Romanian Passport Will Be Even More Desirable

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Christian Russu On December 11, 2018, many Romanian television channels broadcast the European Parliament meeting live, which considered accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area. European deputies were to decide the fate of the border between these countries and the rest of the European family. The European Parliament approved a resolution calling to take Romania and Bulgaria into the Schengen zone. Moldova expects a new wave of applicants for Romanian citizenship.

No entry for unauthorised people

The Schengen Epic is a long and offensive story for Bucharest. The structures of the European Union have long kept Romania ‘in quarantine’, hindering its entry into the Schengen zone. However, the EU had its reasons: Romania unfairly fulfilled its commitments and massively distributed its passports to the residents of neighboring Moldova. At the same time, Romanian migrants and Roma flooded European capitals, and corruption in the country remains a common fact. To a certain extent, the discontent of Brussels was offset by the support of Washington, which strengthened its strategic position in south-eastern Europe and the Black Sea basin. Romania purposefully was accepted into NATO back in 2004 – and this served as a weighty advantage for its entry into the European Union three years later. However, even the US favour did not always help Bucharest, and just in the Schengen issue European leaders showed uncompromising stand. Back in 2010, France opposed the accession of Romania to the agreement. France was supported by the Netherlands and some other EU countries. French Foreign Minister Pierre Lellouche then openly stated that Paris was concerned about the security of the EU’s external borders and the lack of a proper fight against corruption in Romania. The Romanian-Moldovan border was of particular concern to him. “We doubt the quality of control at this border. We are also concerned about the policy of Bucharest concerning the issuance of Romanian passports to Moldovans,” said Pierre Lellouche. This comment was fair. The Romanian authorities not only did not tighten, but on the contrary simplified the procedure for becoming citizens, so Moldovan residents massively got in line for passports. In 2009, the President of Romania and an ardent supporter of the “unirea”, Traian Basescu, proudly declared that about 800 thousand “Bessarabians” (almost a quarter of the population of the Republic of Moldova) are awaiting Romanian citizenship, and promised to further simplify the process of obtaining it. In response to criticism from the European Union, Bucharest hid behind noble motives: the support of the Moldovans, who were under the rule of the “only communist regime in Europe”. One of the reports of the Soros Foundation noted that since 2007 applications for the restoration of Romanian citizenship were processed faster. About 116 thousand applications were considered only in the first 4 years after Romania joined the EU. Many Moldovans considered the Romanian passport to be the key that opens the door to work in the European Union. France and the Netherlands were the main opponents of the accession of Romania to the Schengen until 2013. Then other EU members picked up the torch. In March 2013, Germany imposed a veto. The reason was that the authorities of Romania and Bulgaria did not take the necessary measures to combat crime. Finland and Great Britain also expressed their claims, pointing at too high levels of crime and corruption. A massive resettlement of Romanians in the EU was not in favor of Bucharest as well.

Brussels says yes

Since 2016, the situation began to change. The pressure on individual EU countries gradually grew: it became inappropriate to keep Romania and Bulgaria ‘in the waiting room’, besides the influx of refugees from Africa and the Middle East worried Brussels more than Romanian and Moldovan migrants. European officials have increasingly declared that the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen area is not far off. The new president of Romania Klaus Iohannis, who abandoned the predecessor’s rhetoric about “Greater Romania”, also contributed to the resolution of the issue. In 2017, he told his French counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, that Romania was de facto “acting as a responsible state of the Schengen zone and in solidarity with all efforts to strengthen the external borders of the EU.” The political situation has changed in favor of Bucharest. On November 5, the Committee on Civil Liberties of the European Parliament recommended that the Ministers of the EU Member States approve the accession of Romania and Bulgaria to the Schengen zone. On December 11, the European Parliament voted: the deputies adopted the resolution by an overwhelming majority. Although it is advisory, it is an important political signal. The next step is the final decision of the EU Council (in which Bucharest will preside from January 1, 2019). The head of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, expressed hope that the decision would be made before the end of the mandate of this European Commission.

Free movement in the EU and visa-free travel with the USA and Canada

Even in the event of a positive decision, the border of the European Union with Romania and Bulgaria is unlikely to disappear overnight. Brussels expects to remove border controls gradually with these countries: it will first be removed at airports and sea terminals and only then at road and railway checkpoints. However, all this is boring details that the general public pays little attention to. The loud news about Romania’s entry into the Schengen zone has already roused the population of neighboring Moldova. After giving Chisinau a visa-free regime with the European Union, the excitement around Romanian citizenship significantly died down. Moldovans who intend to get to Europe for the purpose of employment at any cost can now do it without a passport from a neighboring state. The privileges and status of a full member of the European community is another matter entirely. For those who have already acquired a Romanian passport (which is about a million Moldovans), the Schengen victory of Bucharest became another confirmation that they made a right choice. Soon they will be able to travel from Romania to the EU completely freely and without restrictions, and will also be able to visit the United States and Canada without a visa. For the rest, the entry of Bucharest into Schengen is a serious reason to think about submitting documents to the Embassy of Romania. Those wishing, of course, will be even more. The demand for Romanian citizenship is already growing – indirectly, this is confirmed by the widespread advertising of Romanian citizenship, often seen on the web. Free traveling through Europe from Lisbon to Chisinau, the status of an equal member of a European family – all this will soon become a reality for every citizen of Romania. Undoubtedly, the Romanian passport will become a desirable goal for many Moldovans who want to feel close to the European Union not only in the speeches of local politicians, but also in practice. There is reason to believe that tens and hundreds of thousands of Moldovans will soon join the million who have already received Romanian citizenship.