HL Deb 29 July 1988 vol 500 cc489-91

The Marquess of Tweeddale asked Her Majesty's Government:

What representations they have made to the Government of Romania with regard to President Ceausescu's policy of reconstructing the villages of Transylvania and other parts of his country.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Lord Glenarthur)

My Lords, we deplore Romania's policy of systemisation, which will apparently involve forced resettlement on a nationwide basis, and the destruction of thousands of villages. The head of our delegation to the CSCE follow-up meeting in Vienna referred to the issue in plenary session on 15th July, having previously raised it bilaterally with his Romanian counterpart. We have expressed our concern to the Romanian Ambassador.

The Marquess of Tweeddale

My Lords, I thank the Minister for his reply which was gratifying to hear. Have similar representations been made about the human rights issue, especially in respect of the Hungarian and German minorities?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, Romania's human rights record is about the worst in Eastern Europe. We always raise that subject during ministerial and official contacts. Although there have been no ministerial visits recently, I can assure the noble Marquess that we shall continue to do all we can to ensure that there is an improvement in Romania's performance.

Lord St. John of Fawsley

My Lords, I too thank my noble friend for that encouraging reply. Is he aware that President Ceausescu, having ordered the destruction of large parts of historic Bucharest, is now intent on destroying cemeteries, houses, and churches, which form a large part of our European heritage in Transylvania? Can some further action be taken, possibly through the United Nations, to call a halt to that career of vandalism?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, my noble friend rightly points to another matter of great concern. I think that I am right to say that there have been no recent negative developments on the churches' issue; 16 churches have been demolished since 1984 and another 16 are thought to be under threat. I gather that on occasions churches have been moved rather than demolished. I can assure my noble friend that my right honourable and learned friend the Secretary of State raised those issues with the Romanian Foreign Minister last November.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that there have also been complaints in Romania about Catholics being bullied into reunion with the Orthodox Church contrary to their convictions and freedom of choice?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, I was not aware of that point, but I am grateful to my noble friend.

Lord Newall

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that in the villages of Transylvania where the Hungarians are in the vast majority, they also have a majority on the council, and that it is not the Hungarians who are being oppressed by the whole country?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, the systemisation, as it is called, that I have described is well under way around Bucharest, but on the information available to date no villages elsewhere have been completely destroyed. There is no evidence that the policy is directed primarily against Romania's national minorities, but those national minorities will suffer from the break up of those rural communities.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, in view of the great concern that has been expressed in the press and in the House today, will the Minister say whether there is any willingness on the part of Romania and other Eastern Bloc countries to sign a new human rights accord in Vienna?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, not that I know of. The subject of human rights is involved with all the matters to do with national minorities, and with the type of arrangements that can be made to discuss such matters in, for example, such as the United Nations. I can asssure the noble Baroness that we shall continue to ensure that where they can be discussed those matters are discussed.

Lord Auckland

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that those of us who have been to Romania can testify very strongly to the country's deplorable regime over human rights? Is there not a difficulty that since Romania is not a member of the EC or of EFTA, intervention by our Government has its problems? Nevertheless is my noble friend aware that anything which can be done to counteract the situation would generally be welcome?

Lord Glenarthur

My Lords, of course one cannot guarantee that whatever one says, those concerned in Romania will do anything about matters. However, discussion on systemisation among the Twelve has revealed general concern at the implications of the policy. We and our partners will continue to watch and discuss developments.

Lord Gisborough

My Lords, in view of the deplorable record of human rights in Romania, have Her Majesty's Government any plans for recommending a restriction on sporting links and such matters?

Lord Glenarthur

No, my Lords.

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