Basescu sparks controversy as he says Romania's next big goal is merger with Moldova

Romanian President admits "time has not yet come" for the union to happen · Romanian Goverment rejects Basescu's words, Moldova PM says country's priority is joining EU · Moldova has just signed Association Agreement with the EU · Three out of four Romanians agree with unification with Moldova, according to poll

Romanian President Traian Basescu caused controversy both in his country and in neighboring Moldova when he explained which should be -in his opinion- Romania's next big goal. According to Basescu, once Romania has achieved two main goals after the fall of communism (joining NATO and EU membership), the next target is unification with Moldova. Basescu believes Romania will say "yes" to the merger with Moldova when the pro-union camp in the former Soviet republic is strong enough. However, The Romanian President has admitted that "the time has not yet come" for this to happen.

Romania and Moldova share the same official language, Romanian, and their flags are very similar. The two countries were a single one in the interwar period, after which Moldova was integrated into the Soviet Union. Moldova declared independence from the USSR in 1991, and has remained a sovereign state since then. Some Romanian nationalists, however, consider that Moldova is a part of the Romanian national territory.

Romanian Government criticizes Basescu

The Government of Romania has been one of the first to criticize Basescu's words. Prime Minister Victor Ponta -who maintains strained relations with Basescu- has blamed the president for "doing nothing" for Moldova for nine years. With such a statement, Ponta argues, Basescu is only helping the Communist Party of the Republic of Moldova, which is opposed to any approach between the two countries and advocates instead maintaining strong ties with Russia.

Prime Minister of Moldova Iurie Leanca has also answered Basescu. Leanca has said that right now Moldova's choice is the country's accession to the European Union. According to Leanca, Moldova will join the EU having its own state.

In fact, Moldova has just signed an Association Agreement with the EU that leaves the country closer to membership. But accession official talks have not yet begun, so the prospect of joining the EU is still somewhat far away.

According to news website EurActiv, the European Commission (EC) is not happy at all about Basescu's comments. Quoting EC sources, EurActiv says the Commission considers the statements to be the last thing the EU needs right now in its eastwards enlargement policy. This is specially true considering ongoing tensions in Moldova's eastern immediate neighbour, Ukraine, where the government has just refused to sign the Association Agreement and is leaning towards Russia instead.

Three out of four want unification in Romania

But it does not seem that Basescu has said anything that is too weird for the common Romanian thought. Immediately after his remarks, the Romanian Institute for Evaluation and Strategy (IRES, Romanian acronym) released an opinion poll according to which 76% of Romanians are in favor of unification with Moldova. 63% of respondents say they have a "good opinion" of Basescu's words, and 49% believe that most Moldovans want unification.

But another survey conducted two years ago in Moldova denies that last perception. 31% of Moldovan respondents said they were in favor of their country joining Romania, while 59% were opposed.

(Image: Traian Basescu/picture: EPP.)