PER report: Elections in Romania: Interethnic Relations and European Integration

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Date: Wed, 13 Sep 2000 19:41:00 +0200 (EET)
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Subject: PER report: Elections in Romania: Interethnic Relations and European Integration

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PER report: The Year 2000 Elections in Romania: Interethnic
Relations and European Integration 

Poiana Brasov, Romania, February 11-12, 2000 

Table of contents: 

The UDMR: In Power and in Opposition 
Coalition Politics and the Status of Minorities 
The UDMR and the Perception of the Opposition 
European Standards and National Realities 
Meanings of Anti-Hungarianism 
Political Extremists and Moderates 
Majorities as Minorities 
Election Campaigns Without Nationalist Rhetoric 
Appendix: Text of the Poiana Brasov Agreement 
List of Participants 
Other PER Publications 


Despite the difficulties that have beset Romania in its transition
from communism to democracy, it boasts a most important success in
interethnic relations. Few would have predicted, after the disastrous
violence between Romanians and ethnic Hungarians in Tirgu Mures in
1990, that only six years later the ethnic Hungarian party would be a
respected member of Romania's governing coalition. 

The Project on Ethnic Relations was an active participant in bringing
about this result, initiating the first discussions and negotiations
between leaders of the preceding government and the Hungarian
minority, and replacing confrontation with a pattern of dialogue that
persists to this day. The achievement, however, is untested by time.
Withtheyear2000 elections underway in Romania, ethnic issues are
already being raised in the campaign. 

The Project on Ethnic Relations convened the leaders of the principal
parliamentary parties to discuss the problem of campaign rhetoric
during this sensitive period. The meeting, which took place in Poiana
Brasov on February 12-13, took up the question of how to protect the
considerable progress that Romania has made in managing its
interethnic affairs against the temptation to garner votes by
appealing to ethnic grievances and differences. Because the ethnic
Hungarian party, the Democratic Union of Hungarians in Romania
(abbreviated as UDMR in Romanian), is a member of the present
governing coalition, there is a question of whether the opposition,
eager to return to power, might target the Hungarians because of their
participation in the present government. 

Leaders of the two mainstream opposition parties - the Party of Social
Democracy in Romania (PDSR) and the Alliance for Romania (ApR) -
joined with all the parties of the governing coalition not only in
coming to the meeting but in contributing to a sober and reasoned
discussion about the ethnic issue. All of the participants were keenly
aware of the value to Romania of keeping a good interethnic report
card as it seeks membership in the European Union and NATO. The
conferees concluded by signing an agreement, publicized in the press,
to avoid exploitation of ethnic issues during the campaign. 

It may be too much to expect full conformity with the pledge of
moderation. Intense political competition often brings out the worst
rather than the best in interethnic relations. But the acknowledgment
by all of the mainstream parties of the need for restraint is itself a
positive sign. We do not know whether the Hungarians will be part of a
future governing coalition, but if flexible political participation by
minorities is the key to managing interethnic tensions, then the
appearance of the Hungarians in a successor government would be
another important accomplishment for Romania and for the region. The
discussion that is reported here provides a fascinating insight into
the evolution of political behavior and interethnic relations in
today's Romania. 

This report was prepared by Dr. Dan Pavel of PER's Bucharest office
and was edited by the PER staff. The participants in the meeting did
not have an opportunity to review the text, for which PER assumes full

Alien H. Kassof, President 
Livia. Flaks, Executive Director 
Princeton, New Jersey 
June 2000 

The Project on Ethnic Relations (PER) was founded in 1991 in
anticipation of the serious interethnic conflicts that were to erupt
following the collapse of Communism in Central and Eastern Europe and
the former Soviet Union. PER conducts programs of high-level
intervention and dialogue and serves as a neutral mediator in several
major disputes the region. PER also conducts programs of training,
education, and research at international, national, and community

PER is supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, with
additional funding from the Starr Foundation, the William and Flora
Hewlett Foundation, the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, and the
Council of Europe.

Individuals and institutions wishing to receive PER publications
should write to:

Project on Ethnic Relations
15 Chambers Street
Princeton, New Jersey 08542-3707, USA
Telephone: (609) 683-5666
Fax: (609) 683-5888

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