BUCHAREST, Romania: Over 800,000 Moldovans — about 20 percent of the country's population — have applied for Romanian citizenship, Romanian President Traian Basescu said Wednesday.
"I ask the government to simplify procedures to grant citizenship to ethnic Romanians who live outside the country," Basescu said, adding that complicated procedures have caused the huge backlog.
About 75 percent of Moldova's four million people are of Romanian descent and are eligible for Romanian citizenship.
Since 1992, only 98,000 Moldovans have received Romanian citizenship but many Moldovans are seeking it because Romania's recent status as a European Union member facilitates their travel in Europe. Romania joined the EU in January.
Moldovans currently need visas to travel to most European countries, while Romanians can travel freely and have the right to work in some EU countries.Moldova is Europe's poorest country, and about 600,000 Moldovans have moved abroad to find work, often illegally.