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Modeste Schwartz: “Banning Me, One Further Step Towards Romania’s Re-Morphing into a Police State”

Reading Time: 11 minutes

Hungary – Phone interview with Modeste Schwartz, graduate of the French elite school ENS-Ulm, linguist, translator, author, publicist and author for the Visegrád Post and other websites: “Banning me, one further step towards Romania’s re-morphing into a police state”.

At the end of October, returning from the West by plane, Modeste Schwartz was notified when he arrived in Cluj-Napoca, Romania – a city where he has lived most of the time during the last fifteen years -, a ban of five years. Reason? State secret. Known by our readers, the bohemian and insolent author of the Visegrád Post answered the questions of editor-in-chief Ferenc Almássy.

Ferenc Almássy: This interview is a bit special. Firstly because we know each other well; our readers too know you, but under your pen name: Modeste Schwartz. And then, it’s a special interview because you’ve just been banished from Romania … Can you summarize in a few words “the Weiss affair”?

Modeste Schwartz: Last week, I had the sad privilege of making the headlines of the Romanian press (including the press of the Hungarian minority in Transylvania, which I am emotionally close to in private life) and of the Hungarian one, because of the decision which bans me from Romania for 5 years – a decision that was communicated to me on October 24 at the Cluj / Kolozsvár airport by the Romanian border police.

Very conveniently, the “facts” I am accused of are classified as “national security” data (a good way to hide the shortcomings of fabricated evidence and questionable witnesses – both being methods frequently used by the Romanian Deep State), but the laws mentioned in the banning decision (dated 13 September 2018) leave little doubt as to the nature of the pretexts that have been chosen to justify on the surface this well-characterized abuse: among other crimes, they refer to endangering the “unitary nature” of the Romanian state – a clear allusion to an underlying accusation of “irredentist” activities.

From the point of view of administrative law, the modus operandi, anyway, is similar to the one adopted in the case of Attila Dabis – a Hungarian nationalist who was declared inadmissible last March. Let us recall here that the scarecrow of Hungarian irredentism has been the preferred self-legitimation strategy of the Romanian Deep State ever since it has been confronted with the problems posed to this kind of structure by a formally free press and a formally democratic regime. Dissolved during the fall of the communist regime, the infamous Securitate de stat – which probably did not stop functioning for one single day – obtained its re-officialization (under new names) in the early 1990s thanks to the inter-ethnic riots in Târgu-Mureş / Marosvásárhely (an incipient ethnic cleansing of Hungarians living in that Szekler city – an event that, according to some, the then underground Securitate may have provoked behind the scene). Since then, most of the (numerous) breaches of the European protocol committed by Romania (in the midst of a heavy silence in the Western press) have targeted Hungarian officials of various ranks, from MPs to the Head of the State.

Ferenc Almássy: You seem to be saying that the (semi-)official reasons for the decision are not the real reasons. In your opinion, what are the real reasons?

Modeste Schwartz: Obviously, the Romanian Deep State has decided to react brutally to my journalistic activity of the last two years, during which – above all in the Visegrád Post – I denounced a number of its anti-democratic interferences in the political life of the country, while shedding a harsh light on the influence of transnational networks (above all the Euro-globalist ones, such as the Open Society) which guide and cover these interferences internationally. Let us note in passing that despite my geographical location (in Cluj / Kolozsvár), Transylvania was rarely the subject of my editorials, which on the contrary often revealed a situation of objective complicity between some Hungarian liberal circles in Transylvania and the Romanian Deep State – which makes the accusation of “Hungarian propaganda”, implicitly contained in the text of the decision, even more exotic.

Ferenc Almássy: I think you have successfully made the point that you are not what some Romanians implicitly accuse you of being. But this forces us to ask you the big question: what is your position on Transylvania?

Modeste Schwartz: Regarding history, I defend no position at all. And for me, this whole thing is above all history. I do not advocate more for or against the Treaty of Trianon than for or against the Edict of Nantes, because I do not think it makes any sense today. Politically, however, one should first and foremost bear in mind that, nowadays, Hungarian speakers represents (at the most) 20% of the Transylvanian population, the rest being almost entirely made up of Romanians. In these circumstances, it is not clear how the Transylvanian Hungarians could question the constitutional and territorial order of Romania, even regionally. What does indeed exist is a Romanian separatism in Transylvania, whose main inspiration is the Romanian journalist Sabin Gherman, apparently commissioned by certain Western European spheres of interest to weigh on Bucharest the threat of a partition (just like Scottish independence is being weaponized by an anti-Brexit blackmail) in the event that the Romanian political class would feel the temptation of sovereignism. Nothing, however, indicates that Gherman would enjoy strong Romanian-Transylvanian popular support, and most Hungarians (loyal to their ethnic party RMDSZ / UDMR, today allied with Hungary’s FIDESZ) also stand apart from his demagogic rhetoric.

On the other hand, in the easternmost part of Transylvania, there is a region of two and a half counties (the Szekler Land), massively populated by Hungarian-speakers, mostly of the Szekler ethnic group. In spite of what all the media agents of the Romanian Deep State would like you to believe, asking for the autonomy of this region within the Romanian state is not in itself separatism, and does not necessarily imply a Revisionist vision of the Transylvanian problem. As this small sub-region is at the geographical centre of Romania, in the part of Transylvania located the furthest from the Hungarian border, it is also difficult to imagine how its autonomy could “naturally” degenerate into re-annexing by Hungary. As far as I’m concerned, without exerting any militant activity in the service of that cause, I personally consider that the Szeklers’ will of autonomy is justified by the right of peoples to self-determination. I consider – with Alain de Benoist – that one cannot be both traditionalist and Jacobin – a very frequent contradiction among Romanian nationalists, who, for many, think they are perpetuating a millennial quest for unity when, in reality, they simply keep regurgitating the chauvinistic slogans of the Ceauşescu era.

Ferenc Almássy: Let’s go back to your deportation and inadmissibility. What distinguishes this case from other similar cases during recent years in Romania? In what way would it be particular, or remarkable?

Modeste Schwartz: Most of the banning decisions adopted for political motives have so far mostly involved activists and politicians of the Hungarian far-right, whose discourse includes, indeed, questioning the fairness of the peace treaties that ended the First World War, including the Treaty of Trianon, which deprived the Kingdom of Hungary of two-thirds of its territory. Even in their case, in fact, those measures are based on a lato sensu, probably tendentious, interpretation of Romanian law, which certainly makes punishable any “plan” aimed at calling into question the territorial integrity of the country – but even in Romanian, the extension of the notion of “plan” to that of opinion is not obvious. Only this time, by striking a French journalist who has never adopted any revisionist position (neither pro nor contra) and who does not belong to any Hungarian irredentist organization, the clique controlling the Romanian Deep State has clearly taken the risk of a qualitative leap in the trajectory that, for several years, has visibly been removing this country from European standards of legality and freedom of expression.

Ferenc Almássy: Your editorials on Romania published by the Visegrád Post in recent months seemed, overall, favourable to the government of the parliamentary majority currently in power. It is therefore surprising that such a decision, which in principle falls under the executive power, was taken against you. What is your reading of the respective responsibilities of what you call the “Deep State” and the Romanian government in the “Weiss affair”?

Modeste Schwartz: At the time of the outbreak of what is now called “the Weiss affair”, the government of Viorica Dăncilă had just extricated itself, at the price of yet another reshuffle, from another scandal which – as if by chance – also jeopardized the peaceful coexistence of the main ethnic groups of the country: by making suddenly compulsory, for the teaching of Romanian in schools (including primary schools, not excepting those of the Hungarian minority), a level of training in Romanian philology reached by few teachers from the Hungarian minority, a new Ordinance of the Ministry of Education was about to provoke the forced replacement at short notice of experienced Hungarian teachers, able to teach children in their native language, by beginners of Romanian ethnicity, for the most part not speaking any other language than Romanian.

The case echoed many similar incidents (concerning textbooks, etc.), the common denominator of which is the refusal to admit that for members of the Hungarian minority, Romanian is technically a foreign language – more important than others, certainly, because of its official status, but such a difference should not affect the pedagogical requirements. This denial of reality may, in some cases, have been based on stupidity or ignorance – but it is, on the whole, too common not to also reflect politically motivated bad faith. But what is meant by political motivation? In this case (in the case of the Teacher Training Ordinance), it could in no way reflect a government orientation: although it did not enter the government, the party of the Hungarian minority (UDMR / RMDSZ) has for months been an external ally of the ruling coalition, and could even become Liviu Dragnea’s lifejacket, in case his current government partner (the small ALDE party, ideologically unstable and too sensitive to various influences from the world of Big Money) would fail him. The adoption of the Ordinance in question was therefore clearly a sabotage manoeuvre, the perpetrators of which within the Ministry of Education (or even their minister himself) could well be undercover agents of the Deep State. In this case, the government’s reaction, following strong protestations by the UDMR / RMDSZ, was not long in coming: the Ordinance was revoked, and the minister had to resign.

Ferenc Almássy: Would such a reaction be possible / feasible in the “Weiss affair”?

Modeste Schwartz: Probably not. In fact, this extraordinary case illustrates another very disturbing aspect of the almost unlimited power of an uncontrolled Deep State over the democratically elected bodies of Romanian power: by classifying under “national security” the “facts” I am accused of, the authors of this abuse of power also largely bind the hands of the government. It is easy to imagine that no member of the PSD – e.g. an MP or a minister – would take the risk of taking a decision without first checking the validity of these accusations. But how to check the validity of accusations that (supposing that the file is not completely empty) are likely to rely on manufactured evidence and/or purchased or extorted witnessing? In practice, such a process involves the organization of a counter-investigation, with specific means and skills pertaining to counterintelligence. In other words: in this type of case, the Romanian Deep State is judge and jury, and the democratically elected bodies, terrorized by its “patriotism blackmail”, have to assist helplessly to the strengthening of a Latin American-type police state.

Unfortunately, the ability of the Romanian political class (or at least its least controlled sectors) to resist such blackmail is also limited by rather unfavourable historical precedents. Widely favoured in the nineteenth century by the secret diplomacy of the Hapsburgs, the emergence of Romanian nationalism in Austro-Hungarian Transylvania was specifically directed against the Hungarian nation, designated (at the price of some amount of rewriting of history) as the hereditary enemy. The first steps of post-1989 democratic Romania have confirmed this dangerous trend: adopting – to replace the communist hymns – of a national anthem whose text contains magyarophobic elements, and choosing, for the date of the national holiday, December 1, which commemorates the annexation of Transylvania to the young Romanian state at the time of the dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. This trend is now exacerbated by the commemoration of the centenary of the “reunification of the nation” – a series of festivities that no one – in this poorest state in the Union – dares to criticize for its oversized budget, and which seems to include my banishment (since the logo of the centenary festivities appears in the header of the entry ban decision notified to me on October 24 in the transit area of the Cluj airport). This same year saw the election, at the head of the Romanian Academy, of the historian Ion Aurel Pop, rector of the Babeş-Bolyai University of Cluj – a university created by the communist regime after the war, by the forced annexation of the old and prestigious Hungarian Bolyai university to the young Babeş university of the same city (it is this same university which invites from time to time the American “philanthropist” Don Lothrop to hold talks, during which he explains to Romanian students that – verbatim – “Viktor Orbán wants Transylvania back from you”). Former director of the Romanian Cultural Institute of New York, Ion Aurel Pop, whose magyarophobia is notorious, grew up in Braşov, in one of the zones most marked by the policies of forced romanization of the Transylvanian cities which characterized the regime of Nicolas Ceauşescu.

Ferenc Almássy: But all the events you mention date back to a century or more ago – or, for the most recent ones, to the last decades of the communist regime. Since then, plenty has happened, including Romania joining the EU in 2007. How can such old events continue to influence so decisively the political life of the country in 2018?

Modeste Schwartz: For an external observer, indeed, the character of aggravated paranoia that marks – especially on the Romanian side – the Hungarian-Romanian relations over the last hundred years is staggering: the very idea that Hungary – militarily the weakest state of the region – could seriously want to tear off from Romania – the second largest NATO army in post-communist Europe – and annex Transylvania (whose territory is larger than its own, and the population, mostly Romanian, is barely inferior) sounds like a bad joke. In most European countries, a myth as far removed from reality could not survive, not even at the price of a media hype as intensive as that organized for decades by the numerous agents of the Romanian Deep State infiltrated (as admitted by some members of said Deep State themselves) in the Romanian press. To understand the effectiveness of this intoxication, we must take into account the general mentality of Romanians, who tend to see themselves – in their own country, whose borders have suffered only little changes in a century, and where they have an ethnic majority of at least 80% – as a threatened minority. This oddity is the admission of a real weakness (that of the modern national feeling among Romanians), which is also the reverse of a real force, which contributed in the past to arouse my interest and affection for them: their anthropologically traditional character. Like the peoples of Africa and Central Asia, Romanians have a collective conscience based, above all, on family and religion: the extended family and Orthodoxy (or, more recently, the neo-Protestant churches which tend to replace it in the North of the country) are for them daily realities, much more important than the weak and recent Romanian nation-state, built of odds and ends by imitation of poorly digested Western models, and which – due to the neoliberal ransacking of the state that characterized the Băsescu era – shows a level of involvement in the fabric of society which is one of the lowest in Europe. In Romania, trade union activity not agreed upon by the employer is an almost official reason for dismissal, and many de facto unemployed people will never register as such, the amount of allowances paid barely justifying the bureaucratic marathon required by the slightest administrative act in that country: this is the reality which is meant to be overshadowed by the great patriotic speeches of Ion Aurel Pop, the xenophobic fanfares of the Centenary and – as a surprise episode of this Borat-like tragicomedy – the banning of “Hungarian agent” Modeste Schwartz. The hysterical emphasis put on the (otherwise legitimate) criterion of territorial integrity is commensurate with the lack of state content and real sovereignty that characterizes the formally state-like thing called “Romania”, and derives directly from it.

Ferenc Almássy: What, according to you, might be the political consequences of your banishment, if there are any?

Modeste Schwartz: In the dematerialized world of the twenty-first century press, it is unlikely that this vexatious measure will succeed in forcing me to silence. But after all, by formally violating the freedom of the press, the Deep State gaggles above all its main victims: the Romanian taxpayer, who will continue to finance the most expensive “intelligence” structures (read: political police) in Europe, while often working for a pittance in the service of companies held by the submerged economic network of this same Deep State; and the Romanian voter, who will continue, election after election, to be offered a rigged choice between various puppets of the Deep State, subjected to its blackmail since the very beginning of their political career. Incidentally, the event might – quite against my will! – contribute to rot the relations between Budapest and Bucharest, that is to say the current rapprochement between the V4 and Romania, which is an almost mechanical consequence of the weakening of Brussels, added to a phobia of diplomatic isolation which constitutes a secular trend in the international behaviour of the Romanian elite. Sabotaging such rapprochement constitutes an absolute strategic priority of the Romanian Deep State, and especially of its Euro-Globalist sponsors of the Brussels-Berlin axis. After all, was it not Jean-Claude Juncker himself who, these days, chose to stimulate the hysteria of the Centenary by declaring that “all that is Romanian is also European”? Given the light-heartedness shown by the Eurocracy in “adapting” its own rules on the go as part of its punitive campaigns against Hungary and Poland, I can only agree: a rhetoric of the rule of law hiding institutional delinquency, a territory / market without real state and culture content, a political life built on intoxication and manipulation – these all are, indeed, “values” which, at present, are both typically “Romanian” and typically “European”.