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Fixing a US Diplomatic Gaffe: Protests in Romania and the Republic of Moldova

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No international subject is more sensitive for Romania than the problem of Bessarabia, the eastern half of the old Principality of Moldova, and the fate of those circa four million Romanians living there. The province was first annexed by tsarist Russia in 1812, reunited with Romania in 1918, invaded by the Soviet troops following the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact in 1940, but retaken by Romania in 1941 only to be re-annexed by the USSR in 1944. Based upon its territory, Moscow organized the Soviet Republic of Moldova, which became independent after the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. The international conditions of the time, the Soviet-American agreements signed at Malta, and the lack of vision of the post-1989 Romanian governments left the Republic of Moldova in limbo.
While Romania joined the European Union and NATO and became a loyal ally of the United States, Moldova remained under Russian control. Nevertheless, every specialist knows that Moldovans are Romanians and their aspiration is reunification. From a Romanian point of view, reunification is natural and imminent although its timing may require some patience. Yet, the recent statement of the U.S. Ambassador to Chisinau, the capital of Moldova, triggered dismay and indignation at almost every level in both Moldova and Romania.
On August 26th on the occasion of Moldova’s ‘independence’, America’s Ambassador to Chisinau, James Pettit, gave a televised interview. He stated that Moldovans are a distinct nation with their own history and traits and have their independent country. He also said that Moldova must remain a sovereign state and therefore, it is not good for the people to think of joining Romania because union is not a practical solution… By making this statement, Ambassador Pettit reiterated the old Soviet point of view. His pronouncements raised questions about America’s policy and reliability and upset some of the highest institutions of Moldova and Romania.
Speaking at Moldova’s Academy of Sciences on August 31st the very President of Moldova Nicolae Timofte responded: I am of Romanian origin as were my parents, my grandparents and all those who live on this land. We are ethnic Romanians although we call ourselves Moldovans. This truth should be accepted once and for all, he concluded. At the same time, The Writers’ Union of Moldova issued a statement underlying its moral obligation to take a stand and denounce Ambassador Pettit… for distorting the truth and for offending the ‘holy of holies’ of the Romanian national identity— the unity of language, history and culture…
Similar reactions were reported virtually at every social level in Moldova and Romania and were published by the press and aired by mass media. Here are a few titles from the press: Stop Abusing our National Ideals, Defend us God from our Friends, What 25 years of Independence? Why do Americans claim that Moldovans are not Romanians?… Some of the articles asked clear and pertinent questions: Is it possible that America does not know the truth about Bessarabia? Is it possible that it does not know about the people of this province, mostly Romanians, arrested, killed or deported to Siberia? Is it possible that the State Department does not know about the Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact? Ribbentrop was hanged after the Nurnberg trial, but apparently his infamous pact has remained. Does the U.S. ambassador to Chisinau want to perpetuate the consequences of this pact and alienate Romanians in the process? Is this the official position of the State Department…?
The diplomatic uproar also upset the Senate of Romania, which sent Washington a letter of protest. The letter stresses that the Senate is the supreme representative body of the Romanian people and it mentions clearly: The Romanian Senate rejects without equivocation the declarations of the U.S. ambassador to Chisinau regardless if they represent his personal opinion or the official position of the American Government. And the Senate asked for clarifications.
The clarification came immediately from the American Embassy in Bucharest, and it was not very pleasing for most people: The U‎.S. has long supported the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova. The United States applauds Romania for its continued leadership and collaborative approach to support Moldova’s democratic development, reform efforts, and further integration into the EU according to the desires of the people. … Drawing broader interpretations of our policy goes beyond the scope of our policy.

Most Romanian and Moldovan newspapers reacted with various interpretations and began to doubt America’s commitment to Romania. Some editors even suggested that in the grand scheme of international events, the U.S. might even trade Romania to Russia for stability in Europe. A pertinent analysis in this vein was authored by Dan Dungaciu, head or Romania’s Institute for South-East European Studies. He concludes that the State Department is under the influence of specialists that embrace the old Soviet view point which, in his opinion, is damaging America’s diplomacy. The analyst stressed that if the ambassador’s statement represented the official views of the State Department, then we could see the huge difference between the position of a great American president, Ronald Reagan, and the administration of President Obama.

In Bucharest, at a public rally in the University Plaza, young people collected thousands of books about Moldova to be sent to Ambassador Pettit to educate himself on the topic.

Yet, the uproar had a positive outcome. Ambassador James Pettit had a meeting with Mihai Ghimpu, leader of the Moldovan Liberal party and most likely candidate for next month’s presidential elections in Moldova. According to cotidianul.ro of 5 September, Ghimpu explained to the ambassador in very clear terms that Moldovans are Romanians and that the aspiration of most of them is to reunite with Romania. He also said that in 1991 he personally voted for the independence of Moldova because union was not possible then, but people like him saw in the independence just a step toward union. If we do not reunite with Romania, Mihai Ghimpu added, we will be occupied by Russia the same way Crimea was occupied. The Ambassador listened and then said that by making the statement of August 26, he did not want to offend the aspirations of the people. In the end, he stated: If the Moldovans want to unite with Romania, I would respect the decision and the ideal of the unionist movement.

The opinion belongs to Nicholas Dima.

Currently studying International Relations at the University of Pécs, Hungary. Study focus: Transnistrian conflict settlement, Moldovan statehood, Moldovan democracy. Inquiries at [email protected]

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The Citizenship by Investment Program in Moldova – embracing great opportunities or risks?

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Dubai, November 5th – The Citizenship by Investment Program in the Republic of Moldova was officially launched at the 12th annual Global Residence and Citizenship Conference in Dubai. Since the very first moment when the legislative initiative was registered in the Parliament (December 2016), the law of citizenship by investment gained support, along with a lot of criticism. The government presented the program as an opportunity to attract new investments, whereas the opposition and some experts argued that granting citizenship to foreign investors involves major risks to the state security and could affect the liberalized visa regime with the EU, as reported by Ziarul de Gardă.

The law adoption outlines

The law of citizenship by investment was adopted and promulgated in record time without waiting the results of the anti-corruption expertise report published by the National Anticorruption Centre (NAC). One week after the final voting of the bill, the results of NAC report stated that “the promoted interests through the law of citizenship by investment are detrimental to the public interest, and imply major risks to the safety and security of the citizens and the state of the Republic of Moldova, , in the context of the emigration crisis in EU and the global terrorism threat.”

In March 2018, the Ministry of Economy and Infrastructure (MEI) has published a decision to amend the Regulation on Acquisition of Citizenship by Investment. According to the Transparency International Moldova experts,  the changes to the selection procedure of candidates for granting citizenship were made without public debates and a preliminary notification. The procedure was simplified by omitting the governmental institutions from the examination process.

A series of law amendments came next, enabling the persons who would obtain the Moldovan citizenship by investment to be exempted from the obligation to know the provisions of the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova and to speak the Romanian language. Moreover, the name and other personal data of the candidates would be kept in secret, only the applicant file number being published.

The ex-president of the Parliamentary Commission for national security, defence and public order, Roman Boţan, qualified the amendments as doubtful. “It’s strange that the names of the candidates for granting the Moldovan citizenship by investment is concealed. It is plausible that such investments could come from fraud, and premises of decriminalizing illegal assets could be created,” declared Boţan.

Vlad Ţurcanu, a political commentator and a former presidential adviser, mentioned that the relationship Moldova – EU could be negatively affected in the light of a non-transparent citizenship granting process. Furthermore, such problematic future citizens could create crises which would be very hard to be managed by the Moldovan institutions.

In July 2018, MEI signed a partnership contract with the Moldovan Investment Company (MIC) Holding and with Henley & Partners Government Services Ltd. The stated scope of the contract was the development, implementation and international promotion of the Citizenship by Investment Program. The official MIC Holding website presents neither the name of the founding persons or companies nor the contact address of the holding.

MEI signing the partnership contract with the MIC Holding| Source: mei.gov.md

The Henley & Partners Government Services Ltd appears in an investigation article written by The Guardian that presents the company as doing business with ‘golden’ passports.  “For a few hundred thousand dollars, the right passport, from the right place, can get its owner into almost any country,” is stated in the article. The company was involved in the Maltese program of citizenship by investments and was accused of intimidating the investigative journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. The journalist examined the scheme of offering the Maltese citizenship but was assassinated in October 2017.

The Henley & Partners’ perspective

In an interview for Newsmaker, the president of Henley & Partners, Christian Kälin and the Group Public Relations Director at Henley & Partners, Paddy Blewer talked about the candidate selection process of Moldovan citizenship granting and the benefits of the program.

First, it is important to mention that the Henley & Partners company, as a part of the MIC Holding, is responsible for the consultancy and the strategy implementation for the Moldovan Citizenship by Investment Program.

When asked about the possible applicants for the Citizenship by Investment Program, Christian Kälin clarified that they would be wealthy people that want to enlarge their possibilities of traveling and moving around the world.

“It is not about a Russian oligarch with lots of money and relationships in the political world. It is more about an UAE citizen who is not sure he wants to stay in his country in the next 15 years or an American citizen that can’t enter an Arabic country using his American passport and needs the second citizenship for security reasons.”

According to Kälin, the applicants would be interested in being protected and moving around, not tax evasion. He admitted that among the beneficiaries of the program could be not well-intended people: “It’s like in the bank. There are thousands of clients and among them there could be 5,7,10 delinquents. Still, that’s not a reason for the bank to cease its activity.”

“The most important benefit for a country that implements a program of citizenship by investment is the possibility to attract new investments,” as Paddy Blewer stated. In the case of the Republic of Moldova there is a possibility, at the moment, to invest in the Public Investment Fund. The law of citizenship by investment stipulates for now only the opportunity of real estate investments, according to Christian Kälin. He also added that the real estate sector is a key one in the economy of any country and that most programs of granting citizenship in return for investment provide such a component. “Real estate investments have a considerable positive effect on the economy of a country. They increase the number of transactions and develop the construction industry. The real estate sector has many intersections with other sectors of the economy. Thus, it will be a driver of job creation,” said Kälin.

According to the officials’ declarations at the Moldova Business Week of this year, the industries that should have priority when it comes to investments in Moldova are the tourism and information technologies sectors. Also, the automotive and manufacturing industries need the government’s support in order to be developed as the country’s strategical sectors.

The expert’s perspective

The expert and activist Sergiu Tofilat explained for Moldova.org several important aspects regarding the law of citizenship by investment. First, “some European countries are trying to attract investment by selling citizenship. Such programs are interesting for wealthy people who want to be able to travel visa-free in the EU and the US, who would like to easily open bank accounts in western banks,” said Tofilat. He highlighted the serious issues in verifying the source of the ‘invested’ money for acquiring citizenship, but also national security issues when different criminals or terrorists get foreign citizenship.

In case of the Republic of Moldova, “there are problems related to politically subordinate justice, labour shortages, the lack of predictability of public policies as when the government changes the law, and this affects the business environment that can’t plan its activity for at least 3-5 years,” as Tofilat mentioned. Taking into consideration these circumstances, “the Citizenship by Investment program raises suspicions of money laundering, especially since nothing of the stolen billion has been recovered,” stated Tofilat. He indicated that the program in question must be analysed together with the so-called tax amnesty law, which allows the legalization of any dirty money for a 6% tax. “As a result, the beneficiaries of the bank fraud can decriminalize their money through certain foreign citizens who will receive citizenship by granting loans to the Moldovan Government, after which the new Moldovan citizens will benefit from the tax amnesty,” explained Tofilat.

“The authorities stated that the objective of the citizenship program is to attract foreign investments in Moldova. It is absurd to believe that foreign investors queue up for investing their money in Moldova and that getting citizenship is the biggest obstacle for them.”

According to the Tofilat’s opinion, “a special attention should be paid to the dangerous similarities of the Moldovan program with the programs in Hungary and Malta.” Just as in the case of Hungary, the names of those who will receive the citizenship of the Republic of Moldova will be classified under the pretext of protecting their personal data.

An international inquiry from September 2018 revealed that especially Russian officials are interested in receiving the Hungarian citizenship for being able to travel without any visa and to leave Russia in case they need it.  “It’s the case of Russian deputies, heads of state-owned enterprises, and even Serghei Naryshkin’s family, the head of the Russian espionage service, who received the citizenship of Hungary. This happened despite the fact that some officials appear on international sanctions lists,” specified Tofilat.

Featured image source: anticoruptie.md

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Opinion

Romania, Moldova and the US-Romanian Relations

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This opinion piece was written by Dr. Nicholas Dima. Dr. Dima was formerly a Professor of Geography and Geopolitics at Djibouti University, St. Mary’s University College and James Madison University. From 1975 to 1985 and from 1989 to 2001, Dr. Dima was a Writer and Field Reporter at Voice of America. The opinion does not necessarily represent the opinion of the editorial staff of Moldova.org.

***

On December 1st, Romania celebrated one hundred years since the modern reunification of the country. The nation traces its history back to the old kingdom of Dacia that existed two thousand years ago before the Roman conquest of the land. Then, throughout the middle ages, the Romanian nation lived primarily in the principalities of Wallachia, Moldavia, and Transylvania. The medieval Principality of Moldova included the current Republic of Moldova. In the course of history, however, two Romanian-inhabited provinces, Bukovina and Bessarabia (Northern and Eastern Moldova) were annexed by Austria and respectively, by Russia. At the end of the First World War and based on their Romanian majority the two provinces reunited with Romania. Thus, modern Romania, like most Eastern European nations, came into being at the end of the war. The Principle of self-determination of Nations, formulated by the U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, was the cornerstone for rebuilding Eastern Europe.

Subsequently, the Paris Peace Treaty brought a period of stability and tranquility to the continent. During the inter-war period, Romania maintained very good relations with the United States and with her traditional Western European allies. While Austria renounced any further claims, the newly created USSR sought continuously to re-annex Bessarabia. Thus, following the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact of 1939, the Soviet troops invaded Romania and annexed again not only Bessarabia but also northern Bukovina.

It is worth reminding that Malborne Graham, an American diplomat, published an article in 1944 titled “The Legal Status of the Bukovina and Bessarabia” (American Journal of International Law, October 1944). He wrote that this disputed area of Eastern Europe represented “the most critical territorial problem bequeathed to the present generation as a direct legacy of the age-old Eastern Question.” This territorial problem is still pending.

In 1989, after the dismemberment of the USSR, Moldova declared its independence. However, to this day the truncated land that makes the current Republic of Moldova is still manipulated by Putin and by his men in Chisinau. Consequently, the population has suffered and continues to suffer political oppression and economic hardship. Reminding this historical context on June 26, 1991, the U.S. Senate passed Resolution 148. Here are a few excerpts:

To express the sense of the Senate that the United States should support the right to self-determination of the people of the Republic of Moldavia and northern Bucovina… Now, Therefore, be it Resolved, That it is the sense of the Senate that the United States Government should–

(1) Support the right of self-determination of the people of Soviet-occupied Moldavia and northern Bucovina and issue a statement to that effect; and

(2) Support future efforts by the Government of Moldavia to negotiate peacefully, if they so wish, the reunification of Romania with Moldavia and Northern Bucovina as established in the Paris Peace Treaty of 1920, the prevailing norms of international law, and in conformity with Principle 1 of the Helsinki Final Act…”

Since 1944 when Graham wrote about the old ‘Eastern Question” and since 1991 when the U.S. Senate addressed the same question, this issue has remained unsolved. Nevertheless, since 1991 the Romanian-American relations have expanded steadily while Moldova has remained under Moscow.

As for the American-Romanian relations and according to official Bucharest sources:

…‘Romania shares the US commitment to transatlantic security, and fully supports endeavors to improve the effectiveness of NATO and strengthen its capabilities to address the current challenges. This can only be done by reinforcing the core pillar of the Alliance, which is collective defense, backed by a credible deterrence. Thus, we are particularly appreciative to our U.S. ally for its strong political support and substantial contribution to projects such as the multinational brigade hosted by Romania, the enhanced maritime presence in the Black Sea or the Combined Joint Enhanced Training Program’…

The 2014 Russo-Ukrainian war, the Russian annexation of Crimea, and the very current renewal of Russian aggression in the Sea of Azov require a new approach. It is high time for Washington to redefine its policy in the region. On December 1, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo congratulated Romania on its centennial. It is a beautiful gesture, but it is not enough. America should realize once and for all that Romanians and Moldovans are the same people! It is in the strategic interest of the United States to do so!

Romania is currently a member of the European Union, a solid member of NATO, and a staunch American ally. In the new political climate and the new geopolitical configuration of Europe, Romania is one of the main pivots of U.S. policy in Eastern Europe. And Romania’s location by the Black Sea enhances her significance for America and the West in a region threatened by instability and aggressive neighbors. It is time for a new policy and approach.

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What is it like to be a business woman in the Republic of Moldova?

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It is widely recognised that the women involved in business are not considered equal to men. Overall, they can be discriminated when applying for a job or when it comes to the wage payment, men being preferred for top management positions.

In the Republic of Moldova, a traditionalist country with values deeply rooted in the old socialist system, the situation is not better. According to a report issued in 2016 by the National Statistical Bureau (NBS), UNDP and UN Women, the number of females in Moldova that head a company, or an organisation is three times smaller than the number of men.

We gathered over time a multitude of interviews and reportages about the life and activity of Moldovan business women. All these women have told us about both good and bad things: about the sacrifices, challenges, benefits and advantages of being a female entrepreneur in Moldova. Here are the highlights of some of their stories:

Adriana Buciușcanu is the part-time manager and the owner of an educational centre in Orhei.

She started her own business during her maternal leave. This activity is taking a lot of her time and efforts, but Adriana never gives up as she is very passionate about what she does. Her business operates in an environment where the investment in education is not a priority. “People prefer clothes, food and other basic needs, rather than training or professional growth,” she said in an interview offered for Moldova.org.

The educational centre she administers organizes parenting informational sessions on how to build trust and an effective parent-child dialogue. Also, it offers English lessons for children, a kindergarten program, as well as after-school and weekend activities for pupils. At the moment, all sessions are for free, but the business wouldn’t last long like that. “We are not in that system, where the free of charge services could be offered. The only free cheese is in the mouse trap, ” explained the business woman, criticizing the strategy of the Orhei’s mayor – Ilan Shor of offering all public services for free.

The “Cheița fermecată” Centre coordinated by Adriana

Adriana Buciuşcanu was born in Orhei. She did her bachelor and graduate studies in Romania. For opening the educational centre, she applied for a financial aid to the United Nations Development Program. In the future, Adriana is going to apply for more grants in order to develop the centre’s infrastructure. Beside the managerial activity, Adriana is also working at the Orhei District Council, even though she is still in the maternal leave with her third child.

“It is quite difficult to get back to work after three years of staying at home and taking care of a child. But the quicker is the return to an active life, the greater the courage and enthusiasm of women becomes.”

Adriana encourages the gender equality: “If a man can manage a business very well, why a woman couldn’t do it? The society would have a lot of benefits from the equal involvement of women and men,” concludes Adriana.

Cristina Frolov is an entrepreneur and the managing director of the Mimi Castle, a wine producing company and a popular touristic attraction in Moldova.

Photo source: avantaje.ro

Cristina believes that a good manager is the one that can provide high quality services. “I like to organise events together with my team, to elaborate new concepts and projects that emphasise and communicate our values as a family, nation and a country,” said Cristina.

She works in a very competitive industry for the Republic of Moldova. “It’s hard to convince someone to buy your product when there are another 60 producers who do their job just as well,” claims Cristina. She has almost 200 subordinates, most of them being from the villages in the vicinity. “The winery produces up to 1 million bottles, 90% of which are exported to China and Germany,” she adds, while demonstrating her favourite kind of wine ‘Red de Bulboaca’.

When asked about the gender differences in business, she mentions the women’s ability to learn faster from others.

“Women need to be encouraged more. The moment society will understand that there is no difference between a woman and a man in doing a job, things will change.”

Nonna Mihălcean – psychologist, the coordinator of the Resource Centre for Teenagers and Youth “Anticafeneaua Bălți” and a very good leader, has a lot to say about how it is to be a woman involved in a lot of activities.

In one year, she managed to bring the centre of non-formal education to a new level. Today, the centre is visited by more than 2000 teenagers from Bălți. There are organised informative sessions, creative workshops, trainings, meetings with experts, film evenings, oratorical clubs, social theatre, presentations, sport clubs, social games, and other activities.

Nonna enjoys a lot to work with people, especially with teenagers. “I understood that there is an important category of people with a great potential. Young people can bring the change and we need to invest in them,” mentions Nonna. She has a psychologist office that is a part of her daily activity as well. According to the Nonna’s opinion, the women involved in a lot of activities carry a series of internal and external battles.

“Because they can’t leave the family behind, the active women tend to be present 24/7. They have to fight several battles.”

Victoria Dunford is an emigrant nurse that moved to Great Britain and chose to come back to Moldova afterwards to contribute to the improvement of the Moldovans’ life quality.

Photo source: osearaperfecta.md

She intended to stay in Great Britain only for two years, but then got married to a British citizen and settled in the country permanently. Her story begins with a dream she had: to transfer a part of the recycled medical equipment (that is still in a very good condition) from British hospitals to the Moldovan ones, where a penury of such equipment is registered.

At the beginning, it wasn’t easy at all to deliver a truck full of medical equipment to Moldova. “It is not like sending a parcel to your parents’ home. It needs a lot of paperwork, effort and stress,” said Victoria. This is why she decided to establish an organisation called MAD-Aid that means both “Make a difference” and “Medical Aid Deliver”. Every day, she fights for providing Moldovan hospitals that “have been left in the past for more than 50 years,” as Victoria’s husband told her once, with the necessary apparatus and furniture.

The Phoenix Centre coordinated by Victoria

After organising a donation event for the children who need wheelchairs and observing how big the potential of these isolated children is, Victoria decided to initiate a new project – a new medical centre for children with mobility deficiencies. Here, new challenges were waiting for her, as nobody took her seriously. She recalls that she cried after a meeting with the representatives of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Social Protection. “They asked me: why do you put the money in these children, who, anyway, do not have a future? Although I am strong, I began to cry. If you talk like this to a person who has come to invest, how do you talk to those who come to ask for help?” confessed Victoria.

“The last six weeks before the opening of the centre were critical and complicated. I was tired, but I knew for sure that if I died on September 20th, there was something left behind.”

After long years of hard work, her efforts were remunerated. She received in 2017 the British Empire Medal, an order offered by the Queen of Great Britain for the help she offered to children with special needs. “It is a shame that many have been more open to collaborate only after I received the medal from the Queen of Great Britain,” she declared with disappointment.

In the same year, she began to write a book entitled “Get Mad”, the main idea of which was to transmit to the Moldovan children the message that she was like them once, and she was just a simple girl that walked on the muddy roads of Mihăileni, her native village. “Anyone who has enough determination and puts enough work can go from rags to riches,” closed out Victoria.

Nowadays, there are 588.3 thousand women employed in the labour market in the Republic of Moldova, according to an NBS report in 2016. What’s interesting, is that 67% of these women were employed in a company, 26% were self-employed, 7% of the women in question were housewives and only 0.5% of women were registered as being entrepreneurs, as an infographic made by Moldova.org based in NBS data presents. On the other hand, the average female entrepreneurship rate in the European Union in 2014 was 10% of the total female active labour force.   

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