We Are All Romanians Now 

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This week in Paul D'Agostino's funtime adventures through the European press, he seriously thinks about moving to Romania. Seriously.

Evidently, a new plan to facilitate study abroad and Euro-tripping for Moldovan youths could eventually ruffle feathers in the Kremlin and raise eyebrows in Beijing. Weird, right? Preposterous, even?

Well, given the diplomatically purposeful yet rather muted forms of applause that concluded summits held between the European Union and Chinese and Russian leaders last week – and given a curious new loophole in Romanian citizenship rights – something along such improbable lines could, in fact, in the coming months, be the case.

And in rather large part, it could all hinge on gas. Seriously. Somewhat less seriously, though, is that after a bit of politico-geographical zigzagging, there may be reason to find this all quite unsettlingly funny.

Let’s begin in Eastern Europe.

The EU and Moldova par the French
According to an article in Le Monde, “Les jeunes Moldaves rêvent d’Europe et se rouent sur les passeports roumains,” relations between Romania, an EU Member State since 2007, and Moldova, an independent republic that was once part of Romania before becoming Soviet territory throughout the Cold War, are currently strained on two fronts – one of them democratico-electoral, and the other, in a sense, generational – both of which have been very recently roiled:

Romano-Moldovan relations were severely degraded by the communist victory to the Moldovan legislature on 5 April, a victory that the opposition contested violently in the streets. Authorities in Chisinau, the Moldovan capital, have accused Romania of being behind these anticommunist demonstrations…. On 19 May, in hopes of encouraging EU mediation, Moldova accused Romania of wanting to ‘annex’ it.

In the meantime, Moldova had already given the Romanian ambassador the proverbial boot and imposed visa restrictions on Romanians in Moldova. Yet the Romanian president, Traian Basescu, while accusing Moldova of “ethnic discrimination, suppression of the opposition and censure,” seems to believe that this would be a fitting time to invite Moldovans – well, certain Moldovans – over for dinner, and that a Romanian passport would make for a lovely dessert. As such, waving his formidable EU flag and all its emblazoned bling, Basescu “decided to grant Romanian passports to Romanophone Moldovans, opening for them the doors to the EU,” a measure that the sociologist Dan Dungaciu sees as an opportunity for Moldovan youths to “integrate themselves individually” into the EU, “the key being Romanian nationality.” In the words of Corina, a Moldovan student at the University of Bucharest, “this is an unexpected gift. Our place is in Europe, and a Romanian passport is our only chance of traveling to the west.”

What an interesting gesture. A generous one, even. Many young Moldovans, one might assume, would be happy to get EU passports and envision their futures anew. What’s more, they’d get to alter their Facebook profiles accordingly, change their network preferences and update their status to, perhaps, ‘Romanian now lol!’

Note, however, that this opportunity has been granted to Romanophone Moldovans, who make up two-thirds of the population. The other third, the group that apparently has not been granted the same privilege, is Russophone, so their imaginable FB status in the wake of all this, ‘like WTF?☹,’ would likely resonate with authorities in Chisinau, and maybe Moscow, as well.

Now let’s go all the way east just to come back west.

The EU and China durch the Germans
As reported in “Peking verwahrt sich gegen ‘Einmischung’” (sic. – indeed, the ‘Beijing’ memo has yet to reach all desks in Germany), from the Frankfurter Allgemeine, “Peking and the European Union remain distant. At a summit meeting in Prague, China and the EU were unable to settle a number of important political questions.” Although José Manuel Barroso, the current president of the European Commission, and Wen Jiabao, the Chinese leader, both made references to things like ‘deep connections,’ ‘common interests,’ ‘working with one another’ and ‘mutual trust,’ it remained abundantly clear that their “essential practical differences” regarding matters such as “human rights, minority rights, the crises in Burma and Sri Lanka, investment regulations and pirated products” would not be easily resolved. And for various, perhaps more tangible reasons, the Chinese side proved itself relatively more obdurate, demanding not only that a “weapons embargo against China be lifted” but also that “restrictions on exports of advanced technological products to China be loosened.” Additionally, Wen, “at the conclusion of the summit … and in sharp tones, forbade the EU from getting mixed up in the ‘internal matters’ of his country.” Thus ultimately, despite other concluding claims to “improve coordination and working together on international questions,” it was hardly a healthy happy ending that wrapped things up.

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