The Romanian Chamber of Deputies has rejected a draft proposal which would create legislation enforcing the promises of national freedom made to the national minorities 100 years ago in the 1918 Gyulafehérvár Declaration.
The draft law containing the legal codification of the autonomy promised in the 1918 declaration was submitted by ethnic Hungarian party RMDSZ after the Romanian Centenary last December.
In the fall of 1918, the Austrian-Hungarian Empire came to a dramatic end and the Entente powers adopted the Wilsonian principle of national self-determination, embracing the movements of unsatisfied nationalities within the dualist monarchy. The WWI defeat ultimately led to the dissolution of the Monarchy and of historical Hungary. At the time, according to a 1910 census, the multi-ethnic region of Transylvania was inhabited by a population of which 54% claimed their mother tongue to be Romanian, 32% to be Hungarian and 11% to be German.
The Race for National Self-Determination at the End of 1918
The legislation proposed by RMDSZ would ordain what was promised in the third point of the Gyulafehérvár declaration, “complete national freedom for all cohabiting people,” as well as the promise to
provide education, public administration and judgment for all people in their own language by their own people, and in proportion to the number of residents, all people will have the right of representation in the legislature and in government bodies.
While the Gyulafehérvár Declaration included the plan to break away the region from Hungary, it also promised that various types of self-government would be granted to ‘cohabiting nations.’ However, these promises have never been put into practice in Romania.
The Promise of Autonomy in Romania
According to the panel of Romanian experts examining the legal texts, RMDSZ’s draft proposal contradicts a number of the Constitution’s provisions – including the unity of the state; sovereignty; equality of citizens; parliamentary representation of national minorities; education in the mother tongue; powers of the parliament; local autonomy and the powers of local authorities – and also violates several previous decisions made by the Constitutional Court.
Additionally, days before the vote, the Romanian Academy of Sciences issued a statement saying that the Gyulafehérvár Declaration had not promised autonomy for ethnic minorities, and added that they would have to accept its ’essence’ – the attachment of Transylvania to Romania – before requesting that any promises be kept. Meanwhile, Deputy Head of RMDSZ, Árpád Márton, has worked to convince other MPs not to vote against the declaration as it is considered one of the pillars of the modern Romanian state.
23 members supported, 239 (including representatives of non-Hungarian minorities) opposed the law. The final decision on the matter will be made by the Senate.