An oath to protect the interests of Romania, which the citizens of the Republic of Moldova give when receiving a passport of this state, will have to be kept in practice in the event of war. At least, such a rule is in the draft law proposed by the Ministry of National Defense of Romania.
According to the document, not only Romanian citizens who temporarily left for other countries will be recruited, but also those who live abroad permanently. These amendments to the Romanian legislation, of course, do not tell about Bucharest’s preparation for military conflicts. According to some experts, their goal is rather to continue progressive inclusion of Moldovan territory in the Romanian legal framework, in this case in the defense segment.
In fact, the legislative initiative of the Romanian body may become a new element in the system of legal documents that contribute to the greater alignment of the armed forces of the two states. It is worth recalling that an intergovernmental agreement on military cooperation between the Republic of Moldova and Romania was signed in 2012. In particular, it obliges the parties to build a common defense policy, as well as to exercise joint arms control and the management of defense resources, including the organization and functioning of communication systems. Moreover, the agreement provides for mutual consultations, joint military exercises and the exchange of officers between educational institutions. But even more importantly, the document actually gives Romania the right to use the infrastructure, landfills and airspace of Moldova for military purposes. Thus, a legal basis has been created for the indefinite stay of the Romanian contingent on the Moldova’s territory.
It turns out that the Moldovan armed forces are actually subordinate to the Romanian general staff under this agreement, and through it, indirectly, to the NATO command, since Bucharest has been part of the North Atlantic bloc since 2004. In general, the strengthening of military cooperation fits perfectly into the logic of the further development of comprehensive allied ties of the “two Romanian states”, where Romania, for objective reasons – its status, influence, demographic and economic power – is the strongest and leading partner. Thus, Romania gradually extends its jurisdiction over Moldovan territory, giving impetus to the mutual integration of the two countries.
At the same time, the opinions in the expert community that such measures are a vivid example of the ‘slow absorption of Bessarabia’, though reasonable, are nevertheless related to a more distant future. So far, there are many obstacles to the final inclusion of Moldova in Romania. First, it is an excessively costly process in the economic sphere, which both states are barely able to pay for without external recharge. Secondly, there are problems of national minorities that exist in Moldova, which risk becoming the headache of Bucharest in the case of ‘unification here and now’. Thirdly, the unresolved Moldovan-Transdniestrian conflict that can ‘break out’ in the case of the ‘unirea’ scenario. The European Union is also skeptical about the potential integration: the EU is trying to maximally neutralize any threats on its borders, and is simply not ready for new territorial alterations in the European space (it suffices to recall Brussels’ lukewarm attitude towards the idea of exchanging territories between Serbia and Kosovo).
We shall not forget that to date the idea of unification does not enjoy broad support either among political elites or among the population of Moldova. However, it is obvious that due to this, Bucharest does not at all renounce the unionist agenda, but only changes approaches to implement it. Judging by Romania’s actions, nowadays the tactic of “soft power” combined with legal confirmation of the achieved results is adopted.
For example, for almost two decades, Bucharest has been funding a number of Moldovan media that promote the concept of the “common future” and the absence of a separate Moldovan ethnos. Romania annually grants educational scholarships to a large number of Moldovan students. It’s also important that the Metropolis of Bessarabia of the Romanian Orthodox Church that is not separated from the State and has budgetary funding actively supports the unification of Moldova and Romania.
But the main element of the Bucharest’s political marketing is the image of the ‘window to Europe’ for Moldovans who are forced to leave because of the difficult social and economic situation in the Republic of Moldova. Taking advantage of the problems of the neighboring state, Romania carries out active passportization of its population, granting its nationality under a simplified procedure. This is a very attractive option for the citizens of Moldova that allows them to move freely across the EU and legally work in the European countries.
According to various sources, today the number of citizens of the Republic of Moldova who have acquired the nationality of Romania is between 400 and 600 thousand, and this figure is constantly growing. Moreover, among them there are persons who occupy influential positions in the Moldovan republican and local authorities. For example, about 70% of Moldovan parliament deputies and the majority of judges of the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova have Romanian citizenship. This situation presents an additional window of opportunity for Romania, including for implementation of quite non-trivial steps like the aforementioned draft law of the Ministry of National Defense.
After all, this legislative initiative might be designed to circumvent the neutrality status prescribed in the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova. This overcomes formal obstacles to the creation of a joint Moldo-Romanian battalion, announced by Ministers of Defense of the two countries, and gives additional grounds for arguing the joint exercises of the armed forces of Romania and the Republic of Moldova on the latter’s territory. In fact, another legal reality, not necessarily being identical to Moldovan one, is artificially created for a considerable part of Moldovan citizens. Most likely, in the near future we will see new steps to fill it.
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