Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 165

Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry on September 8 issued a statement of concern over recent accusations by Romanian government officials and parliamentary deputies that Ukraine “discriminates” against its Romanian minority and “restricts” Romanian-language education. The Foreign Ministry described the charges as “completely unfounded” and expressed surprise over “senior Romanian Foreign Ministry officials’ joining in anti-Ukrainian propaganda.” Kyiv’s statement pointed out that no change has occurred in Ukraine’s policy toward the Romanian/Moldovan minority; and that the latter enjoys substantially more facilities, compared to the Ukrainian minority in Romania. The statement urged Bucharest to appoint its representatives to the joint Ukrainian-Romanian commission on ethnic minority issues, a body envisaged in the 1997 bilateral treaty.

Almost 500,000 Moldovans and Romanians live in Ukraine’s Chernovtsy and Odessa regions, which coincide roughly with northern Bukovina and southern Bessarabia, respectively. Large sections of Romania’s body politic consider those two areas as Romanian territory. President Emil Constantinescu’s pro-Western government decided to recognize the existing border as permanent in the 1997 treaty with Ukraine, partly in order to place Romania on the fast track of admission to NATO. With that hope recently dashed, Romanian political circles and even parts of the government seem to revert to previous attitudes on the subject. Kyiv’s response is somewhat belated, reflecting a wish to avoid public controversy.

In Chisinau, some pro-Romanian circles are seeking, currently without success to involve Moldova on the side of Romania in this issue. Presidents Constantinescu, Leonid Kuchma and Petru Lucinschi took the opportunity to discuss the situation during the TRACECA conference in Baku on September 7-8. They decided to hold a tripartite meeting next month and discuss cooperation among their countries. All three presidents are interested in defusing the ethnic minority issue. Only Constantinescu faces a difficult task in this respect. (DINAU, Flux, Basapress, September 8 and 9)