HC Deb 19 October 1988 vol 138 cc873-4
2. Mr. Flynn

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what information he has on tensions between Hungary and Romania; and what representations he has made about the proposed systemisation of villages in Transylvania.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. William Waldegrave)

Tension between Romania and Hungary over the status of Transylvania has been exacerbated by Romania's policy of forced relocation of rural communities. My right hon. and learned Friend the Foreign Secretary has written to his Romanian counterpart to warn against human rights violations and damage to Europe's common cultural heritage.

Mr. Flynn

I congratulate the Minister on his first appearance at the Dispatch Box in his present role. I hope that in this regard, as in many others, there will be common ground between both sides of the House.

Is not the Foreign Secretary's letter a first step in denouncing the barbarism of the planned demolition of 8,000 ancient villages in Romania and the erasure of 1,000 years of history? Will the Minister note the anger and despair felt by the victims of systemisation, one of whom has written to me saying that they must remain silent, and that they feel impotent in the face of this threat? Is this not a first step, and must we not now continue to use our voice? We must not remain silent. We must protest powerfully and repeatedly against the planned demolition, which will be a community and linguistic pogrom and an act of architectural vandalism and cultural genocide against communities there.

Mr. Waldegrave

I am happy to agree with the hon. Gentleman and to say that this issue unites not only Members on both sides of the House, but many people on both sides of the iron curtain. I know that the hon. Gentleman appeared on Hungarian television and discussed this matter. It is an entirely legitimate use of the power of the House to protest and to make the kind of remark that the hon. Gentleman has made, because there is some chance that the people who are running Romania may listen. We should redouble our efforts, as the European Community and many individual countries have done, to emphasise our disgust at what is going on.

Mr. Cyril D. Townsend

Is not what is going on in Transylvania outrageous in terms of both human life and European culture? Will my hon. Friend do all that he can to gather the strength of the European Community so that we can speak with a strong voice and monitor the position closely?

Mr. Waldegrave

I shall certainly do what my hon. Friend urges me to do. The Twelve made a protest to the Romanian Government on 7 September. Like the hon. Member for Newport, West (Mr. Flynn), I have been receiving first-hand accounts of what is happening, and the hardship and distress that will be faced there in the winter will be very dire.

Mr. James Lamond

Whatever feelings the Minister may have on behalf of Romanians of Hungarian origin, if he pays regard to the reports that he receives from the embassy in Bucharest he must know that the systemisation of villages is not an act of discrimination against Hungarians. I see the Minister nodding. He may dislike the act of the Romanians in modernising their villages— [Interruption.]—systemising their villages if the House prefers it—but I wonder what purpose the Minister has in making a protest about it.

Mr. Waldegrave

I am willing to confirm that the regime in Romania is equally unpleasant to all its citizens. The Hungarians are one group of sufferers, as are, equally, the people of Romanian origin. If the hon. Gentleman is presenting himself to the House, and perhaps to Western Europe, as the last unreformed Stalinist who wants to defend this policy, I do not think that he will find many of his hon. Friends with him on that matter. Perhaps I misunderstood him. I am sure that he will join us in opposing a policy which is causing widespread anxiety among countries in Eastern as well as Western Europe.