 - On the 91st Anniversary of the Treaty of Trianon, AHF remembers the ill-advised treaty and publishes essay by Sir Bryan Cartledge who calls the treaty "the greatest catastrophe to have befallen Hungary since the battle of Mohacs in 1526." Over the course of its more than 100-year history, the American Hungarian Federation has commemorated the Treaty of Trianon, highlighting the gross injustices wrought by that treaty (better described as a diktat) and the entire Versailles so-called peacemaking. Trianon continues to plaque the region. [read more]
1/12/10 -- The American Hungarian Federation urged Vice President Biden to discuss policies with his "Romanian interlocutors that they should adopt to strengthen Romania's democratic institutions and respect the rights of its Hungarian minority" during his trip to Romania. Frank Koszorus, Jr., co-president and chairman of the Federation's International Relations Committee reports, "We understand that issues relating to the Hungarian minority were raised." [Read more] The letter to the Vice President included a statement on AHF's concerns for the Hungarian minority in Transylvania.
6/4/2007 - "Trianon: Tragedy, Dissolution, and Remedy." Frank Koszorus, Jr. and the AHF International Relations Committee release essay on treaty's 87th anniversary. "...Ostensibly in the name of national self-determination, the Treaty dismembered the thousand-year-old Kingdom of Hungary, a self-contained, geographically and economically coherent and durable formation in the Carpathian Basin and boasting the longest lasting historical borders in Europe. It was imposed on Hungary without any negotiation by vengeful leaders... it also transferred over three million indigenous ethnic Hungarians and over 70% of the country's territory to foreign rule." [read more]
1/25/2007 - "Romania respects the rights of its Hungarian minority and fulfills the political criterion for membership of the EU.” The American Hungarian Federation disagrees with the Directorate General of the European Commission and continues efforts to educate the pubilc, including the European Union, on Romanian minority rights record. In a follow up to an earlier communication, AHF issues second letter to Commissioner of Enlargement Ollie Rehn and refers to the recent ouster of two Hungarian professors at the Babes-Bolyai University. Commissioner de Lobkowicz referred to the “tri-lingual (Romanian / German / Hungarian) Babes-Bolyai state university in Cluj" as an example of the so-called respect for the rights of the Hungarian minority. The AHF letter says, "Considering the dismissal of Professors Peter Hantz and Lehel Kovacs from Babes-Bolyai in November for promoting bilingualism, Mr. de Lobkowicz’s statement is incredible." "Failure by the EU to insist that its new members comply with the Copenhagen criteria, on the other hand, would undermine the values that have enabled the EU to succeed in promoting stability, security and the economic welfare of Europe." [download] the letter.
12/1/2006 - Budapest Needs to Support Legitimate Aspirations of Hungarian Minorities, Not Eliminate Institutions. The American Hungarian Federation is concerned that revised policies by Hungary may not be sufficient to protect the Hungarian minorities living in the Carpathian Basin. The Federation hopes that other organizations and individuals, especially those who address minority rights issues, will join the Federation in its expression of concern. The full text of the Federation's statement, in English and Hungarian can be viewed below.
6/7/2006 - "Trianon Binds No One Except Hungarians," AHF Issues Statement on the 86th Anniversary of theTrianon Tragedy. Hungarian American communities join in protest. AHF's Assoc. President Frank Koszorus, Jr., writes, "Two of the new states cobbled together by the victorious Entente “peacemakers” at Versailles ceased to exist years ago, and even part (Moldova) of the third successor state succeeded to gain its independence it never had before. Ironically, the winds of change that swept through the region and rearranged the old Cordon Stalinaire after 1989, left untouched the very people who have suffered the most under a punitive treaty – the thousand plus year old indigenous Hungarian communities living under the rule of states that are mostly different from those stipulated at Trianon 86 years ago...Even as Montenegro declares its independence and Kosovo’s status remains on the front burner, Budapest appears content to sit on the sidelines and conspicuously refrains from espousing the democratically expressed aspirations of autochthonous Hungarian minorities for autonomy in Vojvodina, Transylvania, Slovakia and Karpatalja (Ruthenia)." [download entire statement]
4/18/2006 - The American Hungarian Federation responds to European Commissioner Rehn's view that conditions relating to the Hungarian historical community living in Romania are satisfactory. The letter, drafted by AHF 1st Vice President Frank Koszorus, Jr., cites specific examples of Rumania's "less than exemplary record."
"...the evidence is to the contrary. The irrefutable record demonstrates that Romania must take concrete steps before its laws and practices conform to European and Western standards relating to human and minority rights. A few examples of Romania’s less than exemplary record will suffice. More than a decade after the collapse of Communism, Romania has yet to fulfill its promises to its more than 1.5 million strong ethnic Hungarians. While Bucharest lavishly funds the Orthodox Church that is engaged in a church building spree, it has returned to the rightful Hungarian owners only a tiny fraction of the more than 2000 religious and communal properties illegally seized from them during the Communist era.states, "More than a decade after the collapse of Communism, Romania has yet to fulfill its promises to its more than 1.5 million strong ethnic Hungarians." [download full letter]
On behalf of the American Hungarian Federation, Frank Koszorus, Jr., submitted a letter to Secretary Condoleezza Rice, on the eve of her trip to Europe that includes Romania, calling attention to the fact that Romania must continue its reforms relative to its Hungarian minority. The Federation’s letter urges Secretary Rice to raise several issues with her interlocutors, including:
“Romania’s failure to restore church properties confiscated by the previous communist regime; Romania’s failure to adopt the law on national minorities living in Romania; Romania’s refusal to support the Hungarian national minority communities’ (cultural and territorial) autonomy proposals that would ensure local self-governance and the protection of their unique culture and ethnic identity; and Romania’s refusal to establish a Hungarian-language state university.” The letter concludes by noting that Secretary Rice’s “trip presents a wonderful opportunity to promote continued progress by Romania in developing laws and practices toward its minorities that are compatible with Western values and NATO’s security goals and that thereby will advance vital U.S. interests in a stable and democratic Central and Eastern Europe.”
6/1/2005 - AHF Applauds US Congress and urges the community to thank the co-sponsors of House Resolution 191...The United States House of Representatives recently passed H. Res. 191 on May 23, urging the "Government of Romania to recognize its responsibilities to provide equitable, prompt and fair restitution to all religious communities for property confiscated by the former Communist government. . . ." -- a measure which goes beyond mere symbolism and expresses the unequivocal opinion of the United States House of Representatives. [read more]
5/24/2005 - SUCCESS! AHF ACTION ALERT UPDATE on our grassroots action on House Resolution 191 urging the "prompt and fair restitution of church properties by Rumania." AHF wishes to thank ALL those who participated in this successful campaign! [read more]
4/8/2005 - HOT NEWS: House Resolution 191 moves forward urging the "prompt and fair restitution of church properties by Rumania." AHF strongly supports this measure and will continue its efforts aimed at swift adoption.
“We applaud Representatives Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Tom Tancredo (R-CO) for their leadership on an issue that goes to the very heart of democracy, rule of law and minority rights in Rumania – the return of religious properties illegally confiscated by the former Communist government,” noted Frank Koszorus, Jr. “This has been a long process, beginning with statements in 2002 by Representatives Lantos, Tancredo and Robert Matsui urging the prompt and fair restitution of properties by Romania and Slovakia and continuing in 2004 when Representative Tancredo introduced a similar resolution that was cosponsored by 15 Members,” he added.
3/11/2005 - AHF Meets Rumanian President Basescu and urges him to Support Restoration of Church Properties to Hungarian Minority - Rumanian President Traian Basescu kicked off a two-day visit to Washington Tuesday (8 March), with the aim of strengthening the US-Rumanian strategic partnership at the political, military and economic levels. [read more]
George W. Bush praises Basescu as a "special friend" and "special leader." "Rumania is a 'special ally' because Rumania shares the same values we do: human rights, human dignity, rule of law, transparency in government, anti-corruption." AHF knows the situation is far from Bush's rosy picture, but hopes Mr. Bush's encouraging words bring change to Rumania.
3/10/2005 - A rare event: Hungarian Church wins battle with Rumania to get back confiscated building: The Rumanian Government's Committee on Restitution, in a rare move, sided with the Hungarian Reformed Church and returned its Theological College Building in the Transylvanian city of Szekelyudvarhely. The seminary was founded in 1670 by Count Bethlen. Current tenants in the building, rebuilt in 1886, including Rumanian government offices, can stay and pay nominal rent.
Church Property Restitution Summary
While the majority of ethnic Romanians belong to the Orthodox Church, a significant minority belong to the Greek Catholic Church, which was forcibly dissolved by the Communist government in 1948. Members of 1.5-million strong Hungarian minority are mostly affiliated with the Roman Catholic, Hungarian Reformed, Lutheran, and Unitarian denominations. Confiscations of Jewish property by Romania’s wartime Fascist government were also upheld by the Communist government. Hundreds of thousands of claims have been made, but the Romanian government continues to drag its feet at resolving property disputes involving the Hungarian minority. In fact, Romania is reversing lawful church property restitution, through criminal prosecution.
In its statement from July, 2012, AHF expressed its deep concern regarding the prosecution of former state secretary Attila Marko, Silviu Vlim and Tamas Marosan in connection with the restitution to the Reformed Diocese of Transylvania of the Szekely Miko Evangelical Reformed College (“MEC”), a baseless and blatant attempt by Romanian authorities to further stall and reverse the lawful restitution of church properties seized by the communists.
Restitution of property confiscated by the Communist regime in Romania is a process meant to compensate for crimes committed against national communities and their property rights, against individuals and against a value system in which the right of property is sacred. The restitution of confiscated land, forests, church-buildings and of other real-estate owned by the community is a primary goal for every religious and ethnic community in Romania. The establishment of a legal framework for this restitution has proved to be a very challenging process. The restitution process in Romania is far from complete, it is characterized by contradictions and efforts at advancing this process are fraught with obstacles on a daily basis.
The restitution of confiscated community property, including those owned by the historical Hungarian churches is indispensable for this community, in its struggle to keep its national identity. Restitution is also indispensable for this community to have its independent establishments and for its present and future viability as a community.
Why So Many Hungarians Across the Border?
One thousand years of nation building successfully delineated groups based on culture, religion, geography, and other attributes to create the countries with which we are so familiar. While some Western European nations would continue power struggles and princely battles and civil wars, Hungary, founded in 896, was a peaceful multi-ethnic state for a 1000 years and her borders were virtually unchanged. Until 1920...
The Treaty of Trianon in 1920... in the aftermath of WWI, was extremely harsh on Hungary and unjustifiably one-sided. The resulting "treaty" lost Hungary an unprecedented 2/3 of her territory, and 1/2 of her total population or 1/3 of her Hungarian-speaking population. Add to this the loss of up to 90% of vast natural resources, industry, railways, and other infrastructure. The clear winner of the land grab, was Rumania, who, established only 60 years earlier, more than doubled in size overnight.
Ethnic Distribution in the Kingdom of Hungary in 1910 (Hungarians shown in red)
Hungarian populations declined significantly after forced removals such as the Benes Decrees and other pograms, the effects of WWI, and Trianon in 1920. With continued pressure and discriminative policies such as the 2009 Slovak Language Law, this trend continued over the past 90 years.
[read more on the Treaty of Trianon]