100 years since the signing of the Treaty of Trianon on the perennity and present validity of the Treaty of Trianon
Ion M. Anghel
Doctor of Laws, dr. h.c., University Professor; Honorary Member of the Romanian Academy of Scientists; Honorary Member of the Academy of Legal Sciences in Romania, Ambassador (r) e-mail – firstname.lastname@example.org Dreptul, serie nouă, anul XXXI, nr. 5/2020
Treaty of Trianon, an international document of unquestionable political-legal value and, at the same time, of capital value for Romania, which certifies the full legitimacy of its existence inside its current borders – also including Transylvania –, is unconditionally fully valid and thus remains as such, having been applied for a century. It is for the Romanians to comply with the sacred duty to know its provisions as rigorously as possible and to ensure, at any cost and without any hesitation, the strict observance of its provisions. Under no circumstance it is admitted a hesitating or passive attitude, without reply when its validity is questioned. Thus, it is created the impression that Romania would agree that the Treaty of Trianon is no longer of interest to the Romanian State or that there would be some indifference to the regulations which it contains, favoring confusions and forming opinions that prejudice the value of this Treaty.
This study presents the context in which the Treaty of Trianon was negotiated and reached the signing; the Paris Peace Conference (1918–1920) is described and the principles underlying it and the decisions adopted are mentioned. Similarly, the author makes a characterization of the treaties signed after the end of the First World War and it is mentioned that the principle of nationalities was laid at the foundation of the new order in Europe. The Paris Peace Conference put an end to the oppressive empires, and the liberated nations were constituted in sovereign national states, and, as the case may be, new states emerged, while others were reformed or reunited – this being also the case of the achievement of Greater Romania.
In the final part of the study, it is described the series of irredentist attempts started since the Paris Peace Conference (1918–1920) and continued throughout the entire century, to revise or even repeal the Treaty of Trianon. The most brutal action in this regard was the Vienna Arbitration (30 August 1940), which fortunately was annulled by the Paris Peace Treaty (1947), which declared it null and void.
The Treaty of Understanding, Cooperation and Good Neighborliness between Romania and the Hungarian Republic (1996) – necessary, of course, and useful insofar as it would be applied in good faith by both parties – contains nevertheless a series of extreme concessions granted by the Romanian side, that a kind of condominium has been created in the area where a population of Hungarian ethnicity is located next to Romanians. It is especially surprising that, although there is a provision regarding the intangibility of the borders, in the Treaty of 1996 it is not mentioned the Treaty of Trianon under which they are established, which raises many questions. The author does not overlook that, given that the Romanian citizens of Transylvania – Hungarian or even Romanian – are granted Hungarian citizenship, an attempt is made to extend the jurisdiction of Hungary on the territory of Romania, and the massive acquisition of property in Transylvania by Hungarian citizens aims to create a situation favourable for Hungary and to the detriment of Romania.
Treaty of Trianon; the Paris Peace Conference; Greater Romania; the principle of nationalities; the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian empire; the principle of the protection of minorities.
The Treaty of Trianon is the plurilateral international legal act signed at the Peace Conference, on June 4, 1920 between the Allied and Associated Powers (Romania being one of them) and Hungary, in accordance with and rigorous observance of international legal norms in force on that date. Constituting a synallagmatic international legal act, the Treaty created rights and obligations to be exactly and in good faith exercised/executed for the benefit to and correspondingly in charge of all parties. The Treaty is legally binding, vinculul iuris, so that the violation or non-compliance, as well as the delay in the execution of its provisions entails the responsibility of the person in question, as well as the appropriate coercive measures. Being an eternal act, the Treaty does not mention its term of validity and nor does the prescription work because through it a situation that must not perpetuate or ever return was forever solved. As with the other treaties signed at the Peace Conference, the Treaty of Trianon is a case in which the principle of relativity of the effects of legal acts – pacta tertiis nec nocent nec prosunt – does not apply, since it produces objective and general effects which are opposable to all states – erga omnes. The provisions of the Treaty give expression and represent the act by which the Romanians in Transylvania exercises their indisputable right to self-determination – uniting themselves with the Country – a fundamental principle of International Law; while abandoning the antiquated “principle of balance and compensation” as a result of the evolution that had taken place through the transition from the right to autonomy (mentioned among W. Wilson’s 14 points) to the principle of nationalities which the Peace Conference laid at the groundwork of the establishment of the new political construction of Europe, it was accepted that the peoples liberated from foreign yoke could set up as national sovereign states following their struggle for national freedom or that the divided nations could unify. The principle was also enshrined in the Treaty of Trianon – the act of the accomplishment of Greater Romania.
Yet, with the development of the nation-state, the other principles such as sovereign equality between states pacta sunt servanda, settling disputes between states peacefully and the renunciation of the use of force or the threat of force, etc. were promoted, so that we can see that the Treaty of Trianon embodies a model of behavior for the correct settlement of disputes between two states in a modern international community. Through the conformity with the rules of International Law and with equity – criteria that were laid at the bases of the Romanian-Hungarian relations – as well as through the legitimacy of the solutions contained in the Treaty of Trianon, the necessary framework for a good understanding between the two states – Romania and Hungary – was created, good neighborhood and peaceful atmosphere being beneficial to all of them. The Treaty of Trianon remains a model to be followed in relations between states, the foundation itself for the reunification of Romania and at the same time a solid basis for the development of the Romanian-Hungarian relations.
Summatim, a political-legal foundation of the state-building for the two states, Romania and Hungary, as well as of the relations that should exist between them, the Treaty of Trianon is also a benchmark for the relations that should exist in this area of Europe.
Nota bene! It would therefore be an elementary mistake and an embarrassing situation in terms of the ability to understand of those concerned – given the origin and justification of the Treaty of Trianon – the idea that it would be just any treaty concluded between Romania and Hungary, a document which, having no term of cessation of validity, will apply for some time still, after which, being ignored and out of the public eye, it will fall into disuse precisely at the time of decolonization and assertion of the right of peoples to self-determination and to national liberation, and things will go back to the old times.
1. Knowing and defending the Treaty of Trianon as such, a major imperative for Romanians, but also a guarantee of Romania’s existence as a state.
Of all the treaties concluded by Romania in the contemporary period, the Treaty of Trianon remains – and there is no way to be otherwise – the most important international document, a fundamental act – a summum, because it is precisely through this document we are in normalcy – in which the legitimacy of Romania’s existence in the state form is certified – a fact which was also approved by the Great Powers at that time. The Treaty of Trianon recognizes Transylvania belonging to Romania, as it is natural and legitimate, while Hungary is brought to the position it deserved, as far as legitimacy is concerned, for the most elementary reason that Transylvania does not represent for it more than an area with which it borders and which belongs by right to another state. As there is also a Hungarian ethnic population in Transylvania, Hungary has no choice but to adopt a reasonable attitude towards recognizing the legitimate affiliation of this historical province to Romania.
While regulating and issuing statutes with regard to the western borders of our country, assaulted throughout history from the steppe over the Tisza to the internal curvature of the Carpathians, the Treaty itself is a solid international document, of fundamental value, which we ought to evoke promptly and use it without complexes, since it is the proving and irrefutable international basis that acknowledges our legitimacy as a nation-state in these lands.
The peace treaty with Hungary is and remains valid from the point of view of international law; it has full legitimacy and has been applied as such for a century, despite desperate irredentist currents to minimize or challenge its importance. Its provisions are required to be invoked without hesitation and defended firmly by those who are truly Romanians and love their country against any attempt to question its legal force.
On the other hand, it should also be emphasized that the Treaty of Trianon represents for Romanians the very act of enthronement of national justice, the international document that attests the fulfilment of the great event – the Great Union of 1918 – and enshrines the achievement of Greater Romania. Those who do not yet seem to have understood in what century we are living and do not want to see the reality should be warned accordingly. The Treaty of Trianon is the legal-political basis for the coronation of the process that led to the fulfilment of Romania as a whole, an action accepted and enshrined by the Paris Peace Conference. Without Transylvania as part to Romania, the size of our state would have been reduced to the Old Kingdom – a fact which would have continued to be against justice and inconsistent with the factual situation that had to be corrected at the end of the First World War.
In the light of the above and taking into account the experience I have gained during the almost four decades of diplomatic activity, including in the segment of Romanian-Hungarian relations, I start with the assertions that follow from the fact which seems to me as clear and notorious as possible, and elementary to any human reason enjoying the mature approach required by our century, namely the circumstance that out of all relations Romania carries on with other states of the world, the most complex, but also the more sensitive, are and remain those relating to the neighborhood with Hungary. It is from here that arises the requirement to conduct them in accordance with the principles of international law, the principles and the values on which the European Union is founded and with the existing regulations, in mutual interest and harmony, as well as in good faith.
We like it or not, this is a fact, a reality, regardless of the explanations that would be given, namely that the historical circumstances (or, even more precisely, the situation that was created when the tribes of Hungarian warriors invaded the Romanians who were living in Transylvania and whom they would subjugate and oppress for centuries) are also the ones that created a controversial situation, which actually exists. After the signing of the Treaty of Trianon, the issue was never raised, nor would an extreme approach have been admissible, of the kind of the solution of population exchange – as occurred between Greece and Turkey following the Treaty of Lausanne (1923), or the expulsion of the German population from the Sudetenland, in the case of Czechoslovakia, after the Second World War – so that the historical fact of the existence of a Hungarian population in the territory of Romania should be rationally perceived as a datum from which both Romania, but especially Hungary, must have their starting-point in their manner of conceiving and managing the Romanian-Hungarian diplomatic relations.
The elementary common sense dictates that it is from this fact that we should set off in any approach to coexist in terms and conditions of good neighborliness, as peoples who, living in the 21st century, respect each other, without one arrogating the right to be the master of the other and to teach it lessons; this is the only reasonable and responsible solution on a continent in which the principles and norms of international law and European values are unanimously acknowledged.
As such, if the diplomats and politicians in Hungary really and sincerely want to support the ethnic Hungarians – who nota bene live in Romania and are citizens of Romania and must consequently remain loyal to it -, they ought to maintain cordial relations with the authorities in Romania and not to see this population for purposes that are not in accord with such a desideratum, refrain from political statements against Romania and strictly apply the universal principles of international law. The two states should therefore have correct relations, because the friendly relations between them represent the ideal way for the interests of this minority population in the Romanian state to be taken into account in a proper manner – relieved of suspicions, enmities and misunderstandings. Ethnic Hungarians in Romania will be the main beneficiaries of the Romanian-Hungarian friendship, and Hungary, in turn, should limit its claims only to what it offers itself to other ethnic minorities in its territory, there being no place to apply the adage quod licet Iovi, not licet bovi.
Romania is definitely interested in having such fair and decent relations, because a normal state in society is for the benefit of all its citizens, regardless of their ethnicity, and understanding and peaceful attitude are beneficial to both parties.
From the perspective of these theoretical considerations, the Treaty of Trianon is the document of capital value for the existence of Romania as a state and, therefore, should be known in depth and defended at all costs by Romanians, because otherwise Romania will be reduced to what it used to be before the First World War.
There are – in our opinion – indisputably solid grounds, as well as a full legitimacy to invoke and publicly remind this treasure of the Romanian nation which is the Peace Treaty with Hungary (Trianon, June 4, 1920). Ignoring it fuels the inept idea of its falling into desuetude or its revision. We have, in the clearest possible way, that legitima ratio, an imperatum that is imposed on us inexorably, our peremptory duty of honor for those who sacrificed themselves, so that we today can survive as a Romanian nation; these are imperative national commandments – sealed with the blood shed by our ancestors, which cannot be ignored and disregarded or questioned in any way.
In connection with the clarity of our position on the Treaty of Trianon and its manner of assertion, we should consider a principle having a general application in canon law according to which whoever is silent, does not deny or reject what is imputed to him implicitly acknowledging what is said about him – qui tacet, consentire videtur.
If those who represent us do not know that, they had better lay their hand on a book, so as not to remain ignorant, to fulfill in a proper way the mission they do not elude to claim; but if they deliberately keep quiet, then it is about something completely different, that is, the lack of reaction to an unjust accusation generates doubts, confusion and the suspicion that the statement might be true. However, the silence of the diplomatic interlocutor encourages the person making the statement, inviting him to continue and insist, because it is suggested to him that those concerned would subscribe to the claims of Hungary or, in any case, let such thing be understood or inferred. What also still matters is the ounce of the dignity of a nation which cannot be at the discretion of anyone and under no circumstances be negotiated by others, for the elementary reason that we cannot accept unfounded accusations or to be further unjustly sullied. The lack of a reply and not putting one in one’s place is equivalent to a tacit recognition of the claims made, and such an attitude is unpardonable, if not dangerous. Our diplomats should understand that they must not facilitate such an attempt by becoming parties to committing acts against their own country.
Disregarding the elementary caution required in this realm of relations between states, as I have related above, although the Romanian-Hungarian border had been established and described in the Treaty of Trianon – which is then explicitly mentioned in the Romanian-Hungarian Treaty on the border regime of 1963 (Article 1)2, as well as in the Agreement between the Government of the Socialist Republic of Romania and the Government of the People’s Republic of Hungary regarding the regime of the Romanian-Hungarian state border, the collaboration and the mutual assistance in border matters (1983), and there is reference to border inviolability in Article 4 of the Treaty on Understanding, Cooperation and Good Neighborliness between Romania and the Republic of Hungary (1996) – this issue has not been addressed in all respects and in unequivocal terms.
Given the importance, always emphasized, of the border issue between the two states and the manner it was solved, the following comments are required: if the commitment to observe the inviolability of the common border – agreed by the Treaty concluded in 1996 – had been made by reference to the Treaty of Trianon, the provision would have made sense (contents) and would have appeared as something that could no longer be interpreted. The formula would not have been vague if there had been a point of reference in the Treaty – the existing borders or the borders established by the Treaty of Trianon. But even more serious is the fact that the 1996 Romanian-Hungarian Treaty does not refer to the Peace Treaty of 1947 either, a treaty which annulled the Vienna Award of August 30, 1940 and restored to Romania the northern Transylvania that had been seized in the summer of 1940. Yet, if the previous legal documents which fixed the Romanian-Hungarian border are not mentioned, but there are only general references and different interpretations made, it is not possible to know in relation to which element the violation of the principle of territorial integrity of a state will be determined.
The reference in the 1996 Treaty to the principles of the Helsinki Final Act does not solve the problem, because it is only a political document, therefore not legally binding and with no sanctions in case it is violated. Moreover, because it admits that the revision of the border should be done peacefully, it leaves open the possibility of raising this issue, without being considered an illegal act. Reaffirming the commitment to observe the inviolability of the border does not rigorously mean that any discussion on its establishment is excluded, because the obligation not to violate the border works in relation to what is agreed, with an existing border which was mentioned – which did not happen in this case – because the document establishing the border was not specified (it is one thing to trespass the border and another one to claim its modification). The phrase „they have no territorial claims” can also get other meanings in the context of the Final Act (the possibility of initiating the issue without officially formulating claims).
As such, omitting the Treaty of Trianon when it comes to the border between Romania and Hungary, although it is known that this was a reason for misunderstanding and conflict throughout a century could be understood that Romania suggests or accepts the idea that it no longer attaches value to the Treaty of Trianon, as it is of no present interest, and leaves room for inferring its availability to have the document replaced by a non-legally binding political one.
Through its diplomats, Romania has both reason and obligation to prove without any note of hesitation and with a direct answer to the object, having no way of avoiding such an explicit retort, that everything is as clear as possible and that it has a solid and indisputable legal basis at the very foundation of its existence. Romania must, at the same time, show which is the state that persisting in its unjustified and reckless pretensions resorts to all kinds of wrongdoings and ends up by imposing a note of coolness, suspicion and distrust, disturbing the normal development of the relations between two neighboring states, with destabilizing reflexes throughout the area. A retort to the outrageous and groundless „anti-Trianon” campaign is a normal diplomatic gesture and a justified move to put things back on the right track, based on respect and good faith. Otherwise, avoiding the retort, we provide reasons to be understood that we doubt the justice recognized at Trianon or that we would even be cowards, and the uncontested assertions generate an overall impression of acquiescence. Moreover, the evasive attitude maintains a state of confusion, which puts us at a disadvantage.
2. Romania as party to the regulations decreed by statute in the form of signed treaties at the Paris Peace Conference (1918–1920).
As one of the Allied and Associated Powers, Romania attended the Conference3, thus becoming party to all its regulations: the Peace Treaty between the Allied and Associated Powers and Germany (Versailles, June 28, 1919), which is the fundamental body of the regulations, the reference point of all decisions of the Conference (a document deriving from the dimensions of the opponents who faced each other), a fundamental, guiding and decisive document through its spirit – in which the conditions of peace with defeated Germany are established and it is also the act by which the League of Nations and the International Labor Organization4 were set up; the Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers and Austria (Saint-Germain, September 10, 1919), Romania being also party to the Agreement between the Allied and Associated Powers with Regard to the Contribution to the Cost of Liberation of the Territories of the Former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (Saint-Germain, 10 September 1919), as well as the Convention for the Control of the Trade in Arms and Ammunition (10 September 1919); the Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers with Bulgaria (Neuilly-sur-Seine, November 27, 1919); the Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers with Hungary (Trianon, June 4, 1920); the Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers with Turkey (Sèvres, August 10, 1920); the Treaty between Romania and France, United Kingdom, Italy and Japan on the Union of Bessarabia with Romania (Paris, October 28, 1920); the Treaty concluded between the Principal Allied and Associated Powers and Romania, Poland, Serb-Croat-Slovene State and Czechoslovakia (Sevres, August 10, 1920); the Treaty on Minorities concluded with the Principal Allied Powers (Paris, December 9, 1919) and the Treaty on Solving Certain Problems regarding the dissolution of Austro-Hungarian Monarchy (Sevres, August 10, 1920). Five of the eleven treaties signed at the Peace Conference deal with territorial issues, and a few more have been adopted for war reparations.
Being laid at the basis of the regulations adopted by the Conference, the principle of nationality, recorded at the Paris Peace Conference – the main and wise decision that was imposed as a consequence of the First World War – materialized, at state level, in breaking up the big multinational and oppressive empires (real prisons for European nations) into their constituent parts. It was a process that would develop and consummate with the cessation of the war5, and legitimize and embody in treaties (which brought to light the situation the populations under domination had been held in – the unjust, inhuman, immoral treatment imposed by those antiquated and downright barbaric oppressors).
If in the case of some empires, such as Germany, there was only an adjustment of its borders with its neighbors (the surrender of Alsace and Lorraine) and the loss of colonies, the badly shaken Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed – finis Austro-Hungariae! Not only did the two components – Austria and Hungary – break up, but, in a real mess, each of them desperately sought various ways to save and maintain the existing state as long as possible, coming as far as to conflicts between themselves. Detaching from each other on the principle of sauve qui peut, they were now trying to cause to be known and repair their embarrassingly and arrogantly displayed image, different from what they had become and how they really were. The two states were now moving from an offensively cultivated megalomania to the state of despair in which they were struggling – the time for the implacable judgment of history had come.
Following the fact that by the Treaty of Versailles the other states had also recognized and applied the principle of nationalities, the independent and sovereign Polish state was restored and the independence of the Baltic States was recognized; other states were set up as a whole. Germany was compelled to give up all its rights over the overseas territories in favor of the Allied and Associated Powers.
Although it was intended to create viable states, as had been strongly and emphatically argued, since only in that way would the imperative of the supreme commandment be taken into account – that of achieving a lasting peace with no clefts – the authors of the new international order had though to be content with a partial application of the principle of nationalities6, but they did not bring such measure to a conclusion consistently. By not completely applying the principle of nationalities and ignoring the provisions of the concluded treaties, a large number of Romanians remained outside the borders of our country and, in general, the goals that had to be allegedly considered by the Conference were not fully achieved either. As a result, although the new organization of Europe was based on the principle of nationalities, Greater Romania did not include all Romanians within its borders, thus leaving out those in the West (up to the Tisza), in the East (Transnistria) – whom Nicolae Iorga, the great Romanian historian, referred to in 19187 – as well as the ones in the Timoc Valley.
The legal status of minorities was one of the most delicate issues to be addressed at the Conference – including for our country. If until the Paris Conference half of the Romanians had been outside Romania’s borders under foreign domination, Greater Romania – as a resulting unitary national state – also had a multiethnic and multicultural profile. However, Romania had the most homogeneous national structure of all the states succeeding Austro-Hungary, while outside the country’s borders remained a significant number of Romanians. The treatment to be given to ethnic minorities – which, indeed, had to be regulated by a statute – had an impact that could not be ignored as far as the viability of the new state structure is concerned, if not even with regard to the very existence of the state as such – as later seen. Hence, the crucial importance of finding a judicious and, at the same time, reasonable formula in its content, but also the prudence with which that regime had to be constituted. Therefore, laying the principle of nationality at the basis of the solutions adopted by the Conference, both the establishment of new states and the modification of the territory of the existing ones following the collapse of anachronistic empires attracted solutions convened between the respective states, including for the case of national minorities. That is why, in the first version of the draft Covenant of the League of Nations (Article 21), it was mentioned, under the title of a democratic solution, the principle of protection of minorities, which was to have a general application.
The application of this principle on a global scale, however, involved the abolition of the colonial empires existing at that time (the representative of Great Britain categorically opposed the inclusion of this provision). In that situation, T.W. Wilson, the American president, – who, initially, in his 14 points, had in view the autonomy within the Austro-Hungarian Empire only -, suggested the inclusion of the clause solely in the case of the states that had newly appeared or fulfilled their national unity following the end of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy. It was a regrettable and unjustified inconsistency, but also a gross hypocrisy, because it was precisely the treatment of minorities that lay at the origin of the war. The Great Powers not only had themselves excepted from such an obligation, derogating from it, while preserving their untouched position as metropolises, but also created a way for them to intervene in the internal affairs of smaller states. This triggered a mechanism to control the latter.
The principal Powers were not imposed a protection regime for the national minorities in their territories – although, for the sake of situation identity, that should have been the case. The interested delegations (including I. C. Brătianu) conditioned this application by the generality of the obligation (for all states).
3. The Treaty of Trianon – its contents
The text of the Treaty between the Allied and Associated Powers and Hungary, together with those of the Protocol and Declaration (Trianon, June 4, 1920), which came into force on July 26, 1921, is, like the other treaties signed at the Peace Conference in Paris, extremely extensive, accurate and with lots of details (364 articles on 120 pages). This situation is explained by the numerous annexes included in the body of the Treaty. The magnitude of the document is also due to the detailed regulation that had to be given to the problems that arose in the case of the transfer of territory and populations, with the multitude of consequences that the act of territorial cession entails. The Treaty was concluded between the Principal Allied and Associated Powers and the defeated state (Hungary), where the rights of the victorious state (Romania) as their beneficiary were established, along with the obligations of the defeated state and the position of the Great Powers as their guarantor and supervisor. On the other hand, the Great Powers sought to secure a position from which to intervene in the internal affairs of other states and to influence their policy.
The explanation for that specific regulatory situation, as a whole, but also in detail, lies in the fact that the Treaties signed at the Paris Peace Conference also bear the stamp of the context (of the circumstances – the proportions of the disaster and the problems to be solved in a way that they could no longer be assumed by those who had produced it) and the manner in which the Conference was organized and the negotiations conducted, as well as what solutions could have been agreed upon for the issues to be forever resolved.
The peace treaties were not negotiated by the parties concerned, as is normally the case, but drafted in several commissions and committees of the Conference. They were then subject to the approval of the five Allied and Associated Powers, the solutions set out in the Treaties were imposed on both the defeated and the victorious belligerent states, and the dialogue was reserved for the Great Powers.
The five principal powers agreed not only on the solutions imposed on the defeated states and the rights of the victorious states, but also on the measures to ensure the implementation of decisions, formulating as such the text of the treaty itself. Under existing circumstances, for the situations it was facing and for the definition of the regulating modalities, it was necessary to include in each treaty all problems in a detailed manner, so that all of them be solved, entirely, by the respective document. The main concern was to formulate the text as precisely as possible – without ambiguity – in order to avoid interpretations and all sorts of misunderstandings that would have led to diminishing its authority, if not to blocking its application. That is how the extent and detail of these documents is explained, the principal Allied and Associated Powers taking care to strictly determine the rights and obligations of the parties.
The Treaty of Trianon8, signed between the Allied and Associated Powers (Romania being one of them) and Hungary (June 4, 1920)9, separated from that of Saint-Germain – with Austria, sanctioned what had become a dismantled Austro-Hungary, in a disastrous state, legalizing and drawing the consequences from the state of depression in which the empire, now shaken and divided, was. The state based on barbaric violence and ill will, that had supposedly belonged to Hungary for a millennium and was expected to stay so, was abolished also de jure, not just de facto, and was reduced to 8 million inhabitants only – not more than they were in its own territory and as they ought to have been.
The Conference thus recognized, in accordance with the established rules, Romania’s long dream come true: its unity with Transylvania. Consequently, the international community followed suit. As a political clause, the Treaty provides that “Hungary renounces, so far as she is concerned, in favor of Romania all rights and title over the territories of the former Austro-Hungarian Monarchy situated outside the frontiers of Hungary as laid down in Article 27, Part II (Frontiers of Hungary) and recognized by the present Treaty, or by any Treaties concluded for the purpose of completing the present settlement, as forming part of Romania.” (Article 45).
In the same vein, Hungary declares that it recognizes and accepts the frontiers of Romania as these frontiers may have been determined by the Principal Allied and Associated Powers and undertakes to recognize the full force of the Treaties of Peace (Article 74). The Romanian – Hungarian frontier – the longest of the 6 frontiers Romania now has – is described in Article 27 (point 3): “From the point defined above east-north-eastwards to a point to be selected on the Maros about 3 kilometers…then north-eastwards… the course of the river Maros upstream…”. Article 46 states that a Commission will be appointed to trace the frontier lines on the spot. Remember that the line of the Romanian-Hungarian state frontier was decided by the Territorial Commission of the Peace Conference without consulting Romania and without its participation in the respective decision-making; that line was not the one specified in the Treaty of Alliance of 1916, nor did it cover the entire area inhabited by Romanians (on left of the Tisza).10
In the Treaty of Sèvres (August 10, 1920), Article 2 (4) regarding the description of the Romanian-Hungarian frontier, reference is made to the Peace Treaty with Hungary – Trianon11. The area thus defined by the Treaty of Trianon and attached to Romania is 102,787 km2, more than 1/3 of the area of Greater Romania. With regard to the population of Transylvania, according to the 1910 census, Romanians were in proportion of 53.8% reaching a unitary and more homogeneous ethnic character. In 1930, there were 5,548,363 inhabitants – constituting 1/3 of the entire population of the country; of these, 3,207,880 were Romanians, and Hungarians (including Szeklers) numbered 1,353,27612. It should be noted, however, that the frontier line with Hungary was not determined on the Tisza by the Supreme Council, in accordance with the Treaty of Alliance (1916) and the Convention on the Neutrality with Russia (1914), and, as it ought to have been, on the basis of the ethnic composition of the population in the area – where the Romanian population predominated -, but it was moved much further east on a width of 20–30 km. at the mouth of the Mureș and Crișuri rivers13 , leaving the Romanian population and territorial dominance out of the country. In the proclamation of war, King Ferdinand had used the phrase „Romania as a whole from the Dniester to the Tisza”. As I.C. Brătianu continued to locate troops on the Tisza, there was a harsh reaction from the „5 Powers”.
We note as also important Article 47 of the Treaty, by which in relation to Hungary Romania undertakes to grant the same regime to persons of another race, language or religion, like the one set up for the majority Romanian population; but we mention at the same time also Articles 54 and 55, by which Hungary, in turn, undertook to grant the same regime to all inhabitants in its territory.
The negotiations, as well as the signing of the Treaty of Trianon, took place in complicated international circumstances – of tension and confusion, with pressure exerted and threats to Romania – a situation also created by Hungary’s refractory and obstructionist attitude.
In his speech at the Conference, Albert Apponyi complained that Hungary had been cruelly wronged because it was losing two-thirds of its territory and population, having a political unit – Greater Hungary, which had existed for 1000 years – destroyed. The Supreme Council of the Conference responded to this exceedingly outrageous approach, noting that the imperialist policy of Hungary was one of the factors that ignited the war – “even a 1000-year-old state is not entitled to last, when its history is that of a long oppression by a greedy minority to administer the peoples within its borders”– it was a history lesson administered to Hungary. As such, the disintegration of Hungary was the natural consequence of its policy of national and social oppression of the nationalities in Transylvania.
Thus, after centuries of subjugation and cruel tyranny with which it treated the Romanian subjects – the majority native inhabitants in Transylvania -, after the barbaric persecution to which they were subjected, as well as with the implantation of populations brought over from various parts of Europe (Saxony) to change the composition of the population in Transylvania, Hungary was compelled, by the decisions of the Conference and by the Treaty it signed, in line with the spirit of the Conference and public opinion, as well as on the basis of the rules of international law, to acknowledge that the area, which it had appropriated and ruled by force, no longer belonged to it. Hungary no longer had a ground to hold it and had to give it up in order to return it to those who were entitled to hold it, thus ending the bondage it had maintained over time.
The international community, through the very voice of the President of the Conference, raised against Hungary „the share of responsibility incumbent on Hungary in waging the war”, and blamed it at the same time for its imperialist policy and the oppression by a minority of the peoples it subjugated. The lack of legitimacy of an unjust and barbaric state of affairs was thus being ascertained and sanctioned, as a way of explicitly condemning the iniquities which Hungary used to practise in previous centuries. Nevertheless, Hungary, incorrigible as it were, relapsed after only two decades, through the intrigues it had never left off, getting, for the zeal and servitude it had shown towards fascism, the gift it was granted by the criminals of the time – Ribbentrop and Ciano.
As for the oriental repairs (imputed to Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria and Turkey), they mainly targeted Romania. At the conclusion of the Treaties of Saint-Germain, Trianon, Neuilly and Sèvres, the Great Powers considered the immediate payment of reparations impossible and granted several moratoriums. The treaties with Austria, Hungary and Turkey did not even specify the amount of compensations due.
Regarding the Hungarian compensations, it should be noted that Hungary tried to evade payments, proposing instead Romanian-Hungarian bilateral talks, where its compensations could have been canceled, in exchange for the damages it had suffered during the 1919 occupation and the dezdaunari i.e. reparations of the big Hungarian landowners in Transylvania, who were expropriated in 1921 – proposals Romania did not accept.
However, there were some agreements which were reached between the two countries. By the 1924 Convention, Hungary renounced the amount claimed as compensation for the intervention of the Romanian army in 1919, and Romania renounced war and occupation expenditures. In the same year, a flat-rate agreement was concluded, by which Romania renounced the restitution of the Romanian materials from the Hungarian territory, in exchange for a lump sum. Through the Hungarian optants affair (the expropriation of the big Hungarian landowners in Transylvania within the agrarian reform of 1921 raised an issue listed in the Treaty of Trianon, that of citizenship and real-estate, which was projected onto the international arena) another problem arose in the Romanian-Hungarian litigation. It reached the League of Nations (1923) after several stages. Romania proposed a compromise, consisting in yielding part of the reparations owed by Hungary. The Hungarian government declined the proposal, but later on, at the request of the Council of the League of Nations, in Vienna, in 1929, Romanian-Hungarian negotiations were held. Even if the general issue of Hungarian reparations was not solved, Hungary’s refusal to accept compensation from the reparations and the claims of the optants was noted14 at the Paris Conference of 1929 – where the oriental reparations were discussed.
4. A century that has caught the attention of mankind through malversations and attempts to challenge or cancel the Treaty of Trianon.
During the century since the signing of the Treaty of Trianon, there has been no shortage of direct actions, sometimes to challenge and cancell the Treaty of Trianon, sometimes to restrict its effects – sometimes on a low tone, sometimes more vocal (loquacious), but always exceeding all bounds. Throughout this period, Romania has been a target for unjust complaints and accusations – most of them rejected by the League of Nations – for the only reason that after the year 1918 the Romanians in Transylvania escaped from Austro-Hungarian oppression. Good neighborly relations or cordial relations between two neighbor states – such as those between Romania and Czechoslovakia – were out of the question, because even when diplomatic relations were apparently calm and there could be a dialogue, with all the duplicity they resorted to, it was still easy for us to realize that they were plotting something, despite the statements that were made.
Not even a century after the dissolution of the anachronistic Austro-Hungarian empire and the liberation of Transylvanian Romanians from the grip of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy through the achievement of Greater Romania, Hungarian diplomats and politicians have still failed to understand that the principles and values underlying the Union European reject the spirit of revisionism, irredentist actions and the challenge, in general, of peace treaties.
Despite the new political realities carried out from a sovereign position by peoples on the basis of the principle of nationality and then legitimized by international law following the decisions adopted at the Peace Conference and the legal acts concluded during its works, the Hungarian irredentism and its incorrigible appetite for overthrowing the political situations that had become inconvenient to it – an irrational and damaging obsession, equally for both Romania and Hungary – have not yet ceased even after a century (see the more or less open acts of Hungary, of the Hungarian emigration and the processions with the flag flown at half-mast on various occasions every single year).
After the failure of the desperate stratagems used to save its empire by dividing it into duchies or to maintain its dominance in the Danube Confederation placing itself among the revengeful states, there followed the post-Versailles period marked by obstructions and threats when Hungary tried, both in direct dialogue with Romania and in no matter what other context (in the framework of the actions of the League of Nations) , to eliminate or make ineffective the regulations of the Treaty of Trianon, its revision becoming an obsessive objective for it.
As one of the revisionist states, Hungary constantly blocked, in the interwar period, a series of actions and in particular the achievement of a collective security pact, made it conditional upon the prior revision of the treaties concluded after the end of the First World War and insisted on changing the borders that had then been established. Threatening Romania even by force, Hungary concentrated a power of 250,000 people on its border with Romania. In that deed to revise the Treaty of Trianon, Hungary, supported by the U.S.S.R. and Hitler’s Germany, formed a coalition with Bulgaria, which eventually led, as is well known, to the Second Vienna Award of August 30, 1940.
The irredentist actions against Romania began during the Peace Conference (racist ideas about the superiority of the Hungarian race, offending the Romanians – including the ones they tried to entice in order to keep them in captivity). The attack of the pro-Soviet communist gangs under the command of the anarchist Bela Kun on the Romanian army in 1919, like the one in 1944, leaves no doubt as to the Hungarian belligerent attitude of that period.
Hungary supported the Danube Confederation project in order to take over the initiative to restore the situation before the war and to circumvent the Treaty of Trianon. Other similar actions include the attempt to restore the Habsburg monarchy, the resumption of arming Hungary and the arms traffic it carried on in the interwar period. Finally, the abduction of northern Transylvania in 1940 with the diplomatic help of Nazi Germany and fascist Italy and the ordeal accompanied by the genocide crimes suffered by the Transylvanian Romanians, as well as the criminal actions of the paramilitary groups in which many Romanians fell in northern Transylvania during the illegitimate horthyste occupation remain in Europe’s memory as degrading acts that must not be repeated. Hungary’s attempts at the end of the Second World War to demand that the 1947 Paris Peace Conference maintain the 1940 abduction of northern Transylvania16 cannot be forgotten either.
The Vienna Diktat (August 30, 1940)17, which practically modified by force an international treaty that had been approved – sanctioned by the five Great Powers, at its time -, and was produced under the pressure of the threat of use of force, constituted, pure and simply, an international crime18.
The diktat represented the act by which our country was forced to cede part of Transylvania to horthyste Hungary19 – an area of 42,243 km2 (14.3%), with 2,603,589 Romanians (13%) – although the Treaty of Trianon did not provide for such a procedure.
In Vienna, in 1940, Romania was not presented with the legal basis for changing its border with Hungary, because that did not even exist, but it was politically and militarily threatened and had no other solution. Invited to discussions, they foisted a text on the Romanian delegation which it had no choice but to sign it. The conduct of the procedures imposed by the foreign ministers Ciano and Ribbentrop was reduced to a diktat, without the possibility for Romania to present its point of view. The improvised text fully satisfied Hungary’s request – what Hungary had asked for, that was given to it – while Romania was not even allowed to present its documents in support of its position. Everything was a formality to make what had previously been decided public. Therefore, the Vienna diktat is in its essence a discretionary act, a sordid frame-up of agreement between states on the account of another.
Nor even after the 1947 Peace Treaty – when the abduction of 1940 was declared null and void – did the Hungarian revisionism discourage. It kept trying all the time and in any way to recover the idea of historic Transylvania or to attract supporters to its side, by tactics of small steps – a fait accompli.
Revisionist slogans were not absent also after the 1956 events, when the Hungarian counter-revolution took place – bloodily repressed by the U.S.S.R – and the Hungarian representatives – since the Hungarian government was no longer recognized as legitimate – had difficulty in being admitted to international conferences. It was Romania that lent a helping hand to Hungary, by accepting – in our opinion, recklessly – the move of the headquarters of the Danube Commission from Galați to Budapest, without such a gesture having as a response the composure of its imperialist desires to seize and subjugate part of the Romanian territory.
Consequently, in the post-war period, the representatives of Hungary, without renouncing their policy of border revision, argued from time to time – it is true that in a more discreet and moderate framework – for vindictive issues. For example, János Kádár, the leader of the Hungarian Communist Party (at the 1977 Oradea meeting), and his successor, Károly Grósz (in Arad, in 1988), raised such issues to Nicolae Ceaușescu, the President of Romania. Although Nicolae Ceaușescu categorically rejected such claims, he still yielded in some respects accepting some diplomatic actions that, at first sight, seemed harmless; they marked a move in the direction our neighbors wanted, though.
Thus, in order to spare the relations with Hungary, Nicolae Ceaușescu had agreed on a list of actions which promoted Hungary’s interests in Romania, adding a few other things in line with the claims it had put forward: setting up a Hungarian consulate in Cluj (although Romania refused such a thing to other states) and a cultural center, raising in Romania a statuary group of the generals who had massacred over 11,000 Romanians during the Revolution of 1848 etc.
As the Romanian side realized that it had gone too far with these commitments and therefore postponed their implementation, the Hungarian side was dissatisfied and its reactions were harsh (when the representatives of the foreign ministries of the two countries met, the Hungarian side made conditional the organization of meetings between the leaders of the two countries upon the implementation of the agreed measures). Gradually, the Romanian authorities realized that the consular office in Cluj was dealing with espionage activities. Romania gave up its consulate in Gyula and the cultural center, while the Hungarian side opposed it. On the occasion of several diplomatic meetings, the issue of the validity or termination of bilateral treaties was also raised, discussions on the ownership of the buildings of diplomatic missions were held, protest notes were issued, etc.
Therefore, without having a special echo, disagreements continued because the Hungarian side, being in the offensive, impeded the normal development of diplomatic relations between the two states.
Resorting to any means and at any cost, Hungary is upholding the dispute over the Treaty of Trianon, making it an element of discord that has overshadowed, blocked and distorted some relations that should have remained of a truly good neighborliness. This is the result of a revenge policy pursued by Hungary towards a peaceful state such as Romania and with which, it is in its interest to understand mutually and cooperate loyally, as Member States of the European Union.
Challenging this document, continuously and senselessly, when the lack of reason and perspective of such an act is as clear as day, is an absurd and harmful obstacle in maintaining normal relations for everybody – the parties concerned, but also for the international community.
5. Contemporary aspects of the diplomatic relations between Romania and Hungary; ignoring the common values of the European Union
Immediately after the events that took place in Romania in December 1989, Hungary increased its pressure on Romania gaining total satisfaction of its demands following the conclusion, as we have shown, of the 1996 Treaty on Understanding, Cooperation and Good Neighborhood20, in which no reference is made to the Treaty of Trianon. It is of note that until then references to the Treaty signed on June 4, 1920 were not absent from the important bilateral agreements between Romania and Hungary. In the Treaty concluded in 1996 instead of the Treaty of Trianon mention is made to the Final Act of the C.S.C.E.
The new treaty between the two states weakens, in our opinion, the legal basis of Romania’s legal authority over Transylvania. Ignoring the Treaty of Trianon leaves it to be understood that the document would have lost its current importance – which is a very serious matter.
For me, as a former career diplomat, the disappearance of the term Treaty of Trianon from the vocabulary of Romanian diplomacy is shocking. I wonder whether avoiding any reference to this document somehow creates a complex of embarrassment and guilt towards those who shed their blood to have a Greater Romania or it is about dealing gently with some presumed or known susceptibilities out of the desire to get a benevolent attitude from our neighbours. By no means can it be about a dignified attitude, as it ought to have been.
The regulations contained in the 1996 Treaty constitute a surrender to all claims of the Hungarian side. If, as a rule, an international treaty has a synallagmatic effect, producing both rights and obligations for the signatories, some of the provisions of the Treaty give advantages to Hungary, since its Hungarian beneficiaries living in Romania are over 1,600,000, while the Romanian beneficiaries in Hungary are in a very small number. It follows therefore that the 1996 Treaty is an unequal treaty.
Given that Romanian diplomats have been so generous in expanding and detailing the regime of the Hungarian minority in Romania, going so far as to accept positive discrimination for it, Romania’s jurisdiction over its population – Romanian citizens of Hungarian ethnicity – is substantially reduced and tends to be eliminated. When a state grants its citizenship en masse to persons who are not in its territory and who have already the citizenship of the state in whose territory they live – it is not difficult to understand for what purpose it does so – it perpetrates an act of undermining the authority of the state in cause, therefore an hostile act which does not belong to the rules of good neighborliness, an action of destabilizing the legal and political order in the respective country21.
We add the fact that the Hungarian Constitution and the Hungarian Citizenship Law state that all persons of Hungarian ethnicity in the territory of other states (except Austria) are part of the Hungarian nation, and Hungary has the obligation to ensure their protection wherever they may be. Also of note is Hungary’s interest in the Carpatho-Danubian area, which is a warning or a veiled form of claims made against neighboring states (including Romania). Such phrases are also the reason why the European Parliament and the Venice Commission adopted a resolution recommending Hungary to revise its Constitution22.
In these conditions – which our diplomats tolerate – the provocative and humiliating behavior of the Hungarian officials towards Romanians is not surprising; it incites to disobedience and formulates increasingly radical demands, defying the Romanian authorities, which do not even react any longer. If we add to this the actions of the Szekler population, which is trying to force Romania to grant treatment outside the Romanian Constitution, I think we have a picture of the difference between the value the Treaty of Trianon has for us, which Hungary rejects though, and the real situation created by the new regulations and the tolerance shown by the Romanian side, which is in a continuous defense.
Amititeloaie A. (2014), Memoria istoriei, Lumea, 6 (253), 84–88.
Anghel I. M. (1999), Problema dublei cetățenii în legislația României, Dreptul, 2, 10–12.
Anghel I. M. (2011), „Tratatul de înțelegere, colaborare și bună vecinătate dintre România și Republica Ungară (neajunsuri și învățăminte)”, în Pagini din diplomația României, Vol. III, Editura Junimea, Iași, p. 41–42.
Anghel I. M. (2013), „Implications generated by dual citizenship situation in Romanian’s case” în Quo vadis Romania (a point of view), Editura Junimea, Iași, p. 35–142.
Anghel I. M. (2013), Tratatele încheiate de România ca ultim criteriu de apreciere a politicii sale externe, Editura Junimea, Iași.
Anghel I. M. (2016), The borders of Great Romania, Annals, Series on History and Archaeology, 8, 42–44.
Anghel I. M. (2018), Tratatele de la Trianon și Paris din 1920 – Documentele prin care s-a consfințit înfăptuirea României Mari, Editura Academiei Oamenilor de Știință din România, București.
Anghel I. M. (coord.) (2013), Quo vadis Romania (a point of view), Editura Junimea, Iași.
Anghel I. M. (coord.) (2018), Politica externă și diplomația României pe parcursul unui secol de la înfăptuirea României Mari, vol. I, vol. II, Editura Academiei Române, București
Delbez L. (1964), Les principes généraux du Droit International Public, 3ème édition, LGDJ, Paris.
Diaconu I. (2005), Tratat de drept internațional public, vol. III, Editura Lumina Lex, București.
Ghișe A. (2002), România și Ungaria la început de secol XX (Stabilirea relațiilor diplomatice – 1918– 1921), Presa Universitară Clujeană, Cluj Napoca
Lehrer M. G. (1991), Ardealul, pământ românesc, Editura Vatra Românească, Cluj-Napoca.
Pella V. V. (2011), În slujba științei dreptului și a cauzei păcii, Fundația Europeană „Titulescu”, București.
Sofronie G. (1999), Principiul naționalităților în Tratatele de pace din 1919–1920, Editura Albatros, București.
Vlad C. (2006), Diplomația Secolului XX, Fundația Europeană „Titulescu”, București.