Relations between Moldova and Romania Are Gaining Momentum

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Semyon ALBU

Chisinau and Bucharest are about to bring bilateral relations to the highest level since Moldova's independence

Since 2019, relations between the two Prut states have been going through tough  times. It is not a secret to anyone that Bucharest was extremely dissatisfied with the power configuration that established in our republic at the end of 2019, with the socialists-"statists" at the core, who were, as they say, a dab hand at anti-Romanian rhetoric. That is why the neighboring state minimized official contacts and did not hesitate to regularly express its discontent about the new government in Moldova and even demand from Brussels a stricter control over the course of reforms in our country and the terms of its financing. Following Maia Sandu's victory, the situation predictably did a U-turn, and the July 11 convincing win of the Action and Solidarity party six months later opened the door for a dramatic boost to the bilateral relations. It is no coincidence that the first guest after the pro-presidential party's victory was the Romanian representative, Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu. Along with the congratulatory words, he brought gifts to the new government, like a promise to enter into a new agreement on the non-refundable aid. Among other things, he discussed with President Maia Sandu the restoration of intergovernmental cooperation frozen during the PSRM's rule and implementation of bilateral programs. It is curious that Bucharest began its thorough preparations for a new leap in the Moldovan direction even before the July victory of the PAS. Thus, the structures responsible for relations with our republic were reinforced: the departments for relations with the Republic of Moldova and for Romanians from Everywhere received legal registration, and their activities will henceforth be coordinated by the head of government. Meanwhile, a new, third in a row, Consulate General of Romania was opened in Chisinau. In turn, the priority of relations with the neighboring state was reflected in the election programs of both Maia Sandu and the PAS party. Today, it is underscored by the country's top management: the head of state herself, parliament speaker Igor Grossu, head of the MFAEI Nicu Popescu. In this regard, they enjoy Bucharest's reciprocity who is trying to seize the initiative in Moldovan affairs. Thus, the chairman of the Chamber of Deputies of the Romanian Parliament, Ludovic Orban, promised to strengthen support for Moldova, and Prime Minister Florin Citu stated his readiness to immediately proceed with the entire agenda of bilateral cooperation after the Natalia Gavrilita government is approved. In this case, there was no gap between words and deeds. The number of official contacts is really growing like mushrooms after rain. Meetings of representatives of the Moldovan leadership with the Romanian Ambassador Daniel Ionita have become regular. The heads of the Cabinet of Ministers, Natalia Gavrilita and Florin Citu, agreed to organize a joint meeting of the governments of the two countries in the Moldovan capital, for the first time since 2018, by the way. Another positive marker for the Moldovan-Romanian relations was complete mutual understanding on the agreement on free technical assistance. An inter-ministerial working group has already been established to that end. As you know, Bucharest did everything not to extend the previous similar agreement during the PSRM's rule, which led to the fact that the access to 60 million unused funds (out of 100 million) was lost, causing a big scandal. However, when the wind of change is blowing and the “right” people are ruling the republic, issues are resolved very quickly. Let's hope that this time the money will be used in full and to upgrade the infrastructure, as planned. Another 20 million euros of the Romanian aid are expected through the Ministry of Health. As the head of department, Ala Nemerenco, said these funds are intended for the purchase of medical equipment. 40 million euros (of which 7 will be paid by Chisinau) will be spent to build a bridge that will connect two Ungheni settlements of the same name in Moldova and Romania. This project is supposed to connect the road network through the western part of our country increasing its trade and transit potential. Cooperation in other areas is improving as well. Last week, at a meeting between Defense Ministers Anatoly Nosaty and Nicolae Ciuca, the latter confirmed readiness to contribute to the modernization of the National Army. Also, the heads of the defense departments scheduled a meeting of the military commission in the field of defense and joint participation in various bilateral and multinational exercises. Romania's help towards NATO integration is also expected, especially since the former Senate Speaker and ex-Romanian Foreign Minister Mircea Geoana has been the Deputy Secretary General of the North Atlantic Alliance since 2019. In addition, the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development of Romania, Nechita-Adrian Oros, will arrive in Chisinau next month, to talk with his Moldovan counterpart Viorel Gercu on cooperation in the agri-food sector. Of course, top-level contacts continue. During the 30th anniversary of independence celebrations, Maia Sandu met with Klaus Iohannis who reaffirmed his intention to help our republic in every possible way. In the near future, Sandu herself will go on a visit to Bucharest at the invitation of her colleague. Igor Grosu is already heading in the same direction today to take part in the opening of a new session of the Romanian main legislative body and to meet with the leadership of both chambers and the head of the state. Grosu is accompanied by a number of his PAS faction colleagues from among the leadership of the relevant parliamentary commissions. As a kind of a reciprocal curtsy, Chisinau is also sending positive signals to the other bank of the Prut. For example, the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Moldova appealed recently to the country's leadership with a request to consolidate the status of Romanian as a state language at the legislative level and to exclude the phrase “Moldovan language” from the Constitution, “Restoring the correct name of our language at the legislative level would put an end to endless unnecessary discussions around this issue, to all speculations that have lasted for decades, would improve the global image of our republic and foster the process of European integration”. And although Igor Grosu has already noted that this issue is not one of the priorities, any actions of Moldova in that direction can one way or another please the neighboring state, where this issue has been actively handled these days. As a result, relations between the two neighboring states have revived in almost all areas in a fairly short period of time. Given the strong positions of the current ruling party and its unequivocal pro-Romanian proclivities, one should expect that the "renaissance" period will last long. Romania itself is apparently not willing to miss such a historic chance: as my colleagues have already pointed out, this country is now striving to become the main operator in building the “new Moldova”. Therefore, Bucharest will hurry to offer Chisinau its guiding services on the path of reforms and Euro-Atlantic integration, and even provide substantial material support. The “price” for this support is more than obvious: to continue eliminating the Moldovan language, a soft-format popularization of the unionist idea and its promotion from the marginal environment to the broad masses, including through further passportization of the Moldovan population with Romanian documents. This will be added by numerous trade and economic ties, the penetration of Romanian business and the church, numerous infrastructural projects, including energy ones, which will make it possible to form a semblance of a common cultural, linguistic and economic space, with the prospect of finding more familiar forms of mutual integration.