Moldovan citizens are the third most numerous community in Bucharest coming from third party states. According to General Immigrations Office data, in 2012, 2,098 foreign citizens were Moldovans, the most numerous foreign communities being the Chinese (4,121) and the Turks (3,425).
In total, in 2012, 30,941 persons were registered by the General Immigrations Office. Among them, 19,288 came from third party states, while 11,653 came from EU member states or the EEA Area / Swiss Confederacy.
Therefore, Moldovan citizens were included in the “The New Minorities of Bucharest” research project taking place between April 2015 and April 2016 and aiming to assess the cultural impact of eight new communities in Bucharest: Chinese, English, Indian, French, Lebanese, Italian, Turkish and Moldovan. The project team thus created the framework for a debate on national minorities, as they are considered by the Romanian State now, and on the dynamic of the communities that have formed in Bucharest during these past 25 years. Actually, our project launches several questions, such as: “Are the citizens of Moldova a minority in Bucharest?” “What attracts citizens from Western countries to Bucharest?”, “On the backdrop of the migrations taking place these past few decades, how has the definition of “minority” changed?”
The concept of “new minority” is a controversial one, and the project takes that into consideration. Some of the subjects interviewed in the study do not even agree with the premise of this research. Yet our goal was not to establish what are the minorities of Bucharest. Based on the research and on the official data regarding the number of foreigners in Bucharest, the Movement for Action and European Initiative Association aimed to encourage intercultural dialogue and raise awareness of the communities formed by the settlement in Bucharest, over the past 25 years, of eight new minorities.
Moldovan citizens moved from Moldova to Bucharest for studies, work or family reunification. Many of them take measures in order to obtain Romanian citizenship in addition to the Moldovan one or have already obtained double citizenship. In certain cases, the bureaucratic process is lengthy and difficult, stretching out on several years. In the meantime, the Moldovan citizen relocated in Romania has to deal with a migrant status, her residence and activity in Romania relying on the possession of a visa or a temporary residence permit which must be periodically renewed, each renewal consisting in the motivation and justification of the presence on the Romanian territory before the authorities.
In our anthropologic pursuit, we have met several members of the Moldovan community in Bucharest, whose opinions on the status quo cover the entire spectrum. The common history of Romania and Moldova gives Moldovans a special status in Bucharest. And despite the fact that the application for the Romanian citizenship is different for Moldovans than for other citizens, it is still a legal reality that raises multiple integration barriers. Moldovans who wish to live in Romania go through the migration experience – legally, bureaucratically, as well as from an identity standpoint; in spite of an alleged preferential treatment, they must still go through the specific procedures of an immigrant or an expat (visa application, residence permit, passport identification).
In Bucharest there are many associations that reunite Moldovan citizens or represent their collective interests (Organizaţia Studenţilor Basarabeni din Bucureşti, Liga Studenţilor Basarabeni din Bucureşti, Federaţia Asociaţiilor de Basarabeni din România etc.). The very existence of these organized communities based on a collective identity is proof of the self-perception of Moldovans in Romania as a distinct group, with specific problems and needs. Also, various affirmative policies of the Romanian state create forms of minority citizenship (special places in education institutions and dormitories – accommodation in dormitories for foreign citizens etc.).
Another goal of the project is to explore to what extent formal and citizenship borders are doubled by identity borders. Alterity is many times a self-representation, but also a perception of the people around. Moldovan citizens face stigma and discrimination, and alterity is expressed as a daily experience.
In these conditions, it is important to look beyond the challenge of integration and investigate, with the help of anthropologic and sociologic instruments, the multiple identity experiences of the Moldovan citizen in Bucharest.