A solemn joint session yesterday of the two chambers of the Romanian parliament marked the 80th anniversary of Romania’s incorporation of Bessarabia, the region roughly coinciding with the present-day Republic of Moldova. Representatives of all parties from the socialist-nationalist left to the Western-oriented right described Moldova as a second "Romanian state" and called for a more active policy to promote the "Romanian spirit" there. Although stopping short of demands for an early unification of the two countries, the parties in unison described the emergence of an independent Moldova since 1991 as a lost opportunity from the Romanian standpoint, frustrating the creation of a Greater Romania.
Governing and opposition parties alike portrayed the existence of Moldova as a temporary stage toward an ultimate merger with Romania. Speakers also mentioned Bukovina — half of which is in Ukraine — in terms similar to those used in describing Bessarabia. Most speakers suggested that the process of merging Romania and Moldova would parallel that of European integration. However, the terms used in describing Romania’s aspirations were those of the classical age of nationalism and national states. (Radio Bucharest, March 26)
The rhetoric and the consensus in parliament showed that the issue remains important and emotional in Romanian politics, if only at the elite level. Opinion surveys suggest that the public has only a slight interest in the issue. Most of today’s Republic of Moldova and half of Bukovina were parts of Romania in 1918-1940 and 1941-1944. President Emil Constantinescu and his Western-oriented government, in office since late 1996, have toned down territorial revisionism and signed a treaty with Ukraine recognizing the current borders. This was required of them by NATO if Romania were to be placed on the fast track of accession negotiations with the alliance. That reward, however, has not been forthcoming.
Romanian references to "Bessarabia" (connoting a province, rather than a country) and to "two Romanian states" are resented in Moldova. Negotiations toward a bilateral treaty of good-neighborly relations mark time since 1991, owing to Bucharest’s wish to include "special relations," common Romanian roots and the goal of future unification in the document.
In Moldova, public support for unification with Romania is minimal. The annual surveys conducted by "Opinia," Moldova’s main polling service, found that support for unification with Romania oscillated between an all-time high of 9 percent of the population in 1992 and 5 percent in 1996 and 1997. (Basapress, February 13, 1998) Findings of Romanian pollsters in Moldova have been similar. This reality was acknowledged at a conference of pro-Romanian historians held in Chisinau yesterday. Conference Chairman Alexandru Mosanu, former Chairman of the Moldovan Parliament and a prominent pro-Romanian politician, stated that unification with Romania would only become a possibility "if the mentality of the [Moldovan] population changes" and if Romania becomes more attractive economically. (Basapress, Flux, March 26)
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