Romania Is Radical in Addressing the Language Issue in Moldova

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Sergiu CHEBAN Romania demanded that Ukraine recognize the Moldovan language as non-existent. Moldova should expect the same request soon, especially since the snap parliamentary elections are expected to provide Bucharest with the right-wingers as a powerful ideological ally in Chisinau, who have long been ready to finally turn the page of the country's linguistic uncertainty The language has become a standing item of the internal Moldovan and regional politics exploited in almost all election campaigns. For Moldova, the problem of the Romanian/Moldovan language is not only of political and humanitarian significance, but is also clearly geopolitical, which, apparently, will be proved in the near future. At the end of May, the Secretary of State of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Romania Dan Neculescu, while on a working visit to Ukraine, called on the country's authorities to officially abandon the use of the name “Moldovan language” as soon as possible and to ensure the rights of the Romanian minority. That said, he recalled that Kiev's position on the identity of the Romanian and Moldovan languages was confirmed by Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba during his visit to Bucharest in April. Moreover, he expressed readiness to take appropriate legal measures. As a result, the Ukrainian Ministry of Education disseminated instructions among local authorities to apply these provisions of Ukrainian legislation, including in the Odessa region. On June 19, during a meeting of the foreign ministers of Romania and Ukraine on the sidelines of the Diplomatic Forum in Antalya, Bogdan Aurescu once again voiced the importance of sustainable solutions for the Romanian-speaking minority in Ukraine, stressing that after the previous meeting Bucharest expects Kyiv to officially recognize the absence of the Moldovan language as soon as possible. The issue of the Romanian/Moldovan community in Bucharest-Kyiv relations is one of the most difficult, primarily for Ukrainian politicians, who have tried to avoid this topic over the past decades, despite Romania's insistence. This issue being frozen was quite suitable for Kyiv who kept its distance from the complex identity-related debate, since  they mostly affected Moldova with its internal national uncertainty. However, the geopolitical situation of recent years has presumably forced Kyiv to reconsider its position. First of all, this may be due to the plans of the Ukrainian authorities to strengthen integration activities with the military-political and Euro-Atlantic structures of the West. In this case, diplomatic support from a group of Washington's closest European allies, one of which, no doubt, is Romania, will be very useful. With regard to the Moldovan language, Bucharest is known to adhere to the position that the “alternative Romanian language in the Cyrillic script” is nothing more than a product of the USSR's anti-Romanian propaganda, which remains in a rudiment form only in some regions of Ukraine and unrecognized Transdniestria. In this sense, the Romanian authorities seem to have seized the right moment and, under the pretext of Kyiv's foreign policy line, aimed also at de-communization, are methodically pushing the Ukrainian authorities to make progress on this long-running language problem. Last year, the National Council of Romanians of Ukraine found about half a million people who are Romanians by origin, and addressed Bucharest for assistance in obtaining an autonomous status for this community. The Romanian minority is traditionally one of the most active communities which fights not only for their linguistic rights and education in their native language, but also for changing toponymy and creating parishes of the Romanian Orthodox Church in Ukraine. This fosters Bucharest to purposefully promote the idea of ​​removing the Moldovan language from domestic use in Ukraine and to strengthen support for its compatriots, whose number can grow significantly due to a unified approach to the Romanian-Moldovan community. Despite the languid protests of those who “guard” the Moldovan culture and language in Ukraine, the Ukrainian authorities have apparently made a principled decision and is not going to further consider the various subgroups of the Romanian community in isolation. Most likely, Kyiv no longer sees the big risks in consolidating the Romanian minority, which may later become an additional instrument of influence for Bucharest. Romania's regional interests are known to be in Ukraine and Moldova whose territories have separate parts of the former Bessarabia, which was seized by the Soviet Union from Romania in 1940. Kyiv's strong-willed decision to exclude the Moldovan language can serve an additional impetus for Chisinau, where this problem is still only debated in public and is used by certain Moldovan politicians as an excuse to speculate on the linguistic issue. It is obvious that a tacit consensus on this issue has long been formed among the Moldovan elites, despite the fact that language remains the cornerstone of the “Moldovan myth” that underlies the statist ideology used mainly by large political projects on the left flank. The fears transmitted by the left-wing parties are justified to a certain extent, since removing the language component, which is sometimes key in the national self-determination of citizens, threatens to smoothly distort the identity code of the Moldovan population - unless, of course, the Moldovan leadership is determined to start a new national identity policy. In this regard, we should recall Maia Sandu's answer to the Romanian representative's question in PACE this April when she said that the problem of renaming the Moldovan language into Romanian is, by and large, a technical problem that could be solved by a discretionary decision of the parliament. This most likely suggests that the current president is aware of the artificial nature of the issue which does not cause painful reactions in Moldovan society and can be easily taken off the table, especially amid the expected majority to be formed by a political formation close to her. How resonant the topic of naming the language in our republic is, most likely, will be seen only during an open parliamentary and civil discussions. Meanwhile, it should not be ruled out that Bucharest will try to raise this issue with Chisinau as soon as possible and thereby turn this page of linguistic uncertainty.