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Romania must keep EU door open to Moldova

Published on 10/04/2009

Bucharest — Romania must help bring neighbouring Moldova closer to the European Union (EU), even after Moldova accused it of involvement in recent anti-Communist riots, analysts said Thursday.

Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin has often used "extreme rhetoric" in recent months and years, according to Cornel Codita, a professor of international relations at Bucharest’s Spiru Haret university.

But the decision by the government in Moldova’s capital Chisinau to expel Romania’s ambassador, Filip Teodorescu, after the riots was a new and difficult step in bilateral relations, he noted.

Nevertheless, Codita said, "I think we’ll return to the path of cooperation, without backing Chisinau’s policies, in order to rebuild bridges between the two countries."

Romania will have to launch "diplomatic talks with the EU to draw up a common line on relations with Chisinau" and this will give Bucharest "a strategic advantage" by ensuring the support of its 26 EU partners, he noted.

Romanian Foreign Minister Cristian Diaconescu and Prime Minister Emil Boc described Moldova’s accusations of meddling as a "provocation" on Wednesday, after Voronin said Romania was "involved" in the riots that shook Chisinau on Tuesday.

But they refused to take retaliatory measures, even after Chisinau reinstated visa restrictions for Romanian nationals — much like President Traian Basescu who refused to give in to provocations in December 2007, when Moldova expelled two Romanian diplomats.

According to historian Armand Gosu, Bucharest’s role is to bring Moldova closer to the European Union without feeding ambitions that have more to do with the past than the future.

Most of Moldova’s current territory once belonged to Romania until it was annexed in 1940 by the Soviet Union. About 65 percent of its population still speak Romanian.

"It’s important to accept that they are today two states," said Gosu.

In the 1990s, many Romanians still dreamed of reuniting the two countries but now "the Moldova question is no longer such a major concern for Romanians," noted Daniel Barbu, a political scientist.

People today were more worried about the effects of the economic crisis and this was evident from the weak support that Bucharest residents showed for the protesters in Chisinau this week, he added.

Still, "the fact that there will always be thousands, or tens of thousands of Moldovans who speak of Romania as an aspiration or an ideal, will always be seen as a provocation by someone like Voronin," noted Barbu.

Romania already attracted the fury of its neighbour in 2007 when it made it easier for Moldovans to gain Romanian citizenship, in what Chisinau saw as a move to right a "historic wrong".

About 800,000 Moldovans out of a population of four million immediately requested a Romanian passport, according to Bucharest’s estimates.

Many hoped that way to gain easier access to the EU, which Romania joined in January 2007.

For Codita, relations between Bucharest and Chisinau are "not a question of history but of the present and the future."

"Moldova must have a future in Europe," he said.