LAW ON CITIZENSHIP OF
THE REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA
Presidential Administration, Alexandru Ochotnikov (ed),Chisinau, 2000
The present publication is a result of a number of complementary efforts conducted jointly by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the Council of Europe, and of course Moldovan experts and legislators. As UNHCR's Representative in the Republic of Moldova I felt it appropriate that the considerable effort invested into revising Moldova's citizenship law should also have the desired impact and reach the largest possible audience. Given my Organisation's Mandate with regard to refugees as well as statelessness (few people realise, however, UNHCR has been entrusted by the UN General Assembly with fulfilling the functions foreseen under Article 11 of the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness), we are extremely pleased to see that Moldova's new citizenship law complies with key international standards designed to prevent or reduce statelessness. As a humanitarian Organisation primarily focussed on providing protection to refugees, we are all the more pleased to note that the law is forward looking and takes into account obligations Moldova is still likely to adopt. In this regard the explicit references to refugees, for example in respect to their potential naturalisation, fills yet another legislative gap fully in accordance with international law.
As I have been privileged to have been invited to follow the entire drafting process I would also like to use this opportunity to reflect on the professionality of the Moldovan MP's, jurists and experts, notably the Deputy Minister of Justice Mr. Victor Cretu, who made every effort to study best European practices and find the most appropriate way to amalgamate them seamlessly into the body of Moldovan law.
At a time when massive refugee problems in Europe are no longer linked only to the immediate aftermath of World War II, the United Nations, the world body entrusted with the maintenance of peace and stability, and guided by a desire to promote the respect for human rights, created an Organisation with a specific mandate to assist and to protect refugees - the UNHCR. In this year our agency, created at first for a temporary period of three years, "unfortunately" will commemorate its 50th anniversary. Realistically speaking, I fear, that as long as the international community will not learn from past mistakes, to manage our world equitably and justly, UNHCR will continue in its existence and no country will be immune to the consequences of forced flight. Refugees will continue to need protection, and in cases when their return to the country of origin will remain an impossibility, they will need an opportunity to acquire the citizenship of their adopted country.
Working together with the Council of Europe on this effort was both important and instructive. The Council's experts remain the standard setters and guarantors of the concept of the rule of law and in the development of human rights concepts. The European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms is of course applicable not only to citizens, but to all in a State's jurisdiction. Nevertheless, as has been aptly observed: "the right to citizenship is the right to have other rights". Although Moldova is not a party to the 1951 Geneva Convention Relating to Status of Refugees (1951 Convention), or the 1954 Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons and the 1961 Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, it has signed and as one of the first countries ratified the 1997 European Convention on Nationality which in many respects extends protection also to refugees. In doing so there is no more reason to refrain from adhering to the two above mentioned United Nations treaties and UNHCR therefore reiterates its invitation to the Government to sign and ratify both at an early date. At the same time, it is also obvious of what importance this step had for the strengthening of the judiciary and the respect for individual rights in an environment where they were systematically negated for decades.
On behalf of the High Commissioner, Mme Sadako Ogata, we trust that this trilingual publication will serve not only the practitioners and academics wishing to study Moldovan legislation, but will reach the public at large and especially those who need, in one way or another, to regularise their relationship with the Moldovan State. Given the way the law has been drafted, we are also confident that it will be interpreted in a generous spirit to the benefit of the individual in order to close still existing gaps.
Finally, while thanking all those who worked on the editing and translations, notably Veaceslav Musteata, who worked hard on all three language versions, I would like to take the opportunity to re-iterate UNHCR's gratitude to Mr. Alexandru Ochotnicov of the Presidential Office staff, whose professionality and commitment remains inspiring. UNHCR is truly pleased to contribute to the Government in this modest form to tackle the citizenship problem in earnest and demonstrating thus, once again, that Moldova is committed to re-joining the community of democratic States.
Moldova, July 2000