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News 31 Oct 17

Moldova Court Rules Official Language is Romanian

The Constitutional Court backed a proposed constitutional amendment from pro-European MPs saying that the country’s official language should be called Romanian rather than Moldovan.

Madalin Necsutu
BIRN
Chisinau
parliament house in Moldova. Photo: Guttorm Flatabø

The Constitutional Court on Tuesday approved a draft bill signed by 35 MPs to amend the law so that the official language is classified as Romanian instead of Moldovan.

The draft was initiated two weeks ago by a small group of MPs from Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova and signed by other pro-European deputies in parliament.

The court said in its ruling that amending Article 13 of the constitution to make the change was a “technical” matter, as it had already ruled in December 2013 that the state language was Romanian.

It ruled at the time that the phrase “the Romanian language”, used in the 1991 declaration of independence, took legal precedence over the phrase “the Moldovan language”, which is used in the constitution.

The draft must now be voted on in parliament and be approved by a two-thirds majority.

But pro-Russian President Igor Dodon criticised the court’s decision and asked for a referendum on the issue.

“We can organise a referendum to ask citizens what is the name of their preferred language: Romanian or Moldovan,” Dodon wrote on his Facebook page.

He accused pro-European parties and the Constitutional Court's judges of being “mercenaries paid with foreign money” who are promoting a political agenda of reunification with Romania and seeking to liquidate Moldovan identity.

Dodon warned the judges that they will be held responsible for their decisions if pro-Russian Party of Socialists comes to power at parliamentary elections at the end of 2018.

Liberal Democrat MP Tudor Deliu, the initiator of the draft amendment, has said however that the change would “restore historical truth”.

What is currently referred to in the constitution as Moldovan is the same language as Romanian, although written in the Cyrillic alphabet. It was renamed Moldovan when the country was under Soviet control.

The disagreement over the name of the official language reflects the conflicted identity of the country, which has oscillated between Romanian and Russian rule.

Formerly part of the Tsarist Empire, it became part of Romania after World War I, before the Soviet Union annexed it after World War II. It then became an independent state as the USSR broke up.

However, independence has failed to resolve the question of whether the country should be linked primarily to the West and Romania, or to Russia.

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