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Romanian Citizenship Move Draws Moldova's Ire

Moldovans queueing for visas to Romania (file) (AFP) September 7, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Romania has decided to simplify its procedures for granting citizenship, amid criticism from Moldova, which stands to lose more of its population to its EU neighbor.

The most significant change resulting from the Romanian government's September 5 decision is that citizenship decisions will be made by a Citizenship Commission made up of full-time magistrates employed by the Justice Ministry. All citizenship decisions made by the commission will be subject to approval by the ministry.

Citizenship is currently granted by a special panel of judges that meets occasionally and whose decisions are confirmed by the Romanian government.

Romania's citizenship and visa policies have drawn the ire of neighboring Moldova, which accuses Bucharest of undermining its national security by encouraging Moldovans to become Romanian citizens.

"I do not think [the Romanian citizenship law] is a good initiative," Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev said in an interview with RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service. "This is my point as a Moldovan citizen. All Moldovan citizens should have only their Moldovan citizenship and be proud of it; they should not run to an other country or take another citizenship, when times are rough."

'It's Their Right'

Romanian legislation grants citizenship to Moldovans whose parents or grandparents were Romanian citizens before 1940, when Moldova was part of Romania.

The prospect of gaining Romanian citizenship, which allows visa-free movement throughout the European Union, has led one in eight of Moldova's 4.3 million citizens to apply for a Romanian passport.

Romanian Justice Minister Tudor Chiuariu told RFE/RL that Moldovans applying for Romanian citizenship are merely exercising their rights.

"Every person should have the right to choose the citizenships he wants," he said. "We should not forget that we are talking about our co-nationals, living in neighboring countries, who should have the possibility to get back their Romanian citizenship."

Chiuariu said the new citizenship law could come into effect as early as next week.

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