Barna Bodó:

Schengen - The Challenge

 Schengen is a political zipper
Worn open.
Aladár Lászlóffy

 A Romanian Hungarian reflection

While the unifying Europe got to the agreements signed in and named after Schengen necessarily (Kovács, 1998), by now, the resolutions and suggestions governing the European community more and more indicate that the changing situation is more shaped by fear than by responsibility. While this fear is general - the calls of coming fear are, on the one side, the conservation of the relative safety and welfare, on the other side, the dangers of a subsequent abruption, historical absence -, responsibility is only taken by the West; and the responsible enouncements, chance-guaranteeing proposals under the aegis of a common Europe are expected from western countries. It is also evident in the East that the European paradigm replacing the national one is the question of clairvoyance and responsibility in the long run (Marga 1997) under the aegis of which series of intellectual workshops will be created, but it is usually only added in thought that the East is defenceless, and the means of realization are in the hands of the West. Resulting from the logic of the situation, the racers of the East are pointing to each other in this strict integrationist march, inflicting-receiving new wounds beside the historical offences. They would like to give up the categories that were dominant for three centuries in Eastern Europe but have become powerless in international politics - nation-state, sovereignty, and power balance - (Kissinger, 1996) by ensuring that the most often marketed article of the political market of the European East, the national interest and its agency preserves its legitimising force. The national bodies beyond the borders of the mother-state and the attractions of majority-minority should be reconsidered in this situation and of course under the aegis of Schengen. Probably the Hungarian example is the most appropriate here, since Hungary got an advance compared to the countries where its compatriots live as minorities, and it hardly goes through the way of integration letting the otherwise underprivileged minority Hungarians detach from the national body.

            When we consulting under the aegis of Schengen[1] it is impossible not to recall how the word was designated: those inclined to abstract thinking call it symbol, metaphor, myth, pragmatic people talk about constrain, others about technique, but many of the Transylvanian Hungarians start to panic when hearing about Schengen. The recital can continue: it is a gate and a milestone at the same time. A gate, for it clearly indicates, especially in the post-totalitarian region, who are allowed to enter that certain European club. Schengen could be a milestone in the route of self-measurement. The present European discourse assumes homogeneity, in the age of integration it is impossible to tell one thing outwards and act differently inwards. The diverse nature of outwards and inwards, their different political-social practices are going to be finished, or more precisely, become meaningless. From now on the neighbour is rather a partner, although its competitor role will not disappear completely. Until the days before, neighbours - and not only in the European East - have competed in deceiving the others, for the first place in the political game of "promise it, but never keep that promise". The situation was not better at all in the intellectual spheres. An international professional debate over the situational stories legitimizing the status quo that were created under the aegis of the national idea and were claimed scientific inwardly cannot be delayed anymore, whoever is concerned.  The charge of historical myths in Central and Eastern Europe was and has remained political, until an international professional dispute somehow resolves that.[2] Such a facing with the "official" past is also a communal self-measurement, mostly because the lack of economic successes in the region rescores political rhetoric to a national one.


The German Example

 Schengen as legal material, the visa-politics of the Union and the case of exceptions will belong to the serious questions of European politics for a long time. Since the doctrine of "democratic enlargement" (Horváth, 1997) does not give up completely the principles of "detention policy" followed through decades, because of the survival of the traditional challenges of national security, the chances of acceptance of proposals launched from the East can really be supported by the actual western practice. The sooner Hungarian politics develops its own proposals of solution, the better it is for Hungary. It is necessary on the one hand, because the making of Schengen to be a common legal material is in progress and on the other hand to provide some answer to the growing fears of the Hungarians outside the borders. For the minority Hungarians, Schengen (could) also mean in the long run that the impeded relationship between the mother country becoming part of the European community and the excluded national body will either helps the assimilation of the minorities or the perseverance in the birth-place will become problematic. In regard to the process invoking the opening scissors it is worth recalling an existing, though almost disregarded example of the positive discrimination of the minorities beyond the borders.

            As a Transylvanian I consider the German example noticeable. For the Romanian citizens the invitation letter containing the financial warranties of staying abroad is the precondition of the German entering visa. The applicant should append a number of documents - eg. a copy of his service-certificate, and a copy of the land certificate of his occurent real estate, etc. -, he should pay the visa fee, and he receives the result after 3-5 days. On the other hand, the Romanian Germans could get a visa unconditionally: there is no need of invitation letters, various documents, they do not have to pay the visa fee - only the charge of administration -, and they do not have to wait for the answer for 3-5 days. However, they need to have a paper: the Volksdeutsch, the certificate of being a member of the German folk. The paper is issued by the official agency of the German ethnic group - the German Forum -, and it authenticates that the applicant knows the German language and culture, in other words that s/he received German education. Where it cannot be unambiguously stated, the consulate is informed by the result and the applicant may become a privileged person on the basis of language proficiency. In case of the described procedure, the mother country vindicates not a visa-, but a nation-policy concerning the compatriots beyond the state-borders.

            It would be useful to play with the idea what would happen if, parallel to the progress of the Schengen process, Hungary introduced a solution based on the certification of being the member of the Hungarian folk, similarly to the procedure described above, in order to ensure Hungarian-Hungarian relationships. My short diagnosis is: the number of Transylvanian Hungarians would double at once, and the problem of who is allowed to attend Hungarian schools would disappear as well. Of course, the question could be interesting from the aspect of the majority too, but in the first approach, the most important thing is to become aware that no-one have said anything against this 9-year old practice, the non-German Romanian citizens accepted that the Germans treat the Germans abroad privileged. Not merely the press left the special measurement without a word[3], but the citizens did the same, queuing before the non-German counters of the consulate.

            The pattern is given, and it deserves special attention because it is hardly imaginable that the West would act severely against a solution that has been practised by a member state for years. Furthermore, the German example is important because by the Schengen borders' pushing eastward the problem of the preferential treatment of compatriots living in the East will not be solved for the German government, and it is highly probable that they wish to continue the successful practice of the past 10 years. The described pattern is also an indication for the minority Hungarians, a confirmation that the present international practice - the German solution should and can be grouped together with the particular solutions of the Norwegians and the Danes - does (ac)know(ledge) the method of peculiar procedures, and probably will do in the future as well. That does not make the original question meaningless, but it should be reconstructed: in question of the visa, can Hungary count on such an understanding from the part of the majority communities of the neighbouring countries, that was manifested towards the preferential treatment of the minority Germans in Romania?


Central European-ness

 On the case of Schengen the question is raised: what is Central Europe going to be like tomorrow? The ambitious answer is discased from the situations of today and yesterday, but in case of Central Europe there are mainly questions even retrospectively. The abundance of terms about the designation of the region - Central Europe, East-Central Europe, the Bismarckian Mitteleuropa, Europe-Between, Eastern Europe, North-western Balkan - refers to the variousness of approaches, signifying how the political geometry of the region (Le Rider, 1997) depended on changing periods and power contexts. If we talk more and more about the Austro-Hungarian Monarchy nowadays, that is not caused by a desire to escape into the past or by a need for a historical revision[4], but by an attempt to consider our present worries responsibly. The evaluations of the same age can be different, partly depending on the evaluating communities and partly influenced by the actual history. While the question of the decolonization of the region[5] is still actual in a sense, it is difficult to deny the contradictory truths concerning the Monarchy: it appeared as the happy times of peace in the memory of one community and meant the prison of peoples for the other. It is significant that some of those who considered the Monarchy a prison have changed their mind. It is more and more reasonable to think in Central Europe, and only one reason of that is the European unification. It is not the fashion of Euro-regions[6] that should be elevated to another level, but a balance should be achieved in the question the nation and the region. (For a more thorough discussion of the problem, see the essays of Emil Niederhauser, István Fried, Béla Pomogáts.)

            The European unification provides enough cause and reason to help the execution of the analysis of the regional integrationist-federalizing ideas and attempts (Bán-Diószegi-Márer-Pritz-Romsics, 1997; Kende 1994). And while many experts have given a clear and precise analysis of the situation of the ill-fated countries of East-Central Europe before and during the political change (Hankiss, 1989; Ash, 1991; Busek, 1992), the comprehensive regional investigation of the influence of the post-1990 events and the integrational pressure is still to come. Until the responsible analysis of the minority question does not happen involving all the interested parties and by the wording of general truths[7], concerning East-Central Europe, in the better case the existence of minorities is regarded to be a permanent source of conflicts (Balogh, 1997), while the worse alternative is Kosovo. The phenomena following the integrationist race are powerful indications with regard to the fact that the age of fear an rivalry described by István Bibó still endures in the post-totalitarian region.[8] The Belgian example of nation-state disintegration (Stengers, 1997) is unique, yet it deserves some attention, for it shows how the classic forms of the nation and the state can be transformed.

            Shortly after World War II, it was recognized and stated in Paris that a stable Europe cannot be created without the arrangement of the German question (Schuman, 1991). Now we have to recognize that without the settling of the minority question of East-Central Europe, we cannot talk about a stable East-Central Europe. The raising of the issue evokes Schengen, and that hardly receives any attention in the region. And what about integration? There is no integration against the neighbours. The western countries walked the way of unification watching each others' concerns. In the European East those who say Europe want to be on good terms with the West. While the countries of the union of the Continent progress towards growing interdependence, in the ECE they set aside or disregard those things from the common political pack that have always been problematic and have required a lot of attention. The minority policy of the countries of the region is not an internal affair anymore.[9] The domestic and foreign political concerns of minority politics cannot be separated, cannot be treated separately (Brubaker, 1995), the new situation calls for a new approach, and it is not the interest of the minority only, but also that of the concerned majority.


Romanian narratives

From time to time, the Romanian politics professes the necessity of some atonement. This is an expression of good intent where the raise of issue does not become one-sided by the fact that the addressee of the atonement proposal is exclusively the other party. Everything is alright around the composer of the proposal, he is tolerant and righteous. The cause of concerns is the situation for which the other is responsible. When demanding atonement, it is usual referring to patterns and that makes the proposal more credible. Which this way does not reckon with, or at least relativize the historical embeddedness of solutions. The often mentioned German-French atonement[10] already belongs to the past (Rovan, 1998), because it was significantly shaped by actual international politics, as it is the case with other atonements. However, the minority Germans interpreted the French-German atonement relieving the post-war tension of the international - western - atmosphere that their mother-country had forsaken them. Partly owing to that, the number of Alsatian Germans is a tenth of the number 50 years before. By the end of the century, the millennium, the Scots and the Welshmen obtain their own parliaments to decide about their own fate, today they do not write the history of the practice of making compromise over the head of minorities. Most of the Romanian politics do not want to recognize this course, or do not accept it. For these actors of politics minorities are alien tissues in the body of nation, they should be happy to be tolerated, regardless to the fact that the minority was neither the cause, nor the creator of this co-existence.

            After 1996 the Romanian government often claimed that they succeeded in solving the minority question exemplarily. It is true that the countries of the region did not get famous for providing the representatives of minorities with ministerial seats, but there is a great distance between this step originated in political power balance and the exemplarily solution. This phenomenon is manifested in the - yet not so fruitful - struggle of the RMDSZ on the field of public education[11], the troubles and confusion around the bilingual plates and the university-dispute. Behind the majority protests against the foundation of a Hungarian state university there are both the repudiation of the minority's language-area protection[12] and the decades-long practice of minority politics that accustomed the majority to exercise absolute command over the fate of the minority. The experience of governing in coalition shows the necessity of political socialization: minority issues that are accepted and supported by the government under the aegis of common responsibility, often fail to receive the support of the legislators, despite the comfortable parliamentary majority of the coalition. Although analyzers specialized in minority cases also share the view that the RMDSZ's taking part in governing means that the powers of the coalition government accepted the regulation of minority protection according to norms desired by Hungarians (Andreescu, 1998), experience presents it different. Political powers observing the indications of public opinion polls see, and, in spite of coalition partnership, do consider: in a deteriorating economic situation the support of minorities is a political disadvantage in the present-day Romania. The already familiar - hostile - approach of the majority society towards minorities has changed little or nothing.[13]

            An essential precondition of atonement is introversion. Again, a German example can be mentioned here, the Reichstag-exhibition devoted to the German national idea, where, as it was heard from Berlin, every graduates are required to visit that. The unique exhibition shows: the Germans exercised the strict introversion with hard consistence so typical of them.

            Under the aegis of introversion the actual parallel story would become interpretable, the characters of which exhibit a behaviour totally different from the ones we know and "get accustomed to" from this century. Romania, playing the 20th century success-story of the region "got to a steep slope after 1990, while Hungary, after being punished in the wars, - seems to - have performed the most successful shift of the region. In December, 1998, it is not only dictatorship that ended in Romania, but also a national success-story.[14] Interpretations of the situation were made, but not only the era of dictatorship should be re-interpreted, the frame-conditions of an earlier story should also be. The exceptional location of the country has often been cited as an explanation of the failure and confusion of the post-1990 Romania. According to one type of interpretations based on exceptionality, the events occurring in Romania follow not the internal logic of the situation, but the interests of alien powers. Here, where regions and cultures meet, the influences are always stronger. A strange duality of chosenness can be observed here: a sense of importance and a notion of enemies. In relation to the majority-minority relation that means that whatever happens, the "Magyar" interpretation, the Magyar danger appears. The exceptionality of Romania exists: its peripheral situation is continually reproduced. And indeed, the three historical regions of the country have never belonged to the same spheres of influence. The continual existence of challenge of balance beside openness resulted in a kind of scepticism (Alexandrescu, 1998), and the questions of perpetuance and identity came into prominence. These priorities can (could) be controlled and maintained by the proportioning of the "Magyar danger".

            However, something is also changing. Professional workshops researching the myths of Romanian history were developed and enjoy growing respect from the part of young intellectual circles. Demythicizing works are created. The reaction of the professionals is weak, but the process began. And there is a sincere communal interest. We had to wait until today, but the studies that reveal the relationship between the Romanian culture and the Europa nostra in their history are about to be written. The statement that since the 18th century "the Romanians experience their meeting with Europe more or less traumatically", and that the obsession with inferiority, the sense of collective stigmatization emerges, would have been equal to the betrayal of the nation before 1989 (Antohi, 1996). That explains why for many people the national feeling means only the evocation of the glorious past in Romania. The present is disturbing, does not form part of that feeling (Patapievici, 1996), the citizen almost refuses the actual. This way national feeling rather means a rhetoric proficiency, than the knowledge of facts, their undertaking embedded in reasoning. Today, there are Romanian historians who claim: "The term history is deceiving. We should interpret. Even historians do it scarcely..." This is said by Lucian Boia, and he continues: "history is selection..., the selection of the important, the characteristic, and the significant." (Boia, 1998). And from that, everything becomes relative, since the political purposes of the actual present (may) appear in the selection of the important and the significant. Today the truth of the thesis historia est magistra vitae is not credible anymore, historians have shown that those who rule the memory are in possession of crucial means of ruling the present (Rumi, 1998). History dictated personal and collective fates, it determined the place and operation of the subjects of politics in time and space. The present-day illnesses of Europe cannot be treated by pure - historical - rhetoric, no "purpose" can release from listening to conscience.

            There is not any managing conception aiming at East-Central Europe for the minority question urged by Schengen, although among enounced purposes of the present national self-building processes, the first is the common Europe admitting every nation, from a political point of view as well. The question remains: the lack of initiative actuated from the region is caused by the integrationist rivalization among the countries of the region, or the - today? - insufficient capability of the individual nations to clean/purify their own histories for their own interests from all the things they entwined to the politically motivated, pseudo-scientific tale they constructed against their neighbours?

[1] This essay is the edited version of the presentation read at the conference "The Hungarian-Hungarian relations after the Schengen decision" held in Budapest, December 17, 1998.

[2] In Bucharest, a reaction recalling the era of totalitarianism was given to the volume of sources, titled Revízió vagy autonómia (TLA, 1998) edited by Mihály Fülöp and Gábor Vincze that contained very important materials concerning the Hungarians in Romania. Ioan Mircea Pascu dealt with the volume in two sequels in the Cotidianul (1999/Feb. 8. and 22.) questioning the scientific quality of the work and regarding it as an attempt of the reconsideration of Trianon and as the open manifestation of the new Hungarian revisionism.

[3] During 1996 a local Romanian newspaper disapproved that the Temesvár place-name was used on the stamp of the consulate, while the "true" name of the city is Timişoara.

[4] In the Faculty of Arts of the University of Temesvár a workshop was created with the name The Third Europe. Its aim is to enumerate and present the common and significant cultural-social experiences and traditions of the peoples of the Central European region concerning co-existence. Several important works of the subject of national literatures were translated to Romanian, expert works are published and they carry out oral-history researches. Some intellectual circles attack this group, accusing them with the betrayal of the national ideology.

[5] For this, see the journal Európai Szemle, especially the volumes 1994/3, 1995/1-2, 1996/3, 1998/1-2.

[6] In the West Euro-regions mean a common search for answers for existing regional problems. In the post-totalitarian region the creation of region is a political act that, presumably and expectedly, will return economic-social profit as well.

[7] A recurring item from the part of the majority: common cases should be settled first, and the particular minority cases only after. Essentially, this means the minority question's taking off from the schedule, since no-one can tell when the region is going to be "all right".

[8] The government-roles of the political powers of the minorities seem to deny the statement in Romania and Slovakia, but the struggle of the RMDSZ for the Hungarian state university and for bilinguality gives the example of how one can be an outsider in the inside.

[9] The 1996 analysis, Dimensiunea internationala a relatiilor etnice în România, of the Bucarestian centre of political and comparative studies investigated how the law enforcing activity of minority labour organizations aiming at international political factors affects Romania's foreign estimation. While the authors of the essay accept the existence of the international dimension of minority issues, minorities are presented as "accusees", because they take "domestic" affairs abroad derogating from the country's reputation.

[10] The 1995 Romanian-Hungarian atonement proposal of I. Iliescu, the head of the Roamnian government then,  is memorable, the exemplar of which he designated the French-German atonement model - during the preparation of the Hungarian-Romanian fundamental agreement. The fact of the atonement proposed as a model can hardly be denied, but the present facts are stone-hard: the German minority once numbered 1.5 million people diminished to 200,000 by today. One reason of that is that, as a precondition of the atonement of 1950, the German governments did not take - international - responsibility for their compatriots beyond the borders.

[11] The measures of the education law of 1995, most humiliating for minorities, still prevail, or the application of the executive decree of urgency repealing most of it is facultative because of legal disagreements.

[12] Questions of language-area protection can be best investigated on the example of Québec. See: Molnár, István János: Kanada és a Québec-kérdés. Budapest, 1996.

[13] According to studies after 1996, significant changes in the question of the majority-minority relationship did not occur on the basis of coalition presence. The Romanian Hungarian politicians, despite the radical or moderate qualifications by the press, are all considered to be conflict-factors for the Romanian population. The RMDSZ's instance of bilingual inscriptions is also a source of conflict for the Romanian inhabitants. See: Csepeli György: Jelentés a tündérkertből és Konfliktus-látószögek Erdélyben. In: A Hét 1998/14, A Hét 1998/24.

[14] There is an age-group, that of the 30 years old people, that almost collectively turns its back to all that is Romanian, and aims to re-settle in a civilized world.