Memorandum of Conversation, by the First Secretary of Embassy in the Soviet Union (Page), Temporarily at Bucharest
|Present:||Prime Minister Groza|
|Ambassador Sir Archibald Clark Kerr|
|Ambassador W. A. Harriman|
|Mr. Le Rougetel|
|Mr. Edward Page, Jr.|
Subject: Implementation of Moscow Decision on Rumania
The British Ambassador referred to the letter he had received from [Page 563] Mr. Groza which he had communicated to his Government27 and said that he had asked to call since he knew that his Government would put forward some questions in respect to it. The letter spoke of general elections as soon as possible. His Government would like to know approximately when.
Mr. Groza stated that he had discussed this matter with the opposition and especially with Mr. Solomon.28 He had also talked to Hatieganu. Certain procedures would have to be worked out before the elections could be held. An electoral law must be passed. This question was being elaborated with the new members of the Government and with the ministries [sic] of Justice in order that a draft might be drawn up with which all would be in agreement. In addition in north Transylvania there were many cases of doubtful citizenship. These numbered in the tens of thousands. If the base was fixed in this latter regard perhaps the Transylvanian issue might be cleared up in two or three months. Then there was the question of drawing up the electoral list. This also would take time.
The British Ambassador stated that his country had had difficulty in this latter regard since there had been no elections for ten years. He would be pleased to furnish Mr. Groza the procedure that had been worked out.
Mr. Groza said that he would be pleased to receive this procedure. He continued that in addition there must be communal elections. Mr. Solomon had stated that it would be impossible to hold elections before six months, that is from a technical point of view. Furthermore Rumania was an agricultural country and there was seasonal work to do in the field. This work would be completed in June and July and it was anticipated that a suitable date would be found during these months. Mr. Groza stated that he wished to reassure the Ambassador that he intended to come to agreement with the other parties. He had received their representatives openly and frankly.
Mr. Harriman stated that in Moscow, Mr. Byrnes had expressed the hope that the elections might take place at the end of April or early in May. He would be sorry to hear of their postponement because of mechanical difficulties.
Mr. Groza expressed the agricultural influence on the elections. He did not wish them to interfere with the planting or harvesting. The campaign would last about six weeks.
The British Ambassador asked whether he could report that the electoral laws would not disclaim against any group or party. He assumed he was right in saying this.[Page 564]
Mr. Groza stated that once a party was received in the Government it had the stamp of democracy; therefore it could never be a question of discrediting. It would be absurd if one of the parties now in or coming in the Government would adopt a Hitler or anti-democratic line. However there always was this possibility. Rumania was a young country and the democratic tradition had not been stabilized.
The British Ambassador asked whether he could tell his Government that all parties would have the right to put up candidates.
Mr. Groza answered in the affirmative.
The British Ambassador stated that he understood that there were two Liberal parties. How was one to distinguish between them?
Mr. Groza stated that he could not speak precisely now but he presumed that each liberal party would have a different technical symbol. He explained briefly voting procedure in Rumania. He stated that Romniceanu had asked him to intervene between Bratianu and Tatarescu over certain questions, the ownership of Liberal clubs, for example, and he had agreed to do so.
Mr. Groza then spoke at length on the abuses in past Rumanian elections.
The British Ambassador inquired whether the new elections would follow those of the past.
Mr. Groza stated that the new democracy in Rumania would rid the country of the past abuses.
The British Ambassador inquired as to the counting of the ballots. It was his understanding that the Government had always won the elections in the past. He asked whether it would not be best to permit all the parties to take part in the counting.
Mr. Groza stated that he foresaw that the examination of ballots, would take place in the presence of all the parties or their representatives.
Mr. Groza then spoke at great length on how he had tried to live-up to American rules of conduct. He endeavored to assure the Ambassadors that he had the very best intentions and that he would put these in practice during the electoral campaign.
The British Ambassador stated that his country would watch Rumania with great interest during the campaign.
The British Ambassador stated that he hoped that two words would be outlawed during the campaigns. These were “fascist” and “traitor”. Then there would be quiet, peaceful and jolly elections. He inquired about broadcasting facilities and suggested that since the Rumanians were an emotional people it might be wise to exclude all politics from the radio during the elections.
Mr. Groza indicated his disapproval of this idea.[Page 565]
The British Ambassador inquired whether all parties would be given broadcasting facilities.
Mr. Groza answered in the affirmative. He said that the opposition parties would also have other means at their disposal such as a free press and assembly. He would like to suspend all politics and concentrate on the economic and financial situation of the country. However this was impossible. He wished to compromise and get in touch with all the political leaders around the table.
The British Ambassador stated that the ministries of Interior, Propaganda and Justice were entrusted with the elections. He inquired whether it would not be better to spread this responsibility among all the parties.
Mr. Groza maintained that this was only a technical question concerning the execution of plans which would eventually be decided upon by the broadened government. If there were any errors in the carrying out of these plans recourse could be made to the Council of Ministers.
The British Ambassador stated that he thought it would be in the interest of all if one organ which was not specifically communist or socialist or any other party could be set up to run the elections.
Mr. Groza inquired whether he wished to neutralize the elections. This would be too complicated and delicate a matter. However in the execution of the elections the forces would be neutralized.
The British Ambassador stated that he had mentioned this fact because such a neutralization would have a very reassuring effect in the United Kingdom. Western opinion would watch Rumania carefully and anything Mr. Groza could do in line with his suggestions would have a good effect.
Mr. Harriman stated that he wished to speak about the freedoms. He associated himself with the British Ambassador’s remarks concerning elections. He was proceeding to London where he would see Mr. Byrnes, who would ask what had transpired here. He knew he would ask when the freedoms would go into effect.
Mr. Groza stated that the cabinet had now been completed. It must now reach a common denominator as to how to interpret and apply the freedoms in the interests of the Rumanian people. He talked at length about the nationality problem in Rumania and a hostility which existed between their various elements in the country. He emphasized the long years of enmity between Rumania and Hungary, especially insofar as Transylvania was concerned. Passions and desires for revenge still existed. If complete freedom were given tomorrow there would be agitation which would upset all that had been done in Rumania for peace and democracy. He endeavored to [Page 566] assure the Ambassador that he would do his best to establish certain forms of freedom. Bratianu and Maniu had written to him and indicated certain steps which should be taken. These steps were being examined.
Mr. Harriman inquired whether all parties in the Government would be given equal rights to print and publish newspapers.
Mr. Groza replied that they would have this right within the framework of which he had spoken.
Mr. Harriman inquired whether these parties could have newspapers.
Mr. Groza replied in the affirmative.
Mr. Harriman inquired whether there would be any discrimination in respect to the amount of newsprint they were given.
Mr. Groza replied that newsprint would be distributed in proportion and by mutual agreement. There had been a paper crisis which he hoped would soon be over. He expected that this crisis would terminate by March.
Mr. Harriman inquired as to censorship. His Government would be very interested in that matter. It would also like to know for example whether speeches by Mr. Byrnes would also be reported in full. Such speeches would not excite the Hungarians against the Rumanians. Mr. Byrnes would ask him why his speech had not been reported in full.
Mr. Groza stated that he did not like to open up this question as he did not know the details. He was living here under special conditions and certain things had not been liquidated. He pleaded that the lawsuits of the past not be opened at the present time. He maintained that he had a great feeling of respect for Mr. Byrnes. The attitude towards his speeches was changing as was the atmosphere in Rumania. It was not good in the past but Mr. Groza had held his temper.
Mr. Harriman stated that he was talking about the future.
Mr. Groza said that he would do his best to keep in full time with the moment through which Rumania was passing—that is to live up fully with the decisions of the Big Three.
Mr. Harriman stated that he would be very interested in what Mr. Groza had said. However what was he to say to Mr. Byrnes when asked whether his statements on Rumania had been published.
Mr. Groza averted this question. He said that he had the greatest respect for Mr. Byrnes and would be careful to avoid any act which would indispose him.
Mr. Harriman stated that he would report that Mr. Groza reserved judgment on the question of printing Mr. Brynes’ speeches. It depended upon whether such speeches evoked a pleasant or unpleasant reaction on Mr. Groza.[Page 567]
Mr. Groza said that he felt certain that Mr. Brynes would say nothing that would indispose him. Rumania was a small country and had a sensitive nose. The situation was improving and going towards normalization. He refused to commit himself and talked in generalities.
Mr. Harriman stated that he believed that his statement covered the situation and was a quite accurate summation.
Mr. Groza said that his personal sentiments did not enter into the picture. The main factor was not to do anything to indispose Mr. Brynes or the great cause he was representing.
Mr. Harriman stated that he must say that he did not believe that Mr. Groza’s remarks conformed to the American point of view regarding the assurances concerning freedom of the press.
Mr. Groza stated he did not believe it wise to talk about future intentions. Like any lawsuit concerning intentions this matter was a difficult one to settle. He said that he would do his best to obtain the fullest confidence and appreciation on the part of the United States. He did not want to be considered the umpire. He thought only of what was going on in his country and as the Prime Minister of his country at times could not refuse to umpire. But he must recall that his country was living under armistice conditions. There was an ACC which still changed matters.
Mr. Harriman said that he was not speaking of ACC censorship but that of the Rumanian Government.
Mr. Groza stated that he stood for the fullest freedom of the press and would like to allow the publication of all material.
Mr. Harriman stated that he felt sure that his Government would take the view that statements by responsible members of the Government concerning Rumania should be published in the Rumanian press.
Mr. Groza stated that he had taken note of Mr. Harriman’s remarks.
Mr. Harriman said that he assumed that the Rumanian Government would exert control over the printers’ union which had taken over a certain form of censorship.
Mr. Groza denied knowledge of this. He said that at one time certain printers had exerted censorship. This had been stopped. In reply to Mr. Harriman’s inquiry he indicated that this would not happen in the future.
Mr. Harriman inquired as to the right of assembly. He said that he understood that all the political parties would have the right to hold meetings and have the necessary premises in which they could express their views.
Mr. Groza stated that the parties had such rights at the present time. He said that he might even help them improve their situation now that all parties were cooperating together.[Page 568]
Mr. Harriman stated that he understood that many people had been jailed in the country for political reasons. What could he tell Mr. Brynes concerning a political amnesty.
Mr. Groza stated that many persons had already been released from prison in order to alleviate the political situation between the parties. There had been a great deal of exaggeration, especially abroad, on the number of persons in jail. Furthermore, there had been much talk about political murders. No proof existed in this respect. In fact the question regarding political prisoners did not exist at the present time. There were no concentration camps in Rumania. He estimated, in reply to Mr. Harriman’s question, that there were only some tens of political prisoners under detention at the present moment.
Mr. Harriman stated that he was going to London tomorrow and that he would refer Mr. Groza’s communication to his Government. Mr. Berry would be in touch with Mr. Groza regarding the reply. He stated that he wished to thank Mr. Groza for his courtesies and expressed the hope that nothing but good would come of the discussions.
Mr. Groza terminated the conversation by expressing the thanks of himself, his Government and the Rumanian people for the pains the Ambassadors had taken in bringing about the results which had given great courage to the Rumanian people. He always remembered the good and forgot the bad. He requested the Ambassadors to retain only pleasant memories of Rumania. He requested them to transmit to their Foreign Ministers his thanks for what they had done and to assure them that Rumania was doing its best to cooperate in the peace and prosperity of the world.