Moldovans’ claim for Romanian citizenship, a concrete example of EU soft power?


One year ago, I interviewed a recent Moldovan graduate from the College of Europe, Dinu Codreanu*, to talk about the trend of Moldovans applying for Romanian citizenship.

A 2013 study by the Soros Foundation Romania found that between 1991 and the end of 2012, 323,049 applications for Romanian citizenship from Moldova were granted. In 2011 and 2012, 100,845 and 87,015 applications were submitted respectively. The Brexit and the increasing internal polarisation of EU member states has not helped to reduce today’s EU criticism. However, taking an outsider perspective is helpful as it recalls the attractiveness of the European project

 Q: So far, more than 450,000 Moldovan citizens have applied for Romanian citizenship, How would you explain such a phenomenon?

This number can be explained by a series of reasons. First, it is how a part of Moldovans are seeing themselves ethnically. Indeed, an important part of the population considers itself as Romanian and sees Romanian citizenship as a rightful return to the “mother-nation” and historic country. The unofficial numbers of the last 2014 census in the Republic of Moldova (RM) confirm this trend: 23% of the RM‘s population considers itself Romanian. The second aspect is the practical interest of having a Romanian citizenship as it gives certain rights in Romania and, more importantly, in the EU.

Q: Could you describe in a few words what kind of benefits a Romanian passport would bring to you if you were to hold it?

If I was to have Romanian citizenship, I could benefit from the advantages conferred to the European citizens in the EU. In practical terms, it would be easier to find work, travel and live in EU member states. The administrative aspect is equally important as a lot of employers are reluctant to hire a person if they see the amount of bureaucratic work related to hiring a non-EU citizen. I wouldn’t have to apply for a residence permit to stay for longer periods of time in an EU member-state. Also, another very important point is the tuition fees for universities; as an EU citizen, they would be proportionate to my parents’ income, thus being considerably lower for me.

Q: Could you give me some personal examples of bureaucracy you faced with as a student?

While studying in France as a Moldovan student, I could see the difference between me and my friends having a Romanian citizenship. They were able to benefit from the social scholarship for students from the second year as EU citizens, a considerable financial help for this period.

Furthermore, they did not require the French “titre de séjour” (residence permit), a document I had to renew every year by bringing a long list of documents to the local prefecture.

I could travel freely in the Schengen area; however, the visa problem appeared when I tried to go to Ireland, a country outside Schengen. A simple tourist visa is extremely expensive and required an obnoxious amount of documents to bring to the embassy. A Romanian citizen does not even need a visa.

Q: A Bucharest-based prosecutor stated Moldovans were asking Romanian citizenship only because it gives the freedom to travel and work within the EU.  Beyond the Romanian affiliation, is it the freedom and rights of the EU that appeal to Moldovan citizens?

As mentioned before, being part of the EU is considered a crucial factor. Moldovan’s image of the EU is often as follows: an area of great prosperity and opportunity; a “civilized” area, where the rule of law and democracy have a real meaning in contrast to our dysfunctional government plagued by corruption. Of course, this image is to be nuanced: things are not so bright, however, this image persists. As the Moldovan process of European integration has a long and bumpy road ahead, lots of people are seeing Romanian citizenship as a way to individually integrate themselves in the EU.

Q: A few years ago, a dual citizenship controversy occurred in Moldova. Double citizenship was allowed and then banned; later on Moldova was condemned by the European Court of Human Rights forcing its reintroduction. How do Moldovan authorities react to this controversy?

Authorities have no problems with the trend of “Romanization” of the Moldovan population; indeed, it is considered as a right to come back to people’s ethnic roots and also a facilitation for many to find jobs abroad and send money back home.  However, the Romanization trend becomes more problematic when it concerns people who have high positions in the public sector and government. Indeed, it is sometimes seen by the pro-Russian or Moldovan nationalist parties as Romania interfering in our own internal affairs.

Q: A union with Romania is often debated. Does it threaten Moldova’s destiny as a nation state?

The question of uniting with Romania comes up in the public debate quite often and the majority of the population seems to be in favour. As for the idea of Moldova as a nation-state, this is a very new idea, which has never existed before our independence in 1991.

Furthermore, Moldova is often considered a state without a nation. The idea of a Moldovan nation and language is linked to the efforts to forge a new sense of belonging and solidarity between the inhabitants of Moldova but also to differentiate ourselves from Romania.

This rhetoric is for instance used by the pro-Russian political parties so to answer your question, I would say the idea of unification with Romania is present but not seen as a priority because of the bad shape of the economy and corruption. As for the threat aspect, it is perceived as a menace by the part of the population which does not see itself as Romanian.

Q: By signing the association agreement with the EU, Moldovan authorities conveyed a political message to its citizens: “Moldova’s future is in the EU” ; isn’t it again an evidence of EU soft power in Moldova?

In my opinion, it could be considered soft power by the EU. I would even go so far and call it a “model power” as it is attracting without having this objective clearly stated.

Indeed, only the perspective of being a “European state” is a considerable argument in the internal politics of Moldova.  The EU is maybe not capitalizing enough on its attractiveness because of the unclear objectives of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). The Eastern Partnership was created to tackle the EU’s internal enlargement fatigue. The latter is not an integration policy but at the same time, its methodology is founded on the enlargement procedure. This is a big cause of ambiguity regarding the integration question. Will the Eastern Partnership countries further integrate with the EU in the future? This absence of a clear integration objective is making the EU power more diffuse and its policy less consistent.

*Dinu is a Moldovan graduate from the College of Europe who finished the Master of Arts in European Union’s (EU) International Relations and Diplomacy. He holds a Bachelor in Social and Economic Administration and a Master in International Relations from Paris I University, France.


Adrian Mogos and Vitalie Calugarenau, “How to buy EU citizenship”, ““, accessed 15 August 2016

Romanian National News Agency, “–19-45-19“, accessed on 12 August 2016

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