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Romania: Foreign Minister Says Moldova Not 'Younger Brother'

(AFP) Since Romania joined the European Union on January 1 and imposed visa requirments on Moldovans, huge queues have formed outside Romania's consulate in the Moldovan capital of Chisinau. The consulate says it can deal with a maximum of 300 visa applications each day, but the number of applicants is much higher. The Moldovan government agreed in January to allow Romania to open two new consulates in the country, but then reversed its decision. Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin accused Romania last week of "forcing" Moldovans to get Romanian citizenship, in order to be able to travel to the EU. Moldova was part of Romania from 1918 to 1940 and the two countries share an ethnic and linguistic background. Romanian Foreign Minister Adrian Cioroianu spoke to RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service about relations between Bucharest and Chisinau.

RFE/RL: What stage are the negotiations at concerning the opening of new Romanian consular sections in Moldova?

Adrian Cioroianu: My message concerning the consulates in the cities of Cahul and Balti, in my letter to [Moldovan Foreign Minister] Andrei Stratan, was that the trouble on this issue remains, still, in Chisinau. We have demanded that one single consular section in Chisinau do its job well. Even though it is the largest in our network [of consulates], it is clearly overwhelmed by the number of applications. At the same time, I believe that it is better for Moldovan citizens to be served at two additional sections, where visas are issued only. The visa issue is the main subject of interest for Moldovan citizens, the most important subject. The citizenship issue is clearly dominated by the visa problem to a great extent, as we know.

RFE/RL: In the letter to your Moldovan counterpart Andrei Stratan, you explain that the two consular sections in Cahul and Balti, if they open, would deal exclusively with visas, not citizenship. On the other hand, the authorities in Chisinau are concerned, as you know, about the fact that the Romanian government could speed up the citizenship process for the residents of Moldova. They are concerned in particular about legislation that is being drafted in Bucharest. At what point has work on this law reached by now: has the process stopped, or is debate still continuing on this subject?

Cioroianu: I think you should better enquire with the authorities working on this legislation, the Justice Ministry. I do not have any judicial expertise and I would not give you information about this topic. Certainly, it does concern us, and it is obvious that the mutual fears you just talked about can be relieved through dialogue. May I repeat: from our point of view, citizenship is not the main wish of those who come to our consulate in Chisinau. Most come for visas.

'From my point of view, the picture is not as dark as it seems.'

RFE/RL: The European Union representative in Moldova, Kalman Mizsei, has recently said in Bucharest that Romania often treats Moldova as a younger brother. What would you say about that?

Cioroianu: Obviously, some of Mizsei's statements are close to reality, others are not. I am not happy, or convinced about Mizsei's plea about civil society in Transdneister. In my opinion, things are different. It was just his statement. As for the behavior of Romania, no matter what one can feel -- and perhaps certain Romanian functionaries or officials have made that impression -- our intention at this moment is to deny it, in the sense that we have to focus on painting a realistic picture of relations between two countries talking seriously and responsibly about matters of joint interest. This is not a "big brother-small brother" issue, it is about responsible results, which both sides have to discuss, to communicate quickly...concerning any problems of common or bilateral interest.

RFE/RL: Beyond the visa and citizenship issues, Chisinau-Bucharest ties seem to be frozen at present. What should happen in concrete terms in order to improve these ties?

Cioroianu: From my point of view, the picture is not as dark as it seems. Let me remind you of the recent visit of the Romanian prime minister, Calin Popescu-Tariceanu, to Chisinau. The discussions there were quite successful. It is true that they focused on issues of economic cooperation. I think that both sides are able to walk forward in political and neighborhood issues as well, should they demonstrate the same kind of openness.

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