CHISINAU: Moldova’s constitutional court threw out a law on Thursday that would have given special status to the Russian language, passed last month by the pro-Russian parliament over the objection of the country’s newly elected, pro-EU president.
The law would have made Russian the language for communication between ethnic communities, and required the names of goods, services and medicines to be translated into Russian. The court ruled it unconstitutional.
“The law presupposes giving the Russian language a status similar to the state language, which is not provided for by the Constitution,” said Domnica Manole, the head of the court.
Russian state news outlets criticised the ruling. Russia’s RIA news agency quoted a source as calling it “deeply regrettable” and a “politically opportunistic decision”.
Language is a core issue of national identity in Moldova, a country which consists mostly of territory annexed by the Soviet Union from Romania during World War Two. Romanian, spoken by the ethnic Moldovan majority, is the state language, while Russians, Ukrainians and others mainly speak Russian.
Russia and the West have vied for influence in the country, with many Moldovans favouring closer ties with NATO- and EU-member Romania, while many Russian-speakers look towards Moscow.
President Maia Sandu, who favours closer ties to the European Union, took office in November after defeating the pro-Moscow incumbent Igor Dodon in an election. But the parliament is still controlled by pro-Russian groups, accused by Sandu of passing laws intended to stir controversy.
Vitalii Andrievschii, a political analyst, said the language law would have provoked political passions.
“Moldovans willingly switch to Russian in communication with those who do not speak the state language, but if they are forced to do this on the basis of the law, it will only worsen the current situation.”
(Additional reporting by Gabrielle Tétrault-Farber in Moscow; Editing by Peter Graff)
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