The Rush for Moldovan Citizenship

Moldova is not the kind of country people move to. In fact, at a recent conference on global demographics at the University of Oxford, a CIS expert pointed to the small republic between Romania and Ukraine as a particular concern, pointing out that it’s been hemorrhaging population to Russia for more than a decade. What’s a country to do when residents decide they don’t want to live there?

But, a high-ranking European diplomat tells me, in the past 18 months 74,000 people have applied for Moldovan citizenship. That’s not 74,000 births; it’s 74,000 foreigners who’ve decided they want to become Moldovans. What’s suddenly making Moldova so attractive does, perhaps sadly, has little to do with the almost–Black Sea nation itself and a lot to do with the European Union. In November 2013, the EU concluded that Moldova was fulfilling a set of requirements in areas such as human rights and the rule of law, and granted its citizens the right to visa-free travel to its member states.

And with that, the citizenship applications started coming in, and not just from anywhere, but from Transnistria. The breakaway republic loyal to Russia is located on what Moldova considers Moldovan territory, and ever since Transnistria broke away relations between the parties have been frozen, not to say freezing, with no movement in either direction regarding Transnistria’s status. But Transnistrians themselves apparently have a clear idea of what they want. Those 74,000 amount to a fifth of the republic’s citizens. If the trend continues, Transnistria will soon have lost its citizens to Moldova, courtesy of an EU visa regime.

On Thursday EU leaders meet in the Latvian capital of Riga for their fourth Eastern Partnership Summit, where they will among other things discuss giving Georgia visa liberalization as well. If they do, South Ossetia may go the way of Transnistria. To be sure, getting Transnistrians and South Ossetians to join their side was and is not the EU leaders’ intention. Yet the visa liberalization regime is a new diplomatic tool put i

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