The latest development since Moldova's elections earlier this month saw Romanian President Traian Basescu order the simplification of procedures for granting citizenship to ethnic Romanians living in Moldova, saying a million requests were waiting in his country's embassy in Chisinau.
Violent protests broke out following parliamentary elections held on 5 April in Moldova. The country's president, Vladimir Voronin of the Communist Party, accused neighbouring Romania of trying to overthrow his government. The Romanian ambassador in Chisinau was declared a persona non grata and a visa requirement was imposed on Romanian citizens.
Moldova is a former Soviet republic and was part of Romania before being annexed by the Soviet Union in World War II. The country is landlocked between Romania and Ukraine. Moldovans speak Romanian, although the country's constitution calls it the 'Moldovan language'. Russian is also widely spoken.
Transnistria, a Moldovan region east of the Dniester river, has been considered a 'frozen conflict' area since the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Its population is predominantly ethnic Russian and Ukrainian. Although internationally Transnistria is part of Moldova, de facto its authorities do not exercise any power there.
Speaking before both chambers of the Romanian parliament on 14 April, Basescu dropped a political bomb by asking legislators to simplify the procedures.
As the press in Bucharest reported, the move, which is likely to please nationalists in Romania, could "leave [Moldovan communist president] Vladimir Voronin without citizens".
"I remind that the Romanian legislation foresees restoring Romanian citizenship to former citizens of our country and to their successors, who have been stripped of this statute against their will," Basescu said.
"I notice that the bureaucratic procedure [...] limits drastically the number of people able to benefit from it in real terms. Consequently, I have asked the government to adopt, in a procedure of urgency, the amendment of this legislation, so that we can speed up and facilitate the process of restoring Romanian citizenship to those who have lost it, and to their families, until the third degree," he stated.
Basescu added that in this way, "the Romanians from the Republic of Moldova would quickly restore their Romanian citizenship and would become, not from a moral, but a legal point of view, members of the European family".
The Romanian president also suggested that all Moldovans whose ancestors had been living there since 1939 could qualify for Romanian citizenship. "The territory east of the River Prut was amputated from the body of our country by the Fascist-Communist Ribbentrop-Molotov pact, declared by the Romanian parliament to be illegal and arbitrary."
Later, speaking to the press, Basescu disclosed that 650,000 envelopes containing requests for Romanian citizenship had been lying in the Romanian embassy in Chisinau. He added that since some requests concerned several members of the same families, about a million of Moldova's four-million-strong population had already filed for Romanian citizenship.
The Romanian press notes, however, that Basescu's move is likely to raise eyebrows in EU capitals, which would end up with another emigration wave of "millions of hungry, new EU citizens". Italy, for one, is reportedly considering closing its borders to Romanian citizens after a wave of crime allegedly by Romanian Roma.
A Commission spokesperson told that the EU executive would not comment at this stage. He would only say that the Romanian president's move was obviously a "very sensitive issue" with "a lot of consequences" on migration within the EU's borders.