Last Thursday, The Supreme Court of Romania rejected an appeal by the Transylvanian Reformed Church, effectively re-nationalizing the Székely Mikó College in Sepsiszentgyörgy (Sfântu Gheorghe in Romanian).
The school was built by the Reformed Church from private donations and operated until Communist Romania nationalized it – along with most larger private properties in Romania. In May 2002, after lengthy legal proceedings the school was restituted to the church.
Following a long series of appeals, the Romanian Supreme Court rejected the appeal, effectively giving the school back to the state. Reformed Church officials said they will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.
In a few days, Romania will celebrate 100 years of unification (which meant that as one of the winners of World War I it received a significant chunk of what was Hungary), and the leader of the European Commission is expected to celebrate the event in Bucharest. He is seemingly unperturbed by the fact that Romania still does not adhere to the rule of law in the European sense and – as one Hungarian cabinet member put it – “property restitution there remains based on Stalinist principles”.
The respect for private and community property is one of the pillars of the rule of law. Lately, however, in Romania the restitution of nationalized church properties has not only come to a virtual standstill, in many cases these are being re-nationalized in a blatant misuse of the law.
As of January 1, Romania will assume the revolving presidency of the European Union. This could be a good opportunity for the country to show that it is breaking with the political principles and practices of past extreme left and extreme right oppressive governments and is in fact accepting and observing European values and rule of law.
Title image: The Székely Mikó College in Sepsiszentgyörgy (Romanian: Sfântu Gheorghe) on a pre-WWI postcard.