Hungary is continuously trying to establish a good relationship with Romania. As an example, Hungarian PM Viktor Orban and former Romanian PM Liviu Dragnea made a bilateral agreement that Romania guarantees the reestablishment of a previously closed Hungarian language catholic school in Târgu Mureş (a city with 50% ethnic Hungarian population), and as a compensation, Hungary would support the acceptance of Romania into the OECD.

However there were strong indications that in the case of the Catholic school, Romanian could not guarantee the reestablishment without issuing a law which proved to be unconstitutional.

How can a country make a bilateral agreement with Romania, if later some other organization invalidates any agreement it wishes to?

More abstractly, given two states, how can they make legally bidding agreements, if in one of the countries an institution can make any agreement of the elected political leadership invalid?

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    While I'm not familiar with Romanian politics, anything referring to the deep state as the enemy (who conveniently cannot defend itself against defamation if it doesn't exist) is more often than not a baseless conspiracy theory. Therefore I suggest supporting some of the assertions you made with sources, to improve how the question will received.
    – Peter
    Commented Nov 29, 2019 at 19:28
  • @Peter all institutions which are embodied in 1 person cannot defend themselves when they are attacked as a whole. Notably the US Congress is so often demonized that no single Congress member has an approval rating as low as the institution does as a whole.
    – grovkin
    Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 0:25
  • @Adam - I am not sure what you mean by "deep state", but in the specif case of the high school, the law for setting up a Hungarian-language high school in Targu Mures was unconstitutional according to Romania’s Constitutional Court (CCR). The motivation was: "it is up to the local authorities to decide the setting up of an education institution while the Parliament should focus on laws with broader impact". So, it was decided by the Constitutional Court which also provided a reason.
    – Alexei
    Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 14:08
  • @Adam - the question is on the brink of deletion and I have edited it quite a lot to match what actually happened (no deep state, the Constitutional Court decided that a law was not constitutional). Please feel free to revert the edit if it is too far from what actually wanted to ask.
    – Alexei
    Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 14:18
  • As a side note the "deep state" (a concept that was new to the regular folk in the Dragnea era) also became a topic for literature: "Where is the deep/parallel state, because I want to emigrate there".
    – Alexei
    Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 14:21

3 Answers 3


"Deep state" theories spouted by the illiberal Orban and similar alt-right exponents elsewhere are usually hardly credible, being more likely to be conspiracy theories. Next thing you're going to tell us is that Soros (another favorite scare crow of Orban) runs Romania too.

You haven't provided any evidence for your assertions about goes on in Romania (who might not want to strike a deal with Orban for any number of reasons) is a result of a "deep state".

According to a Romanian analysis (but published in English), Romania lags the OECD, including Hungary on a good number of parameters, so it's quite unclear if Hungary's support would be enough to help with Romania's membership. Actually, I suspect that being supported by Orban but not Western EU countries might haven detrimental effects on any political effort, given that Orban tends to be shunned in the Western EU. So Romania might have good reasons not to hitch their cart to Orban on this or any other political goal.

What seems a more plausible explanation is that Romania has a semi-presidential system and that until recently the presidency and prime-ministership were held by opposing parties:

While the president has limited authority in the country’s parliamentary system, the campaign has been widely viewed as a referendum on the Social Democrats’ government and the party’s stumbling efforts to fight corruption, which continues to plague many facets of daily life in one of the poorest nations in the European Union. [...]

Mr. Iohannis has increasingly positioned himself as the bulwark against attacks on the rule of law. In a televised news event days before the vote, he claimed that without him, the rule of law would have been broken in Romania. Ms. Dancila, for her part, has labeled him arrogant and a coward for refusing to face her in a public debate. [...]

while Mr. Iohannis has not been the most charismatic of presidents, many Romanians continue to support him because “he’s a convinced pro-European and has confronted the corruption and regression embodied by the Social Democratic Party while it’s been in power.”

So they seem to have had their own version of gridlock.

It's actually rather hard to see with whom Viktor Orban was more likely to get friendly with... a center-right Romanian president who seems to be staunchly pro-EU or a more populist but presumably leftist Romanian Social Democratic party, which probably aligns with Viktor Orban's views on some matters (apparently they blame Soros too) but probably not on others (unless their center-left self-label is entirely bogus).

In many ways, the struggle in Romania echoes the political drama playing out in other parts of the world, where leaders touting a populist agenda tapped into deep public dissatisfaction to take power, only to then push an agenda aimed more at sustaining their power than solving problems.

In Romania, the architect of the Social Democrats platform was the all-powerful party boss, Liviu Dragnea.

In the aftermath of the party’s 2016 victory, Mr. Dragnea followed a well-trodden path, promising generous social welfare programs while engaging in conspiracy-theory rhetoric.

From the outset, there were concerns that he would follow the example of other populist leaders, such as Viktor Orban in Hungary, and lead his party to use democratic means to build an “illiberal democracy,” a kind of soft authoritarianism where the essential organs of the state are compromised. [...]

The Social Democrats turned to a familiar playbook to push back. They accused their opponents of being part of a dark conspiracy, some linking it to the Hungarian-born philanthropist George Soros, who often serves as an all-purpose boogeyman for populists worldwide.

This hasn't been covered in English apparently, but if the Google translation of this Romanian article is correct, the deal that Viktor Orban made with Liviu Dragnea in a phone conversation was criticized from within its own electoral alliance by the junior Liberals (led by Ludovic Orban--who has no personal/family relationship with Hungary's Viktor apparently) because Dragnea made the deal while he had no cabinet position despite being the party leader of the Social Democrats. Additionally the Romanian story says that the law attempting to put the Romanian-side of the deal in practice was declared unconstitutional by their Constitutional Court (for reasons that are not terribly clear from that article).

Additionally, it appears (from the same article) that the Dragnea deal ran counter to the official foreign policy of the Romanian Foreign Ministry, which was ran by Teodor Meleșcanu at the time. Meleșcanu was a member of the junior coalition party (the Liberals), which probably explains why the leader of the Liberal party objected to Dragnea's irregular foreign policy channel. Also interestingly Meleșcanu was a former a director of a Romanian intelligence service, which might explain how he was attacked as a "deep state" representative for not backing Dragnea's deal.

So, the "deep state" that opposed the Dragnea-Orban deal appears to have consisted of the Romanian foreign ministry, ran by a member of the other coalition party (who seems to have disagreed with Dragnea's approach to this matter), as well as Romania's Constitutional Court.

Also of note perhaps in this context, the coalition of the Social Democrats with their junior Liberals eventually completely broke apart in August this year. (Even more confusing, Romania has two liberal parties. The one that was in the coalition government [ALDE] isn't the same liberal party [PNL] that supported Romania's [recently re-elected] president. Both liberal parties are now in opposition to the Social Democrats.)

As one paper notes something more general relevance in such a context:

What is of particular significance, in this context, is whether the foreign ministry is held by the senior coalition partner, i.e., the party which fills the office of Prime Minister, or by a junior coalition partner which has fewer seats in parliament than the senior partner. First, control over the foreign ministry has been identified as one possible pathway for ideologically committed junior coalition partners to ‘hijack’ coalition foreign policy and push it into a more ‘extreme’ (i.e., more aggressive or more peaceful) direction (Kaarbo, 1996; Beasley and Kaarbo, 2014). Second, coalitions in which the foreign ministry and the Prime Minister’s office are held by different parties should display greater scope for intra-coalition conflict in foreign policy making than coalitions in which both positions are controlled by the senior partner.

And the situation has not been unique to Romania:

A case in point for these patterns is the recent coalition government in Germany (2009–2013) between the Christian Democrats and their Liberal junior partner, in which the junior partner held the foreign ministry and was subsequently able to capture coalition foreign policy on issues such as the demand for a withdrawal of US nuclear weapons from Germany or the German abstention on UN Security Council Resolution 1973 on Libya in March 2011.

  • 2
    See the edit in the main body of the question. I do not refer to the deep state as a conspiracy theory. I definitely do not want to quote this on Gyorgy Soros, who I actually agree with on several issues. Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 9:16
  • 1
    By supporting OECD membership of Romania I did not mean campaigning for it, but not vetoing it when Romania is ready to join. Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 9:37

More abstractly, given two states, how can they make legally bidding agreements, if in one of the countries a deep state exists, which can make any agreement of the elected political leadership invalid?

If there is a power that is higher than the official leadership of a country, and that power can and will regularly override any agreements between the official leadership and foreign powers, then foreign powers will instead negotiate with that higher power.

As a side effect that higher power and its influence will be well known to everyone, e.g. Putin while Medvedev was President of Russia, or the British Prime Minister while the Queen is head of state.

  • 1
    It's not so necessarily a higher vs lower power. In the US, for example, the President is the only one empowered to sign a treaty, but it has to be ratified by the Senate. Neither is superior to the other. And the Senate cannot negotiate treaty provisions directly. Rather it has the power of "advice and consent" to the President. No one has absolute power. The whole point is to have the power spread in order to create "checks and balances."
    – grovkin
    Commented Nov 30, 2019 at 0:23

More abstractly, given two states, how can they make legally bidding agreements, if in one of the countries an institution can make any agreement of the elected political leadership invalid?

The answer to that question is pretty obvious: governments should only promise what they can deliver. If the goal is to reach a legally binding agreement but the content of the agreement needs to be ratified by the parliament or go through any other kind of uncertain process, then the governments can start the process, typically with symbolic events which represent a show of good faith, but cannot sign anything legally binding until the content has been validated nationally. If a government makes the mistake to promise something which turns out not to be in their power, then the legally binding agreement is simply moot. It's the same if somebody promises to buy a house but is denied their mortgage and cannot pay for it.

There are protocols in place for such "pathways to agreement" in many domains and not only between governments: big commercial contracts, peace plans, international trade talks, etc. It happens regularly that national institutions reject the plan of the government, but there's nothing wrong with that in a democracy.

  • In a well functioning democracy you would be right, but as you probably know Romania (as well as several other Central-European countries) is kind of a weak democracy, where the jurisdiction is under heavy political influence. To me this looks more just a bad trick from the political leadership (or at least some part of it) not to execute what they promised. But this is of course just one interpretation. Commented Dec 1, 2019 at 9:20

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