Romanian citizenship: a review of the past and a future forecast regarding the authorities’ policy
The joining of Romania to the EU on January 1st 2007, and the thronging of hundreds of thousands of potential candidates for a Romanian citizenship in the race to obtain the desired European citizenship, confronts the EU with one of its most difficult tests since the joining of several states from the former Soviet block.
For example, in recent months over 300,000 applications for a Romanian citizenship were filed by Moldavian citizens seeking to escape the poverty-hit country. This trend inflicts substantial consequences on the labor force in EU countries and on political relations among them. It is far more prominent in Romania than in other countries which have recently joined the EU due to the Romanian citizenship law, which entitles vast populations with ethnic Romanian roots to obtain a Romanian citizenship.
The lenient citizenship policy currently employed by the Romanian authorities is very different than the ones of past years. Its foundations lay within the transformations that occurred in Romania and Europe towards the end of the 20th century.
When the state of Romania was founded, its citizenship policy consisted of stricter rules than these of today. Those rules allowed citizens of adjacent countries with ethnic Romanian roots to obtain a Romanian citizenship, but forced them to relinquish their other citizenship. This policy continued during the Soviet occupation of Romania, yet during this period citizenship laws were exercised selectively, and served mainly as a tool for political control.
Thus, even though it was supposedly made possible for former citizens to return to Romania, in practice only small sectors who met specific political criteria were allowed to repatriate.
With the demise of the Chauchesko regime, the disintegration of the Soviet Union and the disengagement of Romania from it, the foundations for the existing Romanian citizenship rules were laid.
The Romanian citizenship law legislated in 1991, sought to emphasize the disengagement of Romania from the Soviet Union and the desire to unite with parts of Romania that were taken over by the Soviet-union after World War II, especially with Moldavia which was part of Romania until the war.
The law determines that a person can acquire a Romanian citizenship in one of the following ways:
1. By naturalization – Living in Romania for a period of time of 5 to 8 years.
2. By birth in Romanian territories, or being a second or third generation descendent to a Romanian citizen.
3. By adoption – Being adopted by a parent whom is a Romanian citizen.
4. By repatriation.
Furthermore, it was established that former Romanian citizens who had their citizenship revoked prior to 1989 for different reasons, may re-acquire their Romanian citizenship by request, even if they are in the possession of additional foreign citizenships, and even if they have no intention to settle in Romania. This right was also granted to people who were coerced to waive their citizenship, and to their second and third generation descendants.
The lenient legislation by the Romanian authorities, and the decision to allow Romania to join the EU come January 2007, have led to significant increase of those eligible for a Romanian citizenship to execute their prerogative, with the highest number coming from Moldavia.
While since the beginning of the 90’s and up until recently only about 100,000 Moldavians obtained a Romanian citizenship, in the first half of 2006 over 300,000 applications have been filed by Moldavian citizens. Estimates project that over 75% of the Moldavian population (which amounts to over 4 million people) is entitled to a Romanian citizenship.
This test that the countries of the EU are now facing has led to new approaches seeking to narrow down the free immigration policy for work purposes from poor eastern European countries to the EU. For instance, the free immigration policy in Britain allowed over 1 million immigrants to enter the United Kingdom during the past 10 years, leading to protest from local population due to its ramifications on the local work force. Failure by the EU to withstand the test may lead to further developments, and to considerable pressure applied by the wealthier western European countries on the eastern European ones, to make amendments to current laws, and change their policy in a manner that will see the extent of immigration cut down significantly. Such events are likely to see the number of people eligible for a Romanian citizenship drop as a result, so those who are now eligible should act sooner rather than later.