August 2, 2010
What do Turkey, a non EU member, Spain and Romania have in common ? All three countries are currently affected by the re-emergence of powerful ethnic conflicts. Not long ago, the Catalunians took to the streets to ask for the independence of their province, after they had obtained a large measure of autonomy in 2006. The Kurds are on the move again in Turkey, as last week’s Hatay and Inegol incidents demonstrate. Not to be left behind, the Calvinist pastor Laszlo Tokes has again called on the Szekely minority from Transylvania to take to the streets and ask for autonomy within the structures of the Romanian state.
The Turkish government has announced a referendum for September, which, if successful, would severely curb the ability of the Turkish military to interfere with political life and institutions. Rightly or wrongly, Erdogan’s cabinet suspects that the incidents in Hatay and Inegol are the work of his political enemies, bent on undermining civil peace in Turkey.
Romania, on the other hand, has been hit as of the beginning of July with an austerity package that makes little sense, as it cuts by some whopping 25 percent the salaries of all state employees. That includes the police force, judges, secret services. Hence Mr Tokes’ call to arms, sensing the renewed opportunity, like in 1999, that the state structures and finances in Romania have been severely weakened.
Mr Tokes was the Bush Sr. Administration’s man in Romania, the pawn used by the CIA to ignite the Timisoara civil unrest that sparked the 1989 violent revolution. Since then he has become a valued member of the Bushes’ inner circle, regularly attending conservative meetings, prayer breakfasts and the like in the Bush White House. Oddly enough, this dangerously radical priest has now become vice-president of the European Parliament, although his political message is essentially anti-European and chauvinistic in nature.
During the 1990’s, I have believed for a while that allowing for the autonomy of Hungarians and Szekelys in Transylvania could lead to greater stability for Romania as a whole. I have realised, however, that this would not be the case, because in the strategy of the separatists autonomy is a stepping stone to full independence.
In 2006 I have tried to meet and talk face-to-face with Tokes in Oradea, where he currently lives with his family. He was fresh from a trip to the White House and I was curious to know what the Americans had in store for us then. I have met his wife, who gave me his personal phone number to call. When I spoke to him, he asked me in a very alarmed manner how it is that I got hold of his number. I simply said I rang his bell, his wife answered the door and gave it to me. The man refused to believe it, accusing me of being a lying, conniving SRI agent out to destroy the harmony in his family… As the latest ethnic tensions in Transylvania demonstrate, the man has not got a more normal attitude since then, only a better job. By putting an equal sign between the situation of Hungarians in Transylvania and that of Albanians in Kosovo, he makes a huge intellectual error and only proves that his actions are driven by hate and intolerance for his Romanian co-nationals.
To be sure, the ethnic separatist movements from Turkey, Romania or Spain are, in the words of Rusen Cakir from Turkish Vatan, “the mother of all problems” for the political leadership of all three. It is interesting to observe that ethnic radicalism re-emerges whenever the economic situation deteriorates globally. It would also be interesting to know what outside entities or countries stand to benefit from ethnic strife in Europe and Turkey. (Surely not China !)Florian Pantazi