Books on Moldova
Update No: 315 - (29/03/07)
Moldova refuses mass conferral of Romanian citizenship
Moldova and Romania have seen their relations sour since the latter joined the
EU in January.
In a series of statements on March 3 through 7, Moldova reacted furiously to
Romania's ongoing attempts to confer Romanian citizenship to Moldova's residents
en masse. With Romania's accession to the European Union effective January 1,
Bucharest believes that a large part of Moldova's population will be tempted to
take up Romanian citizenship in order to travel freely on EU territory.
Chisinau, however, believes that Bucharest uses the citizenship issue in order
to pave the way for a de facto merger of Moldova, or at least of right-bank
Moldova (Bessarabia), with Romania. The issue puts Bucharest at odds with the EU
On March 3 Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin accused Romania of engaging in
"impertinent, unvarnished" attempts to undermine Moldova politically,
with a view to uniting it with Romania. In his live interview with a
Russian-language television channel in Chisinau, Voronin complained of
Bucharest's "mocking attitude toward our country and state," financing
a "fifth column" in Moldova, pursuing "state revanchism,"
and treating Moldova's independence as a transitory stage toward unification
Voronin derided Bucharest's frequently repeated offers to function as a
"locomotive" pulling Moldova toward the EU and as an
"advocate" of Moldova within the EU. He seemed to have an easy time
turning down "those who foist themselves on us," considering Romania's
difficult accession to the EU and the ongoing spectacle of that country's
political crisis, which saps Bucharest's credibility in Brussels. "We have
advocates in many European countries, thankfully," Voronin remarked.
On March 6, the Moldovan government followed up with its own declaration. It
accused Romania of practicing "duplicity," "undermining Moldova's
national security and its statehood," and "pursuing ulterior
motives" [code word for absorption into Romania]. It urged Romania to sign
the inter-state political treaty with Moldova that was initialed by both
countries in 2000 but was then abandoned by Bucharest, as well as the border
treaty that was prepared for signing in 2000. The Moldovan government is asking
its "European and international partners to exert their influence and bring
Romania's policy onto a normal track of good-neighborly relations [with Moldova]
in a European spirit."
Chisinau regards the fate of those two treaties as a test of Bucharest's
long-term acceptance of a Moldovan state. Both documents have been under
negotiation since 1992, and all Moldovan governments since then have urged
Bucharest to sign the two treaties. Bucharest insisted all along on introducing
historical and philological references unacceptable to Chisinau into the
political treaty. More recently, the argument privately adduced to Western
officials is that the Romanian parliament could not ratify a document that lacks
On March 7 Moldovan Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration Andrei
Stratan announced that Moldova has decided to turn down Romania's request to
open two additional consulates or consular offices (other than the embassy and
consulate in Chisinau) in Moldova. The Moldovan government, keenly interested in
free travel by its citizens to Romania despite political controversies, had in
recent months considered Romania's request for additional consulates. Once it
turned out that the proposed consulates would issue Romanian citizenship, not
just visas, Chisinau decided against the proposal.
The drop that seems to have over-filled the cup of Chisinau's patience (a cup
notoriously of almost inexhaustible capacity) is Romanian President Traian
Basescu's March 2 declaration. In urgent tones, Basescu asked the Romanian
government to accelerate procedures for granting Romanian citizenship to
applicants from Moldova. Basescu estimated the number of citizenship
applications from Moldova at 800,000 -- the same number he cited publicly during
his January 16 visit to Chisinau, when the two leaderships were still on
speaking, though far from cordial, terms.
That estimate may well be exaggerated. But whatever the actual number, those
applicants are (under the existing procedure) requesting a preliminary
appointment with Romanian consular officials, whether for passports or just
visas. Basescu's statement calls for shortening that procedure and handing out
citizenship papers rapidly to applicants. In several speeches during recent
months, the Romanian president called both in open and veiled terms for
Moldova's (or "Bessarabia's") unification with Romania.
Bucharest's decision to "come to the aid" of Moldovans with the offer
of Romanian citizenship may well, however, stem from a selfless motive. Until
January 1 Moldovans were able to enter Romania in great numbers visa-free in
order to work, study, or visit relatives. But as a new member of the EU, Romania
had to introduce entry visas for Moldovans at the EU's insistence. Granting
citizenship to Moldovans would circumvent the EU-imposed visa requirement and
enable Moldovans not only to enter Romania freely as before, but also in some
cases to travel within the EU as newly minted EU citizens.
Bucharest's policy on this issue irritates the EU on several counts. Anxious to
avoid a migratory flow of Moldovan holders of Romanian citizenship to the EU,
Brussels is offering Moldova a visa-facilitation agreement in the short term
(with the next step, visa-liberalization, a possibility) and wants to
consolidate Moldova's statehood for the long term. At this stage, irredentist
rhetoric from Bucharest raises the possibility of partitioning Moldova along the
Nistru River and consolidating Russia's hold on Transnistria as a second
Kaliningrad, instead of loosening that hold.
The EU has decided to set up a joint visa application and issuing center in
Chisinau for entry and transit visas to certain EU member countries. Hungary is
designated to administer the centre in its embassy there, with participation by
Austria, Slovenia, Denmark, Estonia, and Latvia.
The Romanian government recently sought to reverse or amend that decision after
the EU had already made it. The Centre is due to open in April of this year,
although Bucharest is said to persist with objections in Brussels.
While continuing to complain that Bucharest "insists on defining us as
[ethnic] Romanians," Chisinau's latest reactions to Bucharest's initiatives
on citizenship make clear that the dispute has escalated beyond issues of
history and national identity, now seemingly revolving around Moldova's
continuation as a state. However, on one count at least, Bucharest demonstrates
statesmanship by refraining from direct polemical responses to Chisinau's recent
The Moldovan government has reversed its decision to allow Romania to open
two new consulates in the country. Relations between the two countries have
deteriorated in the past year. The decision follows criticism from the
authorities in Chisinau, who called Romanian policy towards Moldova
The consulates were aimed at easing a backlog of applications from Moldovan
citizens who now need visas to travel to Romania.
The Moldovan authorities hinted that a change was coming, and now it is
official: the opening of two new Romanian consulates, in the towns of Balti and
Cahul, will not be going ahead.
The authorities in both countries were taken aback by the chaotic scenes in
front of the Romanian embassy in Chisinau in early January, just after Romania
joined the EU.
Hundreds of angry people waited for days just to register their applications,
amid confusion over documents and procedures. Many of them simply wanted to
transit Romania to work in other EU countries.
Romanian President Traian Basescu visited the embassy and promised rapid
improvements. The Moldovan President, Vladimir Voronin, initially agreed to the
opening of two temporary consulates.
This idea of re-unification is now no longer on the cards, as the government is
becoming ever more suspicious of Romania's intentions.
The Moldovan foreign ministry recently complained to the EU that Romania's
policy was "duplicitous" because it exaggerated the number of
Moldovans seeking to gain Romanian citizenship.
This is a long-standing source of tension between the two countries.
Last year, while meeting Moldovan students enrolled at Romanian universities,
President Basescu spoke of a future in which Romania and Moldova could be united
within the EU.
He made a similar statement in a BBC interview on Wednesday. The idea was
promptly rejected by Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, who said that
"Moldova will not unite with anyone, ever."
Mr Voronin wants to move his country ever closer to Europe, but dismisses any
suggestion that this would imply a change in its relationship with Romania.
For most informed people the Moldovans and the Romanians are very alike. Moldova
was part of Romania from 1918 to 1940 and the two countries share the same
ethnic and linguistic background.
Stalin had other ideas and extracted Bessarabia from Hitler is a part of their
infamous deal, that set off the Second World War.
The following is by a recent US student, resident in Moldova:-
Moldova: What's Behind Harsh Criticism Of Romania?
By Ryan Kennedy
Statements about Romania by Moldovan officials have recently become increasingly
harsh. Officials accuse Romania of trying to undermine Moldova's statehood and
security. What underlies this negative turn in Moldovan-Romanian relations?
Recent statements by Moldova's government have made headlines for their caustic
tone toward neighbouring Romania. President Vladimir Voronin in early March
attacked Romania for "financing a fifth column" in Moldova and not
respecting Moldovan independence.
The Moldovan government has also criticized the Romanian leadership for
"concocting and artificially aggravating" the issue of Moldovan
application for Romanian citizenship. Romanian President Traian Basescu recently
estimated that the total number of Moldovans seeking to obtain Romanian
citizenship could exceed 800,000.
The statement also argued that Romania's refusal to sign a basic political
treaty and a border treaty "cannot but be interpreted as a proof of the
neighbour state's true intentions."
About the same time, Andrei Stratan, Moldova's minister of foreign affairs and
European integration, reversed an earlier decision to open new Romanian
consulates in Balti and Cahul.
The additional facilities were meant to ease workload on visa applications for
Moldovans looking for work in Romania. Stratan, announcing his decision, said
the new buildings were no longer necessary.
For its part, the Romanian government has refused to respond to these
accusations, defending their policies as an attempt to re-establish free trade
and movement that existed between the states before Romania's accession into the
European Union on January 1, 2007.
To some extent, the harsh tone of Moldova's rhetoric toward Romania is an
extension of Moldova's general foreign policy. However, the timing of these
statements suggests that this is also part of an effort to improve relations
with Moscow and the breakaway region of Transnistria.
Ups and Downs
Moldova and Romania have experienced many ups and downs in their
relationship since Moldova's independence in 1991. While pan-Romanianism has
been a consistent part of Moldovan politics, and was adopted in the Popular
Front of Moldova's platform in 1992, it has played only a minor role in Moldovan
The Front's term in office under Prime Minister Mircea Druc was brief, and its
successor, the Christian-Democratic People's Party, has only entered government
in coalition with the Communist Party.
After calls for unification failed to gain widespread support, relations with
Romania cooled considerably. In 1992, Moldova and Romania started negotiations
on inter-state political and border treaties. Both treaties were prepared for
signing in 2000, but they have yet to be approved by the Romanian government.
One of the low points in bilateral relations came during the 1994 parliamentary
elections, when several Moldovan political parties denounced Romania's
interference and its assertion that the Moldovan language and culture were
Romanian. Romania, in turn, accused the Moldovan government of using the
identity question to stifle dissent.
The 2004 elections in Romania began a period of improved relations. The newly
elected Romanian president made Moldova his first official trip abroad, and the
states found common ground as Moldova set EU integration as the country's main
strategic foreign policy goal.
Two States, One Nation?
Romania's official policy toward Moldova is "one nation, two
states," based on shared history, language, culture and traditions.
In contrast, Charles King, a professor at Georgetown University, describes
Moldovan foreign policy as "Bessarabism."
This policy orientation defines Moldova as "a distinct cultural and
political space, a region whose traditions and interests derive both from its
position as a small region surrounded by large neighbours and from the
overlapping identities of its multiethnic population."
From this perspective, recent statements from Romania about citizenship rules
may seem hostile, and the magnitude of citizenship applications claimed by
Romanian officials are somewhat embarrassing to the Moldovan government.
In addition, the government has already expressed its concern about the size of
its population working abroad -- as many as 1 million Moldovans -- and has
encouraged its citizens to stay home. It is understandable that they would be
concerned about the easing of citizenship requirements, which would allow easier
exit to EU labour markets.
The current government has an incentive to reassert its commitment to an
independent Moldova with local elections approaching. Many Moldovans do not
support unification, and this is especially salient among Moldova's linguistic
The Price of Transnistria
Yet, the harsher tone of Moldovan officials toward Romania started well
before these most recent statements. A month before Romania's formal accession
to the EU, President Voronin slammed Romania's offer of help in Moldova's EU
integration, saying "Romania is trying to impose certain rules of the game
and principles of Moldova...this should be qualified as interference in the
domestic affairs of a sovereign state."
It is interesting that the December 1 statements from Voronin came only a couple
of days after Russia announced that it would end its ban on Moldovan wine. It
also fell between the September referendum on independence and the December
presidential election in the breakaway region of Transnistria.
In his New Year's address, President Voronin expressed his belief that 2007 will
be "the year when the genuine and final reintegration of our motherland
It makes sense that, as part of this strategy, Moldova would increase its
efforts to resurrect the inter-state political treaty and border treaty with
Romania as a method for allaying the concerns of Eurasianists in Transnistria
and the regime's sponsors in Moscow.
As Nicu Popescu, a research fellow at the Center for European Policy Studies,
puts it, "The true architect of the foreign policy of Moldova since the
declaration of its independence has been neither Mircea Snegur, nor Petru
Lucinschi, nor Vladimir Voronin, but [Transnistria President] Igor
The Shorter Long Shot
With EU enlargement put on hold indefinitely, and territorial integrity an
important part of Moldova's EU integration strategy, Moldova's cooling of
relations with Romania can be interpreted as an attempt to reassure leaders in
Tiraspol and Moscow that this administration is not moving closer to Romania.
Reintegration with Transnistria is a long shot, and Russia continues to delay
the restoration of economic ties that are essential to Moldova's economy. But
criticism of Romanian policy still presents a low-cost method for Moldova to
further a number of its political goals.
GDP to grow 5% annually in 2007-2009
The Moldovan Economy and Trade Ministry expects annual GDP growth to reach at
least 5 per cent in 2007-2009 compared to four per cent in 2006, Economy and
Trade Minister, Igor Dodon, said, Interfax News Agency reported.
In December 2006, GDP was expected to grow 3 per cent in 2007, he said.
"Inflation will be 10 per cent in 2007, 8 per cent in 2008, and 6 per cent
in 2009," Dodon said, adding that these figures are "absolutely
realistic, given balanced monetary and tax policy and deeper structural
reforms." Speaking of economic priorities in 2007, the minister mentioned
the improvement of the investment climate, a reform of the legislative basis,
and support of small and medium-sized businesses. Among positive trends in the
Moldovan economy in 2006, Dodon mentioned growth in investment in the fixed
assets to 9.5 billion lei, which is 17 per cent higher than in 2005, while the
target was 7.3 billion lei, the diversification and growth in exports to EU
countries, and the improvement of social indices.