Sunday

7th Mar 2021

New law gives Russian 'privileged status' in Moldova

  • The draft law was voted for by the party of Igor Dodon, the pro-Russian ex-president, and the conservative "For Moldova" platform, which together hold the majority of seats in the Moldovan parliament (Photo: Moldovan Parliament/Facebook)

Following a draft law approved by Moldovan parliament, the Russian language will now get a special status as the "language of interethnic communication", and becomes mandatory for all civil servants.

Russian will be used in all matters dealing with state authorities in Moldova, alongside the Moldavan language, a dialect of Romanian, as specified in the country's constitution.

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Public administration agencies will thus be required to provide, on demand, translation into Russian, while official documents will be drafted in Moldovan and accompanied by a Russian version.

The draft law was voted for by the party of Igor Dodon, the pro-Russian ex-president, and the conservative "For Moldova" platform, which together hold the majority of seats in the Moldovan parliament.

The pro-European parliamentary opposition regards the law as controversial, able to ignite social and geopolitical tensions opening the way to federalising the country.

The draft law was accompanied by other sensitive proposals that went through a speedy approval process.

The parliamentary majority also green lighted draft laws regarding the status of the autonomous region of Gagauzia, and that of Taraclia, which will be designated as an "ethno-cultural district".

Analysts regard the move as retaliation of PSRM (Party of Socialists of the Republic of Moldova), after party boss Igor Dodon lost last year's presidential election to pro-European Maia Sandu.

Armand Gosu, an associate professor at Bucharest University and specialist in the ex-Soviet region, told EUobserver that this legislative flurry is Igor Dodon's political ploy, aimed at both sabotaging the presidency of Maia Sandu and restoring support for him from Moscow.

"Making Russian the inter-ethnic language of communication aims at mobilising the pro-Russian side and thus inciting Moscow. Dodon hopes to remain Kremlin's favourite but also to assure the fidelity of the pro-Russian electorate with early elections in sight".

Under the amended language law, Russian television channels will also be fully available, with changes brought to the audio-visual media code, Gosu believes.

"The amended language law might be found as being unconstitutional as it happened before in 2018, but until then it would've done the trick and served its purpose", Gosu told EUobserver.

EU condemnation

The EU's External Action Service issued a statement condemning the manner in which these laws were hastily passed, while also referring to the bill limiting presidential powers by transferring the control of Moldova's intelligence service from the president to the parliament.

The tone was also shared by the Romanian foreign ministry, emphasising concerns regarding the constitutionality of the laws and saying that the laws adopted by the parliamentary majority will have a negative impact on the development of the Republic of Moldova, its financial stability and international credibility.

"This situation, combined with the lack of transparency and defiance towards opinions from specialised institutions, indicates that the legislative process in question is not likely to serve the legitimate interests of citizens", the ministry said in a press release.

On the other hand, the Russian side welcomed the new status of Russian language in Moldova.

The Russian foreign affairs ministry said that despite the fact that in 2018 the Russian language was deprived of the status of an interethnic communication language, and the Russian-language media was limited in broadcasting, the demand for Russian language in Moldova had not waned.

That statement also condemns meddling from the EU and Romania on recent decisions of the parliament of Moldova.

"We call on our Western partners to stop enforcing double standards by imposing advantageous political decisions to the detriment of the interests of Moldovan citizens, and to get involved in the affairs of the Moldovan sovereign state," the Russian statement said.

Author bio

Cristian Gherasim is a freelance journalist contributing to EUobserver, Euronews, EU Reporter, Katoikos, Von Mises Institute, and bne IntelliNews, with a particular focus on European and regional affairs.

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