EurActiv - Letters to the Editor

Sir,

Regarding ‘France blocks Romania, Bulgaria’s Schengen bids‘:

We would like to bring the following facts to your attention:

1. Romania recognises the border with Republic of Moldova as it was inherited from the USSR. The Treaty for Managing the Border (as it is correctly named) recently signed between Romania and the Republic of Moldova does not change the present juridical situation but brings further measures for better management of the common border.

The treaty was the result of a requirement from the Moldovan government, even if it was later criticised by the Moldovan president on procedural grounds. However, President Ghimpu retracted his declarations and the treaty is expected to be ratified.

The infighting in the Republic of Moldova does not involve Romania and does not change the fact that Romania recognised the border. By signing the treaty for managing the border, Romania simply reconfirmed its position. To speak of a ‘border dispute’ between Romania and the Republic of Moldova, as the French government did according to EurActiv, is outrageous.

2. The existence of a Treaty between Republic of Moldova and Romania was not a precondition for Schengen accession. The connection between the aforementioned Treaty and Schengen accession was only made as a new pretext for demanding ‘new tasks’ from Romania.

3. Romania publicly supported Moldova’s EU accession ambitions and its actions were always related to the same objective: to bring the Republic of Moldova closer to the EU. One cannot deny that this is a legitimate objective for two countries sharing deep historical links. Nevertheless, this does not mean that Bucharest has subversive plans towards the Republic of Moldova. As such, we consider the hysterical behaviour of the French authorities to be shameful.

4. On Romania’s initiative, a group of EU member states was set up to support Moldova’s European aspirations – initially called the Friends of Moldova group but currently named the ‘Group for the European Action of the Republic of Moldova’. One may be surprised to learn that France is a founding member of this group. However, Paris has radically changed its position in recent months and obstructed discussions to grant the Republic of Moldova a visa liberalisation perspective in the Council, severely undermining the efforts of the pro-EU government coalition in Moldova.

5. Without any legal grounds, France has gone a step further and linked Romania’s accession to the Schengen Area to the Republic of Moldova. This offensive attitude comes in a context in which Paris has already linked Romania’s accession to the issue of Roma integration, making Bucharest pay for the reckless anti-Roma measures of the French authorities.

6. The British and French media wrote that Romania is giving EU citizenship to millions of Moldovans. This is simply false. This year the authorities granted Romanian citizenship to less than 70,000 Moldovans (which is anyway less than the number of citizenships granted by France to non-EU immigrants).

One cannot simply ignore the fact that we are speaking about families in the Republic of Moldova who lost their rights after the USSR’s occupation here. Romania does not automatically grant citizenship to Moldovans. In fact, we could say that this procedure is rather restrictive as the decision is made on strong individual grounds – and only for those who prove that they belong to a family who had Romanian citizenship before 1944.

Our think-tank was and still is critical of the Romanian authorities (including concerning the Schengen accession criteria, as EurActiv correctly reported), but France and other EU member states should note the difference between real shortcomings and pure speculation.

Cristian Ghinea

Director

Romanian Centre for European Policies (CRPE)

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Comments

  1. 1. One knows very well that the poor state of justice in Romania (coming more from the way laws are adopted in parliament and their texts) and the border treaty with Moldova are not the real issues. However, if Moldova’s acting president rejected the treaty and said he would challenge it to their Constitutional Court, it means Moldova still does not actually recognise the current border – it might, as hilarious as it may seem today, mean that that state has territorial claims over any part of Romania – in view of the Moldovenist trend, its supporters actually imply their country should actually stretch to Carpathian Mountains to include the Western Moldova, a part of Romania. So, it does make the EU border less sure if in future Moldova turns decisively towards a more active Russia, thus Russian support for its various needs becoming a normal expectation in case Moldova will act as a geopolitical Russian vanguard together with Ukraine. Yes, there is the Helsinki Treaty, but there was the USSR signing it, not Moldova. As a precautionary measure, Romania will have to strive to convince Moldova to recognise the treaty any time soon, before any Communist-dominated government is installed at Chisinau. I believe, even the EU and the NATO have the interest of a clear definition of their influence borders, because in future Romania and Bulgaria will join Schengen anyway.
    2. If the two reasons invoked by France are not the real matter, Romania should act more actively, following the Bulgarian prime minister’s attitude and speak up clearly about the covert economic gains or any other issues under discussion that France, Holland and others envisage in exchange for letting Romania into Schengen Area. Boiko Borisov has stated France had turned against Bulgaria for its reluctance to buy some French air planes.
    3. Romania and Bulgaria have two options: 1. to wait and passively refuse cooperation about the Gypsy problem – the Western countries will be most affected, while the current monitoring on justice and restrictions on the free labour movement from both countries to the West will end in 3 years and 2. to establish a mini-Schengen between them while enforcing thorough controls at the Ro-Hu and Gr-Bg borders due to, say, zealous customs officers’ frequent strikes and protests which would only target the citizens and companies from the opposing countries, who would be thoroughly inspected. Such officers would be stubborn enough to resist any negotiation proposals from their concerned governments. It’s a free world and especially a free EU, isn’t it ? Thus Romania and Bulgaria could well show that they are not ready to accept any changes taken by any bureaucrat in any Western country whenever he faces elections there. This move will show determination in future and trigger a more respectful and cautious approach from some Western countries towards the latest admitted and affirm their position in EU.
    3. We have to admit that France was correct in expelling the Romanian and Bulgarian Gypsies, the EU rules are clear: any visit without a visa is limited to 90 days under the provision of sufficient self-supporting financial means, which is not Gypsies’ case. But from France’s lack of preparedness to accept the less pleasant features of the newcomers to France’s inventing means to ignore their efforts to join Schengen is a long and artificial way. This is where the two administrations can get votes from their citizens, by showing they care for them, for their unusual condition of being checked at borders, as potential lawbreakers, when the Dutch-German border is full of unguarded junkies, unlike any other EU-citizen, without any solid ground.
    4. Romania and Bulgaria cannot prevent their Gypsies from roaming about and cannot punish them for any unlawful behaviour outside their national borders, where their jurisdiction stops. Any person travelling to West only with her/his ID can say (s)he is only there for a week, show the relevant amount of money and then forget to come back ! The two countries bear no responsibility for this. It is true that the two administrations are utterly incapable of providing integration programmes for their Gypsies, but the plain simplicity and naivety, to say the least, of the French authorities, their ambassador to Romania, to just buy sheep for the local Gypsies, who could only be happy for a prolonged barbecue, hoping that they will automatically turn into local shepherds, without any training, such a measure has remained unsurpassed so far in showing any real involvement into solving what this problem, which has deeper roots, even related to the artificial division of Europe proposed by Churchill at Yalta, at the end of WW2.
    Thank you for your attention.

  2. I will divert away from the subject in question for a little bit just to mention that France was not correct in deporting the Roma in the way that they did. According to EU law, deportation decisions must be taken on a case-by-case basis, with due process accorded to each person under consideration. The real problem is the criminalization of the poor and the lack of affordable, low-income housing offers, and the Roma happen to be among the poorest in Europe. As soon as the French government issued a memo stating that all illegal camps should be dismantled regardless of the ethnicity of the inhabitants, the EU dropped legal action and punitive measures against France and even recognized the state’s necessity to ensure public security by dismantling the camps. It is unfortunate because in effect, this backtracking legitimized slum dismantlement of a non-ethnic character for purposes of public security….

  3. The argument that Romania is giving citizenship to millions of Moldovans is hilarious because the population of Moldova is around 4 million people.

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