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Moldova-Romania Relations

Two formerly Communist-bloc lands have followed diverse political paths. Romania successfully sustained democratic governance and is now a member of the European Union. Moldova’s democratic process has been more difficult. With its cultural ties to Russia, Romania, and Turkey, Moldova is something of an enigma. The main part of today’s Moldova lies in the historical region situated between the Prut and Dnester rivers and the Black Sea coast. As part of the ancient principality of Moldova which also comprised areas of today’s Romania, this region was under Ottoman rule until it was ceded to the Russian empire in 1812 and became a province called “Bessarabia”. More than a century later, after the October revolution, the Moldovan Republic was proclaimed in Bessarabia on 7 February 1918, following an uprising of underprivileged indigenous peasants and soldiers returning from the front, against the mainly Russian upper classes. The following year, the Parliament of the new Republic decided to join Romania. However, the USSR never recognized Romania’s right to this province: in 1924, a narrow strip of Ukrainian land on the left bank of the Dnester river was declared as the “Moldovan Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic” by the Soviet authorities, as a stepping stone to the re-acquisition of Bessarabia. And in fact, on 28 June 1940, as a consequence of the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, the area of Bessarabiua was annexed by Soviet troops and proclaimed as the “Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic” on 2 August - together with the previously created Autonomous Republic on Ukrainian territory on the left bank. At the same time, the Ukrainian SSR was given parts of northern and southern Bessarabia (Northern Bucovina and the Black Sea costal area). During the Second World War, Romania reconquered Bessarabia in 1941 in the course of Hitler’s war against the Soviet Union but lost the province again in 1944 to the Soviet Union. In 1947 Romania was obliged to recognize the formal incorporation of Bessarabia into the Soviet Union in the Paris peace treaties To an even larger extent than under the Tsarist rule, the Moldovan SSR became again the subject of a systematic policy of Russification. Part of this policy was a strict isolation of the country from the Romanian cultural sphere and the imposition of the Cyrillic alphabet for the Romanian language. In public life Romanian - called "Moldovan" - took only a second place behind Russian. Rooted in the National Writer's Union, a Popular Front, initially called the “Democratic Movement for Perestroika”, began to emerge in the late 1980s. The Front’s main goals were the reintroduction of the Latin alphabet and the recognition of Romanian as the official language. It was only after the end of the Ceausescu regime in December 1989 that radical elements of the Front also called for reunification with Romania The initial stages of Moldova’s process of emancipation from communist rule brought about a reassertion of Romanian ethnic and cultural awareness. This was not surprising since under the former regime, everything was done to discourage cultural exchanges with Romania and to eliminate references to the existence of a common cultural heritage. Since December 1989, after the overthrow of the dictatorship in Romania, a movement within the Popular Front openly advocated (re-)unification, an idea which was encouraged by some official circles in Romania as well. Drawing on historical arguments, many Romanians deny that there is such a thing as a Moldovan national identity at all. However, it became evident quite soon that a majority of the population of Moldova would not support a merger with Romania for a number of reasons. First and foremost, the prospect of becoming a small rural province in a relatively centralised country which, in addition, had grave economic problems, became less and less attractive. Furthermore, the prospect of unification was totally unthinkable for Moldova's Slav minorities on both sides of the Dnestr, and became one of the motors of the Transdniestrian and Gagauz secession. Relations with Romania have undergone diametrically opposite evolutions: a period of "cordial Entente" in 2004-2006, followed by a radical departure and extraordinary chilling of the two states' relations. Romanian failure to sign the main political and border treaties generates difficulties in strengthening the Moldovan statehood and solving the Transnistrian conflict.

Romania has not provided guarantees of Moldovan statehood that would reduce the chances of Romania to ever achieve reunification. Relations with the Russian Federation remain troubled because of the presence of Russian forces in the separatist Transnistria region, renewed restrictions on Moldovan exports to Russia, and reassessments of Moldova's history during the Soviet period.

Lack of a border and a framework treaty between Romania and Moldova has long troubled the relationship between the two countries, but the issue was negotiated in a desultory fashion and then swept under the rug. Some Moldovans blame Romania for delays in signing the treaties. They believed that Romania did not want to recognize Moldova as an independent state with international borders, because recognition would prevent unification of the two countries. Because the idea of unifying the two countries had some popularity in Romania, signing the treaties could be politically suicidal for any Romanian leader, some observers maintain.

Moldova, challenged by the unresolved separatist conflict in Transnistria, regarded these two treaties as an essential contribution to any settlement of the Transnistrian conflict. Fears that Moldova could become part of Romania feed the suspicions of Tiraspol hawks. Even the theoretical possibility of Moldova's union with Romania has served to strengthen Transnistrian desired to gain independence from Moldova. Moldova is also critical of the fact that Romania signed border and framework treaties with Ukraine on the eve of Romania's accession to NATO and does not want to sign similar treaties with Moldova.

A new round of Moldovan-Romanian border-related talks took place in Bucharest on 14-15 May 2008. New developments in the dispute over the State Border Treaty and the Framework Treaty occurred after Romanians suggested in March to the Moldovans that they sign the Local Border Traffic Convention (Accord) to establish a visa-free travel regime for residents of a 30 km zone along the border. The Convention is a framework document recommended by the EU to its members situated at external EU borders.

Even before the May 14-15 talks, Moldovan Foreign Minister Stratan stressed that it was impossible to sign the Convention, which explicitly refers to state borders, given the absence of a bilateral treaty which would define the border.

On 08 April 2009, one day after rioters in Chisinau burned the Parliament building and damaged the Presidency, Moldovan President Voronin accused Romania of involvement in an attempted coup d'etat and expelled Romanian Ambassador Teodorescu. The Cabinet imposed a visa requirement on Romanian citizens the same week.

The following week, Romanian President Basescu rejected all accusations and requested that the Romanian cabinet amend the Romanian law on citizenship to ensure a rapid processing of applications for citizenship submitted by Moldovan nationals. Voronin responded by refusing accreditation to the newly appointed ambassador Mihnea Constantinescu. Basescu broke sharply with past practice by stating that no Romanian President would ever sign a Border Treaty with Moldova, since "it would legitimize the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact."

On 18 February 2010 in Chisinau took place Moldovan-Romanian consultations at the level of political directors of foreign affairs ministries, on mutual interest current security policy issues. The parties made a broad exchange of opinions on regional and international security topics, in the spirit of transparency and sincerity typical to the present stage of relations between the two countries.

The Treaty between the Republic of Moldova and Romania on state border regime, cooperation and mutual assistance on border-related issues, as of 8 November 2010, remains not in force. Negotiations to finalize the text of this document have been conducted since 2003 and have been completed with the signing of the Treaty between Romania and the Republic of Moldova on the regime of the state border, on collaboration and mutual assistance in border-related matters, on November 8, 2010, in Bucharest, by the Romanian Foreign Minister, Teodor Baconschi and the Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova, Vlad Filat. Agerpres.

Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi said that by signing the treaty, the two countries hoped to "discourage the obsessive allegations of some political circles in Moldova" concerning "an imaginary irredentist agenda of Romania". Moldova was part of Romania until 1940, when it was annexed by the Soviet Union.

The Moldova Government on 13 January 2011 approved the draft law on the ratification of the Treaty between Romania and Moldova on the state border regime, on collaboration and mutual assistance in border issues. "The Treaty is a technical document regulating the way the frontier is marked on site, the settlement of issues related to building joint projects on the border, border marks maintenance, the setting up and functioning of a Joint Commission to verify the tracing of the state frontier and the maintenance of border marks, the utilization of border waters, railways, roads and other cross-border communication installations", stated the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Teodor Baconschi, in the Executive's meeting.

Moldova took a small but symbolic step August 27, 2014 toward easing its reliance on Russian gas imports when it inaugurated a pipeline that will start to bring in gas next week from Romania. With fears mounting of a winter cut-off in gas supplies to Europe from Russia over the conflict in Ukraine, the prime ministers of Moldova and European Union member Romania formally unveiled the 43-km (27 miles) pipeline on the 23rd anniversary of Moldova's independence from the Soviet Union.

On the 25th anniversary of Moldova's state independence on 27 August 2015, US ambassador in Chisinau James Pettit said that the country needs to remain a sovereign and independent state inside secure borders, while joining Romania as a means to join the European Union or for any other reason wouldn't be practical and is not a choice that would improve the situation in Moldova. He said that only cooperation between politicians in Moldova and the country's people would made things better, that Moldova is not Romania, it has its own history, it is a multiethnic country, with people speaking different languages. He also mentioned problems in Transnistria, which the central government can't control and which needs a special status inside Moldova.

Igor Dodon, the new President of the Republic of Moldova, signed an order on 27 December 2016 to dismiss defense minister Anatol Salaru. He motivated his decision saying that Salaru had broken the country’s Constitution by “flirting with NATO” and by “openly pleading for the unification of the Republic of Moldova with Romania”.




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