During the events of earlier April and subsequently, there has been a lot of talk of reunification with Romania. Some view this as an inevitability sometime in the next 10-20 years, others see it as a possible outcome of a deal cut between Putin & Basescu.
Personally, I think that successful reunification can only take place if both the people and political elite of the Republic of Moldova are given an offer by Romania which is sufficiently attractive.
There are obvious material advantages that would accompany reunification, and these need to be identified:
- access to the EU market
- access to EU structural funds
- EU citizenship
- equalisation of welfare benefits with Romania
BARRIERS TO REUNIFICATION
The thing is, the material benefits are insufficient in themselves. Reunification isn't that popular an idea in Moldova - it's only supported by 10 to 20% of the population. The reasons are mainly cultural. For starters, Moldova has a large slavonic minority which has little affinity with Romania. Second, even the majority ethnic Romanian population feels that Moldova has a distinct identity, culture, mentality and values. While they share the same origins as their brothers across the Prut, 200 years of Russian influence have left their mark.
Reunification is even more unpopular among Chisinau's political class, for a very simple reason. Today, the city is a national capital and financial centre. Reunified with Romania, Chisinau would be downgraded to a county town such as Iasi or Brasov. It would only have jurisdiction over the central part of the existing republic (as Balti, Cahul and Tiraspol would also become county centres), and hundreds of positions would be disestablished as the infrastructure of national government was dismantled. Lots of people would have lots to lose.
Remember also that Moldova's previous experience of reunification left a lot to be desired. When it initially broke away from the Russian empire in 1918, Moldova enjoyed a few brief months of independence. Then it agreed to reintegrate with Romania under a deal which saw it retain significant autonomy. In subsequent years, however, the promised autonomy was gradually whittled away to nothing. At the same time, Romania itself spiralled downwards from democracy to Antonescu's fascism.
The solution to the reunification problem lies not in Moldova, but in Romania. Reunification would present an unparalleled opportunity for that country not just to reintegrate Moldova, but also to deal with its own troubled political structures.
The fact is that Romania is over-governed. It has a 137-member senate and 315-member lower house. It has 42 counties, each with their own bureaucracy. It has an extensive government machinery, replete with counsellors of varying description and usefulness.
What I would propose is a complete remaking of Romania's government structure. Improve the efficiency of government by combining the counties into, say, seven larger entities (let's call them 'states'). For argument's sake these states could be Banat, Transylvania, Maramures, (Western) Moldova, Dobrogea, Tara Romaneasca and Bucuresti.
Each state would have a governor and a 15 member unicameral parliament overseeing its governmental structures. The same 15 deputies would occupy seats in the national parliament (which would have 105 members in total). The senate would be abolished.
The states would assume the powers of the existing counties as well as whatever power could be sensibly devolved from Bucharest. In particular the states would have control over cultural issues. Hungarian could be made a second official language, for example, but only within the borders of Transylvania.
Ministries and government agencies which don't need to be located in Bucharest would be relocated to the state capitals. The Ministry of Labour could be in Cluj, Iasi could get Health and Timisoara Education, for example.
THE REUNIFICATION PROCESS
With Romania organised in such a manner it becomes a lot easier to simply slot in the Republic of Moldova as an eighth state. Chisinau would retain its status as a significant capital city, having its own governmental infrastructure and substantial autonomy. Moldova could retain much of its cultural distinctiveness. The Russian language could safely become a second official language without threatening the renaissance of the Romanian language on its native soil. 'Cistigi' and 'ciine' could continue to be spelt with an 'i', not an 'a', and food (stored in a 'holodelnic') would continue to be 'ghine' rather than 'bine'...
Combined with the material advantages presented in the introduction above, this would be an offer too good for Moldova to refuse. Offered graciously by Romania, and accepted by national referendums in both countries, it could offer the path to a truly shining future.