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Romanian offer

mll/ncy, dpa/AP/AFPApril 17, 2009

The European Union has expressed concern about Romanian plans to offer citizenship to Moldovans with Romanian ancestry. The plan could mean hundreds of thousands of Moldovans having the right to settle in the EU.

Protestors shout slogans in front of a flag
Romania denies being behind anti-government protests in ChisinauImage: AP

Romanian President Traian Basescu told the Romanian parliament on Wednesday that he would fast-track Moldovans for Romanian citizenship following riots in the Moldovan capital Chisinau against election results which led to the victory of the Communist Party.

He also proposed that Moldovans with a Romanian great-grandparent should in future have the right to citizenship. Currently, an estimated 120,000 Moldovans have Romanian citizenship, which is available to Moldovans with a Romanian grandparent. Sixty percent of Moldova's 4.4 million people are thought to have Romanian origins.

Moldova was part of Romania until 1940 when it was taken over by the Soviet Union. After the break-up of the Soviet Union it became an independent state, but it remains one of the poorest countries in Europe, with an average annual income of $1,830 in 2008.

Tension have been increasing between Romania and Moldova since the election on April 5. The communists won almost 50 percent of the vote, and the opposition has accused the authorities of cheating. The parliament building in Chisinau was set on fire during protests, and protesters were beaten and severely injured. One man died.

The Moldovan government accuses the Romanians of being behind the protests and, in response, has imposed visa restrictions on Romanians.

On Friday, an EU commission spokesman said in Brussels that the EU condemned the violence, and were concerned at the reports of excesses by the security forces. But he said he would have to wait until real decisions had been made on the nationality issue before issuing an official response.

However, the Czech presidency of the bloc publicly rebuked Romania after a meeting between Czech EU Minister Alexandr Vondra and Romanian Foreign Minister Cristian Diaconescu. Vondra said, according the website EUobserver.com, "I told my Romanian colleague about our serious concerns of the possible risks arising from adopting simplified procedures for Romanian citizenship." The website quoted an unnamed EU official as describing the plans as "frightening."