Meeting Iliescu

At this same time, I received a shocking memorandum. The authors put their names into a separate enclosed envelope. This fact showed how fear lived on in people, how they were afraid of the members of the old security forces who were still circulating freely.

I felt that I absolutely had to do something, and on the evening of the day of the meeting described above, I telephoned the President of the country and asked him for an audience. He was very forthcoming and readily received me the next day.

In the eyes of President Iliescu, it was an extremely good recommendation that I had looked after the legal defence of László Tőkés.

(It is possible that not everybody will find it appealing, but when speaking for the first time to anybody in the Bucharest leadership, I mentioned that I had represented László Tőkés. This sentence always had the effect of “Open Sesame”.)

I was received by Ion Iliescu at 13:00 the next day. Iliescu was extremely kind and thoughtful. He greeted me at the door, asked my forgiveness for having made me to wait, and did not sit down at his desk but at a table with me.

I handed him the Romanian-language text of the memorandum that had so shocked me the day before. It was written by certain members of the Hungarian community that inhabit the Szekler region of Transylvania. Photographs were enclosed.

In brief, what it revealed that in the summer of 1989 the police of a town of the Szekler region moved to new headquarters. Subsequently, in the courtyard of the old headquarters, two human skulls and other bones were found in the dog kennel. In August 1989, these people were afraid to report it, but they kept the findings. Since the old policemen were around, they still wanted to maintain their incognito. I asked Iliescu to give the material only to reliable detectives. He said that he would hand it over to the attorney-general of the country. Since then I heard nothing about this matter.

In any case, the President was rather surprised to learn that this is for what I had come to Bucharest to ask from him. So I made use of the opportunity of being able to speak in private to the first man in the country, and told him the following:

“Mr. Iliescu, we have confidence in you, but if you will not be more radical, if you do not take a stand against the guilty Securitate men, against the Party nomenclature, we shall lose.”

I emphasised that there could be no talk of collective guilt, but that those who had blood on their hands or who had gravely mistreated people must be punished. I declared that it was not sufficient to carry out actions against members of the old Political Executive Committee of the centre. Measures had to be taken also against the county leaders and key people of the Central Committee.

Iliescu stared ahead, and said only Da. da, securitatea (Yes, yes, the Securitate). I also mentioned that Romanian public opinion had to be prepared for the acceptance of equal rights for the national minorities. I gave the example that if – although absolutely correctly – a Hungarian headmaster is elected in the Bolyai Farkas Lyceum of Târgu Mureş, then this is seen from the Romanian point of view that there is now one Romanian headmaster less. And how decent the poor chap was, people will add.

He asked why we wanted separate Hungarian medical and pharmaceutical training anyway within the framework of the Bolyai University of neighbouring Cluj.

I told him the essence was not simply organisational, but that medical and pharmaceutical training in the Hungarian language should be restored. Unfortunately, the Romanian professors of that institution applied the numerus clausus game so enthusiastically that in the current first year intake there are only 14 Hungarians, while that number six years ago was more than 80! And this was not because fewer Hungarians were now applying. The total number of students had stayed the same, only the ratios had changed.

I said it was obvious to us that only our own institutions can ensure the assertion of nationality rights, and the secure education of our own intelligentsia.

President Iliescu commented that there had been a Hungarian Chancellor at the University of Târgu Mureş once before, there could be a Hungarian again.

I said that this was much more difficult to implement than the general goal of restoring Hungarian education to its rights. For in addition, it would be wrong to put a Hungarian chancellor at the heart of an institution where there was a Romanian majority. The solution is two institutions and two chancellors.

Switching topics, and aware of the fact that the originally-picked Romanian ambassador to Hungary had recently refused to accept the posting, I proposed that if they wanted to establish really new relations, then such a personality should be appointed to Budapest who was truly suitable and who would be able to conquer all of Hungarian public opinion.

I considered Smaranda Enache, who until then was entirely unknown in Bucharest, to be the best candidate.

President Iliescu answered that if she was such an outstanding personality we should make use of her in Târgu Mureş.

 Staying on foreign policy, I told him that I found it strange that the same Constantin Oancea was Deputy Foreign Minister who for more than 16 years had directed the anti-Hungarian foreign policy of Ceauşescu. I told him that I was in Timişoara for the hearing of the Tőkés case, and thus saw on Hungarian Television less than two months ago the despicable way in which Oancea tried to glorify Ceauşescu at the press conference following the last Romanian Party Congress. In my opinion, he had lost face before the entire world, and this was not so long ago, and had not been forgotten.

(An hour earlier, I had also complained to the Secretary of State in the Foreign Ministry, Romulus Neagu, about the adoption of Oancea. He answered that it was Oancea who had arrested the heads of the Foreign Ministry during the revolution. This was how the bandit turned policeman. It was child’s play!)

But returning to Iliescu, I told him that many of my former university colleagues had been at the Foreign Ministry, and that I was therefore in a position to know that only those who also worked for the Interior Ministry (Securitate) remained shining stars in the Foreign Ministry.

I proposed that those who had been removed for refusing to work for the Securitate should be reinstated, and the Securitate informers should be directed to other areas. I added that if the President did not follow this course, there could hardly be any new Romanian foreign policy.

He listened attentively, made notes, and said only “bine” [alright].

After the conversation lasting 30-35 minutes I left with favourable impressions and I trusted that Ion Iliescu would sincerely support our endeavours for equal rights. He appeared to be an open-minded, pleasantly smiling person. This smile is nowadays no longer so natural; it has almost frozen onto the President’s face.

The greater was my shock therefore when a few days later, on the evening of January 25, Ion Iliescu spoke up on television against Hungarian “separatist” ambitions.

I rang him the next morning and protested, saying that he could hardly have chosen a more unfortunate expression. (I shall not list my arguments here, as I am repeating them in a newspaper article included in this book.)

Iliescu answered that he spoke against extremist phenomena on both sides, and asked what expression he should have used.

A bit taken aback, I said that finally the country had leaders who spoke Romanian excellently, and that in his milieu there were others who spoke the language much better than I did, since it was their mother tongue, and who could offer better advice than I.

I said: “I believe, Mr. President, that you should have urged the strengthening and restoration of unity.”

I discussed “separatism” with President Iliescu on one other occasion – approximately one week after the phone conversation mentioned above. In the restaurant of the Hotel Continental in Târgu Mureş, I was giving an interview to A. Pintea, editor of the Bucharest Adevărul, about what we would like to achieve in the new, democratic Romania for the sake of equal rights. (Needless to say, this interview was never published.)

At a certain moment, a hotel employee arrived in great haste with the message that the President was asking me to come to the phone at the reception desk. He went to look for me at home and had learned from my wife where I could be found.

Iliescu told me that two Romanian students of the Târgu Mureş Medical and Pharmaceutical Institute had visited him and complained that the Hungarian students demanded a separate canteen too. Well, was this not separatism? In view of the gasping listeners around me, I said only that the matter was not as he had been told. Iliescu asked me to receive the two Romanian students in my office the next day. Of course, I immediately agreed. The two young men never called on me. They would have been ashamed to present such a canteen story to me. They kept it for misleading the Romanian public.

These two leaders of the Romanian students’ organisation of the Târgu Mureş Medical and Pharmaceutical University, Silviu Morariu and Lucian Boilă, are doing their “job” today as university lecturers.