BUCHAREST, Romania (AP) - President Traian Basescu said millions of people in Moldova should be offered Romanian citizenship, in comments likely to increase tensions between the fractious neighbors.
Basescu's comments in a television interview late Tuesday followed a series of spats between the two countries this year including the expulsion of Romanian diplomats from Moldova and failure to agree a border treaty.
«We should give Romanian citizenship to everyone if they are citizens of Moldova, in a sea of Romanians. Moldova is a sea of Romanian citizens,» said Basescu in the interview on national television late Tuesday. Basescu is an influential figure but policy is made by his government.
«I will remain a supporter of tightening the relationship with the Romanian population, because there are Romanians living there,» said Basescu. He said Romania «should regard Romanians from Moldova with due respect, because they are suffering a historical injustice.
Moldova was part of Romania until 1940, and two-thirds of its 4.2 million citizens are of Romanian descent. It declared independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Romania joined the European Union on Jan. 1 and hundreds of thousands of Moldovans applied for Romanian passports so they could travel freely and seek jobs in EU countries. Moldova's Communist leadership has criticized Bucharest's policy of issuing Romanian citizenship to Moldovans of Romanian descent.
Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin, who has sought to improve relations with Russia, on Wednesday last week accused Romania of not respecting the sovereignty of Moldova because it did not sign a treaty this year respecting current borders.
Last week, Moldova expelled two Romanian diplomats, claiming their activity was «incompatible with their diplomatic status,» diplomatic shorthand for spying.
In October, Moldovan border guards denied entry to eight Romanian officials who were traveling to Chisinau for a religious celebration.