196. Action Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs (Vest), the Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights and Humanitarian Affairs (Derian), and the Director of the Policy Planning Staff (Lake) to the Deputy Secretary of State (Christopher)1


  • The Ceausescu Visit—Human Rights Issues


How three humanitarian issues should be taken up during President Ceausescu’s visit. Decisions are needed well before Ceausescu’s arrival on April 11.


We agree that the President should raise the subject of human rights with Ceausescu, making reference to obligations in the Helsinki Final Act assumed by all signatory states to respect human rights and discuss such matters with one another. The President should urge Ceausescu directly to take favorable and prompt action on present and future emigration and marriage requests including emigration to Israel, particularly if Romania wishes the Administration to seek Romanian MFN status from Congress on a multi-annual basis. Since human rights problems are already an important item on our bilateral agenda, there is disagreement within the Department over the degree to which and whether the following three additional and sensitive human rights issues should be raised with the Romanians during this visit.


A. Hungarian Minority

The Romanian Government is periodically accused of officially sanctioned discrimination against the approximately 1.7 million ethnic [Page 596] Hungarians in Romania, such as restrictions on schooling in the Hungarian language, employment discrimination, and strong efforts to assimilate Hungarians into the Romanian culture. American-Hungarian organizations are sensitive to this issue. Sixty-six Members of Congress wrote to President Carter on March 22 stating their concern and specifically asking that he raise the matter with Ceausescu.

Recent media attention has focused on detailed written criticism of the official Romanian policy towards ethnic Hungarians. The author was Karoly Kiraly, an ethnic Hungarian still in Romania who formerly held a high position in the Romanian Communist Party.

For Romania, the Hungarian minority issue raises sensitive territorial questions. Most ethnic Hungarians live in Transylvania which was not incorporated into modern Romania until after World War I. Romanian authorities fear that the real motivation behind the recent public debate in Hungary over this issue is an irredentist attempt. They are also concerned that the USSR may be stirring it up to pressure Romania because of its independent foreign policy. It has assumed increasing importance in Romanian-Hungarian relations since Ceausescu and Kadar referred to it publicly for the first time in June 1977. It continues to be discussed at high levels between the two governments. In a speech March 16, Ceausescu criticized shortcomings and deficiencies in Romanian policy toward the Hungarian and German minorities and put forward specific remedial actions.

Department officials (Nimetz et al) have raised the issue with visiting Romanian officials, most recently with Deputy Foreign Minister Gliga on March 17.2 We put the issue in the context of our global support for minority rights, reiterated our firm support for Romanian territorial integrity, and made clear that we are not proposing specific solutions but felt we had to raise the matter because of Administration, public and Congressional interest in humanitarian matters set down in the Helsinki Final Act.

Ceausescu may well preempt the issue by raising it with the President and explaining the situation as he sees it. If so, it would be an opportunity for the President to express his satisfaction that the issue has come up and to explain the concern which exists in the United States in this regard.


1. The President Raises Issue with Ceausescu

Should Ceausescu not raise the issue, the President on his own would raise it to make clear at the highest level the seriousness with which the U.S. views this aspect of human rights.

[Page 597]

In doing so he could note that the U.S. seeks a continuing official dialogue on such questions rather than any U.S. involvement in Romania’s internal affairs. He could emphasize that if U.S. public debate on this issue is erroneous or ill-informed, such debate is still a legitimate consequence of the U.S. democratic process. The U.S. Government, however, would be better informed as to allegations of discrimination if there were a better bilateral discussion of the matter. (HA supports.)

2. The Secretary Raises Issue with the Foreign Minister

If the President has not raised the issue during his general discussion of human rights and emigration issues with Ceausescu, he could note his concern about certain delicate human rights problems and indicate his wish that those be discussed at the Foreign Minister level.

If the issue is left for the Secretary, we would try to have the Romanians raise it. In response to their presentation, the Secretary would explain the interest which exists in the Administration, Congress and the public domain for a fair and just solution to existing problems.

If the Romanians do not raise it, the Secretary could ask the Foreign Minister to comment on the Hungarian minority issue as one of the human rights issues embodied in the Helsinki Final Act. In either case, he could stress that the U.S. strongly supports Romanian territorial integrity, opposes irredentism, and has no wish to see this issue troubling the relations among the United States, Romania and Hungary.

The Secretary’s approach would serve to bring strong U.S. interest in this matter to Ceausescu’s attention. It would not fully address the concerns of the Congressmen that the President raise the matter. (EUR and S/P support, as does HA if the President does not raise it.)

3. Issue is not Raised by the President or Secretary

Choosing this option signifies recognition that the Romanians and Hungarians have this issue on their agenda at a high level; that Ceausescu recently made recommendations to correct Romanian policy toward minority problems; and that the United States has little or nothing to gain from involving itself directly in an issue between two Communist governments.


1. That the President raise the issue with Ceausescu. (HA supports.)

2. That the Secretary raise the issue with the Foreign Minister. (EUR and S/P support, as does HA if the President does not raise it.)3

3. That the issue not be raised by the President or Secretary.

[Page 598]

B. Loans to Romania from International Financial Institutions

Recently, and in accordance with current legislative requirements, we have advised Romanian officials of our obligation to take human rights considerations into account in determining our position on loan applications to international financial institutions (IFIs) like the World Bank. However, we have not advised the Romanians that the U.S. is contemplating specific negative action against them in the IFIs. It is widely understood that Ceausescu maintains a tightly controlled internal political system. There is lack of consensus in the Department on the degree to which there is a pattern of violations of human rights in Romania serious enough to warrant such action.

The U.S. encouraged Romania to join the World Bank and the IMF, in keeping with our interest in lessening Romania’s economic and political dependence on the USSR and Communist economic organizations. This stems from Administration policy (in accordance with PD–21) to make legitimate efforts to accord Romania favored treatment in, among other things, economic matters. We are required by the Harkin Amendment (1977)4 and PD–305 to consider Romania’s human rights policies in the IFI context.


1. The President Raises Issue with Ceausescu

This would signal the most serious intent to reflect upon the human rights situation in Romania and our need to consider this in decisions for positive votes, abstaining or voting against Romanian loan applications in the IFIs. The President could raise this issue in a calm fashion without suggesting that the United States is on the verge of abstaining or of a negative vote in the IFI and could make clear he has an open rather than closed mind on the subject. (HA supports.)

2. Secretary Raises Issue with the Foreign Minister

This could be taken up as one of the “delicate problems” mentioned by the President (see above). The Secretary could explain the requirements of U.S. law and stress our wish to continue supporting Romanian IFI loan applications. (S/P supports, as does HA if the President does not raise it.)

[Page 599]

3. Issue is not Raised by President or Secretary

This course would avoid difficulties in our relations and maintain consistency with PL–21. The Romanians have already been informed at a high level of U.S. legislative requirements. The U.S. has other levers (for example, the MFN/emigration hearings) with which to exert pressure on human rights issues. (EUR supports.)


1. That the President briefly raise the issue with Ceausescu. (HA supports.)

2. That the Secretary raise the issue with the Foreign Minister. (S/P and HA support.)6

3. That the issue not be raised during the visit. (EUR supports.)

C. The Rauta Case

Constantin Rauta was a Romanian official with intelligence responsibilities who defected just before Ceausescu’s official visit to the U.S. in December 1973. Rauta is now an engineer at the Goddard Space Flight Center. He was traveling as a diplomatic courier and asked U.S. officials to help him trade his classified pouch for Romanian permission for his wife and young son to join him in the United States. We convinced him of the impracticality of such an exchange given the imminent arrival of the Romanian President and the pouch was returned unopened to the Romanians.

The principal Romanian objection to allowing Mrs. Rauta and the child to emigrate is that the family’s reunification would be seen as a reward to a traitor and would encourage similar defections. Ceausescu is reportedly familiar with all the above aspects of the case, apparently regards Rauta’s defection as a personal affront and is the only person who can decide the fate of Rauta’s wife and child.

Our representation on humanitarian grounds have been stubbornly rebuffed by Romanian officials who insist that because Rauta is a traitor, this is not a human rights matter. They may maintain that our raising it in this context only confuses matters. We do not accept that view but are prepared to resolve this issue on any practical basis. Prospects are not bright in the near future but we intend to persist.


1. The President Raises the Issue with Ceausescu

This would signal the strongest interest in resolving this longstanding case and our understanding that only Ceausescu holds the key to [Page 600] unlocking this case. Raising the issue with Ceausescu could make him uncomfortable and may not immediately secure the release of Rauta’s family.

This would give the Romanian President an understanding of the U.S. view that, three years after the granting of MFN, there should be progress in even the most difficult of the divided family cases with Romania. A number of longstanding cases will have been resolved in the weeks before Ceausescu’s arrival here, clearly as a result of a Romanian attempt to put its best face forward. Indications are that there is little high-level Romanian receptivity to bargaining for the Rauta family’s release. A high-level U.S. reaffirmation to Ceausescu that the Rauta matter is a humanitarian issue which can be resolved will maintain the momentum we have generated in pressing the case with Romanian authorities. There has been no confirmation to us that the Romanian President is even aware of our heightened concern for the Rauta wife and child. (HA supports.)

2. Secretary Raises the Issue with the Foreign Minister

This course would also make clear very strong U.S. interest in resolving this case, without producing a confrontation during the Ceausescu visit. It could be taken up as one of the “delicate problems” referred to by the President. (S/P support this option, as does HA, if the issue is not raised by the President.)

3. Issue is not Raised by the President or Secretary

We have already raised this issue at high levels this year. Our Ambassador raised it with Deputy Foreign Minister Pacoste in January and delivered a note. We raised it with Presidential Counselor Pungan in Washington. Just recently, on March 30, our Ambassador made a strong pitch to Pungan to find some solution and Congressman Vanik made an equally strong pitch to the Foreign Minister on April 1 at our prodding. (EUR supports.)


1. That the President confirm U.S. interest in the Rauta affair as humanitarian and seek Ceausescu’s agreement to allow the wife and child to join Mr. Rauta here. (HA supports.)

2. That the Secretary raise the issue with Andrei. (S/P supports, as does HA, if the President does not raise.)7

3. That the issue not be raised. (EUR supports.)

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Official Working Papers, S/P Director Anthony Lake, 1977–Jan 1981, Lot 82D298, Box 3, S/P-Lake Papers—4/1–15/78. Confidential. Drafted by Andrews, Sillins, Brody, and Kaplan; cleared by Luers, Fuerth, and Wolf. Luers initialed the memorandum for Vest; Brody initialed for Derian. The undated memorandum was sent under a covering memorandum through Nimetz on April 5. In his memorandum, Nimetz recommended that Vance raise the Hungarian minority issue with Andrei, that there was no need to raise the IFI issue, and that the Rauta case not be brought up during the Ceausescu visit. (National Archives, RG 59, Office of the Secretariat Staff, Mr. Matthew Nimetz, Counselor of the Department of State, Under Secretary of State for Security Assistance, Science and Technology, January 1977 thru December 1980, Lot 81D85, Box 1, MN Chron—Official, January–June 1978) Nimetz forwarded Christopher’s decisions to Vance under an April 10 covering memorandum. (Ibid.)
  2. In telegram 74362 to Bucharest, March 22, the Department informed the Embassy of the Nimetz-Gliga conversation on the treatment of the Hungarian minority in Romania. (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780127–0309)
  3. Christopher approved Option 2 on April 8, and wrote in the margin: “Suggest that President state that he has asked Secy of State to raise certain human rights matters. WC.”
  4. The Harkin Amendment to the Fair Trade Act prohibited the United States from offering economic assistance to countries that grossly violated human rights.
  5. PD–30, signed by Carter on February 17, 1978, established that promoting the observance of human rights would be a major objective of U.S. foreign policy.
  6. Christopher approved Option 2 on April 8.
  7. Christopher approved Option 2 on April 8.