Romania Is Intensifying Distributing Its Passports among Moldovan Population

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Vladimir ROTAR Bucharest is consistently gaining influence on all key spheres of life in Moldova. Certificating its population is one of the tools aimed at further maintaining and increasing weight in Moldovan affairs. The coronavirus pandemic in Europe is gradually declining: the number of cases continues decreasing, quarantine restrictions are being lifted. The neighboring Romania has even announced achieving herd immunity. And this means that it is high time to get down to business on the outer perimeter again, especially since Bucharest has plenty of ambitions. The recent years events have finally confirmed Romania's bid for leadership in the Black Sea area. In addition to strengthening its own ground and naval forces, it is quite effectively promoting itself as a bridgehead for the North Atlantic Alliance and as the main ally of the United States in the region. This proved the major current year’s NATO exercises, where Romania for the first time acted as one of the main logistics hubs. A corresponding rhetoric enforces the level of claims. It is about the Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu’s statement about the Black Sea that is being perceived as a "NATO belonging lake" and therefore, a "Romanian lake". One more extremely important point of application in Bucharest's foreign policy efforts is undoubtedly Moldova, where it seeks consolidating its privileged position. The neighboring state is consistently increasing its weight in various spheres of life in our republic: starting with interconnection of energy grids and gas pipelines construction to the settlement of the Transdniestrian conflict. At the same time, Bucharest is helping Moldova in its Euro-Atlantic integration. As expected, the new NATO Deputy Secretary General, Mircea Geoana (appointed at the end of 2019), the ex-speaker of the Senate and the former head of the Romanian Foreign Ministry, quickly established regular contacts with the Moldovan leadership, at the same time contributing to assistance to Moldova allocation through the Alliance. Another powerful tool in the neighboring country’s hands aimed at strengthening its influence in Moldova is its population’s active certification. Currently, according to the Romanian Ministry of Justice, more than a quarter of republic's residents possess Romanian citizenship. In numbers, this is 642 thousand people, with another 144 thousand applications being considered. Due to the pandemic, the process has stalled somewhat but now, given the favorable epidemiological dynamics, everything should return to normal. Another thing is that, at first glance, it might seem the potential for further neighboring state’s citizenship promotion in our country does have its limits. As known, the popularity of the Romanian passport in Moldova has sharply decreased exactly after obtaining a visa-free regime with the European Union. However, Bucharest has a serious trump card here, which will soon be able to again create a stir around its documents acquisition. It is about Romania entering the Schengen zone. For many years, there were critical obstacles on this path. It was the principled position of individual parties to the agreement. However, since 2016 the situation has begun changing. To date, an almost unanimous opinion has been reached both at the level of the EU member states and European institutions on the fulfillment by Bucharest of all the necessary criteria and technical requirements for accession to Schengen. The latter is expected to happen in the very near future. If it occurs, the existing "status quo" in the "passport market" will be violated, and Romanian citizenship will again receive a number of indisputable advantages in the eyes of Moldovans. For example, it will open up opportunities for free movement across the territory of the European Union, entry without visas to the United States and Canada but what is most important, there will open prospects for legal employment in EU countries (after all, only a small percentage of our migrants are currently legally working there). Taking into account these factors, as well as the reorientation of labor migration flows from Moldova from east to west observed in the last decade, possessing a Romanian passport will become a cherished desire for many hundreds of thousands of Moldovan citizens. This process’ risks are well enough understandable. Especially when Romania has actually never really hidden its interests in our republic and was always continuing to tirelessly promote the idea of a divided people and was persistently recommending to abandon the "primitive Moldovenism". Is Chisinau aware of these risks? Probably, but it cannot do a thing about and does not apparently, really want to. Despite all pretentious words about the fact that migrants are expected at home, authorities are in fact, much more profitable to continue numerously sending them to work. In the long term, this is naturally a dead-end development path. But right now, the money sent by our guest workers - and this is billions of dollars - is the only tool for the state to maintain any kind of social and economic stability. In addition, as practice shows, our diaspora is as well a valuable electoral resource. During the last presidential elections, on the territory of Moldova itself, Igor Dodon and Maia Sandu were on the same level, but it was the voting of our compatriots abroad that ensured a crushing victory for the PAS candidate. It is obvious that the diaspora factor, is capable of providing a decisive advantage to the pro-European forces in an ideologically split country in half. Therefore, this factor is too tempting to be abandoned and will, on the contrary, be further strengthened, including by tacitly encouraging the work of our citizens outside of Moldova. Thus, there should be no surprise when Chisinau is to continue turning a blind eye about its population being certificated by Romania and is to still hope that one will never bring the wick to the powder keg that got laid under the Moldovan statehood’s foundation.