7th Jun 2023

No more than 30,000 Moldovans to receive EU citizenship

  • Moldovans carrying a Romanian passport can travel visa-free in the EU (Photo: EUobserver)

Some 30,000 Moldovans could get Romanian citizenship this year, Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc told EUobserver on Wednesday (30 April), downplaying the effects of the fast-track citizenship scheme adopted by his government following violent post-election demonstrations in Chisinau.

The measure created a stir in Brussels and some European capitals, worried about the prospect of 1 million Moldovans – a fourth of the population of what is Europe's poorest country – travelling visa-free within the EU.

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However, Mr Boc estimated that the actual number of people receiving Romanian citizenship in 2009 would be much smaller.

"We are not talking about such large numbers. Last year, for instance, there were around 10,000 people who got citizenship. Maybe now it will be double or triple, but no way are there going to be millions," he said.

Mr Boc rejected the idea that facilitating the acquisition of Romanian citizenship for Moldovan citizens was an aspect of foreign policy. "It's an individual policy to give Romanian citizenship, but not to everyone. Eligible are just the people who had Romanian citizenship in the past and lost it for reasons they are not guilty of," he said.

He was referring to citizens who used to be Romanians before 1940, when Moldova was annexed by the Soviet Union. The right to Romanian citizenship now also extends to their great-grandchildren.

"It is not a collective right, it's an individual right and applies only to those people who held citizenship in the past or their grandchildren – up to the third generation," Mr Boc explained.

Moldovan Communist President Vladimir Voronin has also accused Bucharest of staging the post-election demonstrations and of interfering in his country's internal affairs.

"We respect all the borders of every country. We don't talk of any changes or interference with the internal politics of Moldova. The future of Moldova is inside the European Union and we give all our support for this," Mr Boc stressed, adding that Romania supports the Eastern Partnership, the EU's newest policy towards its eastern neighbours, including Moldova.

Announced by the country's president, Traian Basescu, who is expected to stand for re-election later this autumn, the citizenship scheme was adopted by the government in an emergency ordinance on 15 April.

The parliament can still modify some amendments to the bill by 15 May when it will enter into force.

Socialist intervention

Social Democrat leader Mircea Geoana, himself a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections, has called for speedy debates and amendments on the new law, although his party holds half of the ministries within Mr Boc's government. He said the law should have the most "acceptable form from an internal and European point of view," citing concerns in Brussels over implications of the move.

"It's going to be debated, but I don't think there will be major changes to the bill in the parliament," the Romanian premier said, noting that the Social Democrats are members of the government as well. "The government has a common position and the ordinance will be approved by the parliament," he said.

On the diplomatic row between Chisinau and Bucharest, Mr Boc said that after expelling the Romanian ambassador, the Moldovan authorities also rebuked proposals for a new Romanian envoy. "We will not respond in the same way and will support Moldova in its policy towards the European Union. I think that's the future," he said.

After the post-election demonstrations, Chisinau imposed visas for Romanian citizens traveling to Moldova, requesting an official invitation approved by the Moldovan Ministry of the Interior. Romania is now the only EU country whose citizens need a visa for Moldova. At the same time, Moldovan citizens, who before Romania's EU accession travelled visa-free to the neighbouring country, have needed a visa since 2007.

Polish foreign minister Radek Sikorski said on Wednesday that his country went through the same experience with Belarus and Ukraine upon accession to the EU, when Warsaw had to impose visa requirements on these countries. Speaking at the European People's Party 'study days,' ahead of a major political congress in Warsaw, Mr Sikorski criticised the EU policy of "erecting a visa wall at our eastern border."

"People are frustrated that it's so hard to get into Europe now. The more flexible our visa policy, the less there will be the need for these kinds of measures [such as the citizenship scheme]. Poland was moved 300 kilometers to the west after World War II, so these are familiar problems," Mr Sikorski told EUobserver about the Romanian citizenship plan, adding that the issue was discussed at the EU foreign ministers meeting on Monday.

According to diplomatic sources, some European colleagues urged Romanian foreign minister Cristian Diaconescu to scrap the scheme, but he stood firm in its support.

Voronin accuses EU of building new 'iron curtain'

President Vladimir Voronin on Thursday said the European Union was raising an "iron curtain" against his citizens by allowing them to freely travel in Europe only with Romanian passports.

"What the European Union is doing to Moldova is not good. To open Europe only for those Moldovan citizens who hold Romanian passports is humiliating for the Moldovan people. They should not insult us and make us travel to Europe via Romania," he told national television.

Meanwhile, a European Parliament delegation that visited Moldova from 27-29 April harshly criticised Moldovan authorities for the violence and human rights abuses against civilians, saying that Europe was not as "naive" as Chisinau thought.

Russia, however, which so far has consistently backed Mr Voronin and given credit to the allegations that Romania was behind the protests, on Wednesday said that the EU was not "objective" enough, as it is governed by "solidarity" with EU member Romania.

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