Unirea – a Thing of the Past?

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Sergei Isaenko Bucharest is heading the Council of the European Union. Was it a ‘breakthrough’ in the unification of Moldova and Romania? It becomes clear that everything is not rosy already now.

Crisis of the idea

In January of this year, Romania for the first time headed the EU Council, being in the center of European policy. Bucharest immediately called Moldova one of the main priorities of its presidency, so Chisinau invested its hopes in this period, expecting warming of relations with the European Union and additional support for reforms. Three months later, it is safe to say that expectations were not met. Romania is more involved in domestic political conflicts than in EU affairs, and Moldova has not yet recovered from the parliamentary elections. But the most surprising thing is that those who could get a lot of benefit from it – unionists – have not taken advantage of the Romanian presidency. They are still hesitating in the shadows, missing a historic chance to make a statement thanks to all eyes of the public and European media turned to Romania. The passivity of the Moldovan unirea supporters might be caused by the significant weakening of the unionist forces in recent years. If at the beginning of 2018 – on the 100 anniversary of unirea – they still managed to organize a sensational campaign with the signing of symbolic declarations by Moldovan villages, then later they found themselves on the sidelines of Moldovan social and political life. The brutal crackdown on unionists’ protest last autumn, statements of Romanian President Klaus Iohannis about the “two nations”, as well as constant internal squabbles led to a serious decline of the movement. The failure in the parliamentary elections, in which the ‘pure’ unionists could not obtain a single deputy mandate, was a vivid confirmation of this. The ideological vacuum among the unirea supporters is more difficult to hide. Flirting with different geopolitical vectors no longer captivates the residents of Moldova, who are waiting, first of all, for the improvement of the domestic situation. It is no coincidence that the PSRM and PDM are competing to see which of them is the most ‘pro-Moldovan’, with an emphasis in their programs on domestic policy. In this situation, the pro-Romanian forces, which can not offer anything new instead of the threadbare classical agenda, suffer the most.

Politics and nothing personal

The current crisis of unionist ideas has quite situational reasons related to the Moldovan elections. The pro-European bloc ACUM, whose leaders in the past did not hide their sympathy for the unirea idea, received uncertain 26 mandates in the Parliament and has already split into two factions. The result is generally moderate. However, if Sandu and Nastase had not ‘forgotten’ about their love for Romania in time, the ACUM figures in the elections could have become even smaller: any talk about the imminent unification only pours water on the mill of the Socialists of Dodon, which frighten the people of Moldova with the imminent loss of statehood. That is why the ACUM resorted to neutral opposition rhetoric against the regime that seized power. Not saying a word about unirea and “one nation”. It is interesting that from the parliamentary rostrum Andrei Nastase and Maia Sandu are unlikely to remember about the unification with Romania in the near future. At least, this will not happen until the ruling coalition is formed. Now the ACUM bloc takes every effort to move away from Dodon and Plahotniuc and thereby to facilitate a coalition of the PDM and PSRM. If this happens, long-articulated statements of Sandu and Nastase about the cooperation of the Democratic Party and the Socialists will be clearly confirmed, and the pro-European leaders will not be tainted by alliances with the “regime”. So far, everything is going according to plan, and the mission of the former ACUM bloc is at least not to interfere with the natural course of things. To remember about the unirea is now more dangerous than ever: Democrats and Socialists will instantly jump at the chance to accuse Sandu and Nastase of ‘surrendering the country’. Another aspect why pro-European parties are backpedaling unionist ideas is the position of the European Union. Romania has not shown itself in the EU Council, stuck in domestic political squabbles and, moreover, remains a direct ally of the United States in the region. Against the background of the cooling in European-American contacts and the accumulated claims to Bucharest, the European Union does not want to strengthen the position of Romania, and therefore, obviously, advised Maia Sandu to hold back unionist rhetoric. As a result, in 2019 there is a lot of justified and reasonable causes why the idea of uniting the “two Romanian states” has lost its popularity and future. In the current circumstances, neither the population nor the authorities need these risky undertakings, let alone the European Union which finds it easier to keep the country in the zone of its influence than to engage in the redrawing of borders. In such circumstances, the unionist movement will obviously continue to be marginalized, risking one day not to recover from another crisis.