Tension grows between Moldova and Romania

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The Romanian president met yesterday (8 April) in Bucharest with the prime minister and secret services to discuss the situation in neighbouring Moldova after violent protests broke out following Sunday’s elections, EURACTIV Romania reported. Bucharest strongly rejected accusations by the president of Moldova of meddling. 

Moldova’s Communist president, Vladimir Voronin, accused neighbouring Romania on Wednesday of trying to overthrow his government and ordered mass arrests of protesters in Europe’s poorest state. 

He says Romania does not recognise the border and wants to annex Moldova. 

“When the flag of Romania was raised on state buildings, the attempts of the opposition to carry out a coup became clear,” Voronin said. 

In fact, the flags of Romania and Moldova are almost identical in their blue, yellow and red colours. The only difference is that the Moldovan one features an emblem in the middle. During the Romanian revolution in 1989, the flag of the then ‘Socialist Republic of Romania’ also had an emblem, which the revolutionaries tore up. 

Moscow backs Chisinau

Voronin won strong backing from Russia, which said the riots were aimed at undermining Moldova’s sovereignty. 

“We all saw under which flags these outrages have been carried out and hope that the European Union will draw the most serious conclusions about what happened,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said in a statement in Moscow. 

Following a meeting organised by Romanian President Traian Basescu, prime minister Emil Boc categorically rejected accusations by the Moldovan authorities that Bucharest was interfering in the internal affairs of its neighbour. 

“Romania considers these accusations as provocative and sees it as unacceptable that the Chisinau authorities are transferring their internal problems to our country,” Boc stated. 

EU cautious so far 

Western diplomats quoted by Reuters say it is too early to judge whether street anger at alleged vote-rigging in a weekend election won by the incumbents will lead to a change of power, as seen in Georgia, Ukraine and other ex-Soviet states. 

“The EU should go and it should go now,” said Andrew Wilson at London’s European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR), urging EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana to go to Moldova and act as a mediator between the government and opposition. 

“But, yes, that would annoy the hell out of Russia,” he added. 

The European reaction to events in Moldova has been cautious so far. 

The EU has agreed to send a special envoy to the capital Chisinau to monitor events, but there has been no talk of any direct role, a diplomat close to talks said. “In the current situation, it is particularly important that there should be proper respect for freedom of the media and freedom of expression,” the Czech EU Presidency said in a statement. 

(EURACTIV with Reuters.) 

Background

Moldova is a former Soviet republic, and was part of Romania before being annexed by the Soviet Union in World War II. It is landlocked between Romania and Ukraine. Moldovans speak Romanian, although the country's constitution calls it the 'Moldovan language'. Russian is also widely spoken. 

Transnistria, a Moldovan region east of the Dniester river, has been considered a "frozen conflict" area since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. It has a predominant ethnic Russian and Ukrainian population. Although internationally, Transnistria is part of Moldova, de facto its authorities do not exercise any power there. 

The president of Moldova is elected by 3/5 of the votes in parliament. The Communist party elected their fellow member Vladimir Voronin in 2001, and he was re-elected in 2005. Having completed two terms, he now has to step down. 

Moldova's Communist party was once staunchly pro-Russian, but changed course over the Transnistria stalemate. Now it is seeking closer ties with the European Union as well as good ties with Russia, on which it depends for gas and other supplies. 

Moldovan media consider current Moldovan Prime Minister Zinaida Greceanii, a close Voronin ally, to be the Communists' most likely candidate for president. 

Moldova is covered by the EU's Neighbourhood Policy (see EURACTIV LinksDossier). Its leader is expected to be present at the 7 May launch of the Eastern Partnership at an EU summit in Prague (EURACTIV 08/12/08). 

Sunday's parliamentary elections were observed by a joint mission of the OSCE's Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. 

Further Reading

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