Do you remember when you were a kid in school and they made you do moderately interesting science experiments? One that I remember involved a U-shaped piece of potato, a bottle of blue dye and a couple of petrie dishes. We filled one of the petrie dishes with the blue dye and stuck one end of the potato into it. The other end of the potato rested on the other (dry) petrie dish.
The outcome of the experiment was that, after a few hours, some of the blue dye had migrated through the potato and into the other petrie dish. Apparently this was becuase the potato was a 'semi-permeable membrane'. It wasn't a wall through which nothing could pass. Neither was it a tube through which liquid could pass freely. It was, in fact, something in-between.
The Prut river is about to become a semi-permeable membrane. At the moment it's a wall. Moldovans can only cross to the other side if they have a ladder provided by the Romanian authorities (i.e. a visa or a Romanian passport). That's about to change, however.
According to a document initialled yesterday by the Moldovan Foreign Minister Leanca and (interim) Romanian Foreign Minister Predoiu - the Convention on Small Traffic - Moldovans living within approximately 30km of the border will be able to enter Romania (to a depth of 50km) without a visa. This means that the good citizens of Ungheni and Cahul will be able to visit their relatives or do business in Iasi and Galati unimpeded.
Apparently the Convention relies on a piece of European law which was designed to ensure that the EU's external borders did not become barriers to traditional trade, family and cultural ties between local communities.
Once signed by both Prime Ministers (the Romanian one is currently AWOL as the government there has collapsed), the Convention will enter into force. The Prut will cease to be a wall dividing Moldovans from Romanians. For those lucky enough to live in the border area, it will instead more closely resemble an, er, U-shaped potato.