Romania grants citizenship to 17,000 Moldovans

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Romania has granted citizenship to 17,000 Moldovans during the course of this year, Romanian President Traian Basescu announced. More than half a million Moldovans work in EU countries, most of them on the black labour market, he admitted. EURACTIV Romania contributed to this article.

Romania does not fear criticism from the EU for "importing" Moldovan immigrants through the EU's back door as the Western press has reported, Basescu said in an interview, which he gave jointly with his Moldovan counterpart Mihai Ghimpu.

''I have nothing to fear. Romania abides by the 1997 Council of Europe convention on granting citizenship,'' said Basescu, adding that the requests were examined case-by-case and nobody was forced to take Romanian citizenship. As a matter of fact, Moldovans have been granted a right of which they were deprived by the then Soviet Union.

''It is not citizen Dumitrescu from [the Moldovan city of] Cahul who has decided to lose his [Romanian] nationality, it's Stalin who has decided for him,'' Basescu affirmed.

Ghimpu said that indeed there were many more Moldovans in the EU without Romanian nationality. He mentioned 25,000 Moldovans in Portugal and 180,000 in Italy.

''The problem is not the Romanian citizenship, the problem is the poverty in Moldova,'' Ghimpu said. He added that the same phenomenon had occurred in the past – with citizens of Spain and Portugal seeking work in richer countries – and for this reason he saw ''nothing wrong'' with the development.

Wrong visa policy?

Problems surrounding the wave of Moldovan immigration appear to be related more to visa issuing policy than the granting of nationality.

There are roughly 600,000 Moldovans working in the EU, Basescu stated, adding that most of these people were being exploited on the black labour market. Moldova has a population of four million.

Asked by the press whether Romania was not partly responsible for this large number, as visas were also issued to Moldovans by the Romanian embassy, Basescu replied: ''They have come with a visa to Romania. They have gone with a visa to Spain and Italy, and then have settled there. You don't imagine 600,000 Moldovans going without visas to those countries.''

Positions

Nationality is a national competence issue and is settled solely by the legislation of the member state, a European Commission spokesperson said after EURACTIV asked for a reaction.

''Member states have full sovereignty in deciding how and whom they grant citizenship, and the European Court of Justice has on several occasions confirmed the important principle that it is for each member state to lay down conditions for acquisition and loss of nationality,'' the Commission representative said.

The European Commission has no competence on how a member state determines its policies in that area, the spokesperson concluded.

Background

Among the EU newcomers, Romania, Bulgaria and Hungary have a practice of widely granting citizenship to nationals of neighbouring countries under simplified procedures.

Bucharest grants citizenship to Moldovans, whose country was part of Romania before being annexed by the Soviet Union in World War II. Sofia grants citizenship to nationals of Macedonia who claim their Bulgarian origin, while Budapest recently passed a law making it easier for ethnic Hungarians living abroad to obtain Hungarian citizenship.

Romanian President Traian Basescu said in April 2009 that a million requests by Moldovan nationals for Romanian citizenship were sat waiting in his country's embassy in Chisinau (EURACTIV 15/04/09).

Last month, Bozhidar Dimitrov, the Bulgarian minister responsible for contacts with Bulgarians abroad, said that since of the beginning of the year, 9,000 Macedonians had received Bulgarian citizenship.

In Slovakia, former Prime Minister Robert Fico has denounced as a "security threat" a plan by the Hungarian authorities to make it easier for ethnic Hungarians living abroad to obtain citizenship (EURACTIV 27/05/10).

In addition, Spain announced that it would grant nationality to foreigners whose Spanish parents or grandparents left the country to flee the civil war and Franco's subsequent dictatorship. Around 225,000 people in Cuba, Central America and South America have already applied for Spanish citizenship under the scheme and 117,000 have already obtained it.

Time magazine estimates the total number of people potentially covered by the citizenship offers by Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Spain at five million.

Timeline

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