Thursday, December 08, 2005

Status of Ethnic Minorities in Romania: Past, Present, Future

With this imposing title I tried a few years ago to impress my professors for one of the best courses in Political Sciences taken while a student at University College Utrecht. Needless to say, I also succeded in that (the teachers simply liked me too much), though, if I look now back to this paper, I have the impression that I wrote it with my feet- when counting the number of mistakes etc... Anyway, I guess (some of) the ideas still hold. When you have nothing else to do and want to see a perspective on the status (should have been "status" rather than "statute" in the title but at that time I had not taken the GRE Verbal...) of the ethnic minority in Romania (particularly given the current problems in the Romanian Parliament with adopting the Minorities' Law proposed by the Hungarian Party in Romania- which only restates its relevance), download this paper. I also gave (together with some other Eastern European colleagues), linked somewhat to this theme, a short interview for NRC (in Dutch), one of the main Dutch daily newspapers, stating that Milosevic's case is not unique and that Eastern and Central Europe is always prone to be the place where such insane people raise to power and become (sometimes highly popular) leaders. These states are simply too nationalistic, it's been like that throughout the history (and history exacerbated it), Westerners can never understand this, but probably most Eastern Europeans know what I am talking about.
The "foreword" reads something like this (forgive the "style"- or rather lack of it- and the mistakes)

Day by day the influence of domestic policies on the international relations becomes more relevant. Day by day the question of integration or isolation seems to boil down to either adopting or adapting internationally recognized democratic measures within newly developing regions. Certain issues remain however stubbornly pending, despite internal or international efforts aiming for change. Strangely or not they seem to constitute ordinary life within the states at stake, albeit the attention acquired overseas. Such a case, representing one of the hottest issues in every Western political publication, is the statute of minorities in the former communist countries of Eastern Europe.

After a period of repression and authoritarian dominance of the communist forces, when no voice dissonant with the authority choir could be heard, the freedom and access to the fruits of democracy opened an enormous number of channels. In particular the ethnic minorities found themselves in the possession of exercising freely their rights, guaranteed in democratic societies. An old conflict re-entered the stage: the contrast between the claims of the various minority groups and the long time cultivated nationalistic view of the majority. Common historical features concerning territories and political dimensions of states characterize Eastern Europe. Due to either the imperial period or to the communist era, state boundaries herein were never guaranteed; splitting or adding regions to a certain country was almost common habitude. Continuously altering the structure of a nation was thus implicit. Present-day situation offers a multitude of states with minority percentages of at least 10%, usually these minorities being focused in well determined regions of the states in question.

Advocates of separation and/or autonomy on ethnical grounds are not a few. The step towards democracy has been at the same time a step towards reaffirmation of ethnical affiliations. Although not all the Eastern European states are subject to the same kind of "ethnical tension", from time to time conflicts arise in such a measure that imminent war cannot be stopped. The recent example of the Albanian community in the Serbian province Kosovo is only one of the negative consequences that an indifferent or an opposing government can lead to. It seems that the only solution to peaceful cooperation of ethnical segments would be the implementation of democratic institutions that would ensure and would seek that the rights of the minorities are
inviolable and in harmony with the rights of all the other citizens. The hereby paper will argue that in order to prevent splitting on ethnical grounds or ineluctable civil wars, governments all over Eastern Europe should be willing to make concessions. They should be willing to accept a compromise rather than persisting in anti-minority policies, whether fueled by the high nationalistic feelings of the citizens or not. Taking Romania as example, the present constitutional provisions dwelling with the statute of the minorities are a step towards peaceful resolution, but are far from being sufficient. International pressure is one decisive factor that can influence policy making with regard to minority rights. In this respect the role of the European Union is seen as a major factor. Institutional remedies guarantying the implementation of the international conventions underlying minorities as well as new institutions meant to survey development of minority rights both in relation to domestic and international policies can be solutions implemented with the aid of the "democratic Europe", the European Union.

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