Sunday, August 12, 2007

Moldovans Leaving for Romania? Part 1

This news is far from impartial, since it comes from the Pro-Transnistria Tiraspol Times. But still.....

Moldova falling apart as corruption, poverty force half the country to leave

Stuck in mis-rule, hundreds of thousands of Moldovan citizens would rather be Romanian. This year, more than half of the country will apply for citizenship. Pridnestrovie, meanwhile, has already made up its mind and is consolidating its own independence.

What if you had a country that nobody wanted to belong to?

This is the riddle currently facing Moldova, sandwiched between Romania, Pridnestrovie and Ukraine. Ever since Romania joined the European Union at the beginning of this year, more and more Moldovans have been applying for Romanian passports. So far, some 800,000 people have applied - a whopping 25 percent of Moldova's entire population.

Another 800,000 are estimated as already living abroad, having left the failed state in droves as corruption, poverty and a blatant disregard for human rights became the norm in the country under the government of Communist Party boss Vladimir Voronin, a president whose democratic credentials include a stint as a Brigadier General in the Soviet Union.

" - You can still find people in their twenties and thirties on the streets of Chisinau,” says Alan Freedman, IOM chief of mission in Moldova's capital. "But not out in the villages. Basically, people from 16-50 simply don’t exist because they have all left."

Both numbers are increasing as Moldovans are voting with their feet and giving up on a country which Washington in 2006 officially listed as a failed state. Apart from the 20 percent who have already left, Romanian officials estimate that by the end of the year, almost 50 percent of all Moldovans will have applied for passports.

The country has a population of 3,383,332 according to the latest census which did not include Pridnestrovie. This part, a "region" which Moldova refers to as Transnistria, technically still appears on maps of Moldova but it was the first to leave: In September of 1990, the entire population east of the Dniester River declared independence as the Pridnestrovskaia Moldavskaia Respublica (PMR) and has governed itself as a 'de facto' independent country ever since. Like increasing numbers of Moldova's own citizens, those of Pridnestrovie have no desire for a future within Moldova.

Moldova wants to rule Pridnestrovie, but can not even rule its own citizens. It holds the dubious record of being the top emigration country in Europe: On a per capita basis, more people are leaving Moldova than anywhere else, and faster than anywhere else.

Moldova lacks basic infrastructure such as paved roads in large areas of the country. Subsistence farming and the barter of basic staples has become the means of survival for a large share of the people remaining in Moldova, and the human organ trade is flourishing here like nowhere else in the world.

" - This is not the kind of country we want to be part of," says Tiraspol resident Oleg Atroshchyk, confirming that he supports Pridnestrovie's existence as a separate, sovereign state which is fully independent of "the disastrous statehood experiment that is known as the Republic of Moldova."

What is there in common between Moldova and Transdniester?

Most Moldovans are ethnic Romanian and speak Romanian. Moldova, unlike Pridnestrovie (also known as Transdniester), belonged to Romania before World War II. Pridnestrovie, which has historically been part of Poland and Russia, has never once in history belonging to an independent Moldovan state. And unlike Moldova, it has also never been part of Romania.

Another difference setting the two apart is that in Pridnestrovie, two thirds of the population is Slav: Made up of Russians, Ukrainians, and smaller numbers of Poles, Belarusians and Bulgarians. However, even the ethnic Moldovan minority which resides in Pridnestrovie has consistently pronounced itself in favor of independence. And among the first three "Pridnestrovians" to be shot by Moldova in the struggle for independence in the early 1990s, two were ethnic Moldovans advocating the PMR cause.

Now, Moldova is desperate to keep its citizens inside the country, even against their will: On Wednesday, Moldovan officials complained that Romania was luring Moldovans to acquire Romanian citizenship.

" - The Republic of Moldova will not allow its citizens' future to become the target of two-faced, dangerous, behind the scenes games which undermine national security and the foundations of statehood," the Moldovan government said in a Wednesday statement.

Some 75 percent of the Moldovan population is technically eligible for a Romanian passport and Romanian President Traian Basescu has urged that the process of screening the applications be sped up. He has also referred to Moldovans and Romanians as "a people separated as the Germans once were," in reference to the fact that Moldova has traditionally been a historic part of Romania. For ages, the far reaches of Romania - and, therefore, also of Moldova - has been the Dniester river, today the very same border which separates Moldova from Pridnestrovie.

Moldovans are leaving as fast as they can, in fear that an increasingly desperate Moldova passes a law ordering everyone to stay inside their country, Gulag-style.

Another large portion of Moldovans have already left for good. Moldova, officially Europe's poorest country, holds the European record for number of citizens who live abroad, on a per capita basis. Few among the Moldovan gast arbeiter diaspora show any inclination of ever wanting to return.

According to a UNICEF survey, “90% of Moldovans aged between 18-29 would like to leave the country …only 9% said they would like to live in Moldova.” Freedom House says: "Some 800,000 inhabitants of Moldova have left the country to pursue a better life elsewhere, and the majority of the country's remaining population lives in poverty."

The European Union has announced unprecedented amounts of aid, but human rights activists in the country fear that, African-style, the aid will only go to line the pockets of a few powerful, well-connected individuals. Oleg Voronin, the son Moldova's long-ruling President, is known as the richest man in the country. (With information from Spiegel)

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