Another week in August, another round of landmark anniversaries for many nations in Europe. August 24th and 27th marked 22 years since Ukraine and Moldova proclaimed their independence from the Soviet Union. The last 22 years have been both tumultuous and promising for the two nations. However, this year marks a crossroads particularly as this November sees the potential signing of the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the European Union, and the process of further integration being started. But what else is on the cards for Ukraine and Moldova as they greet the 23rd year of their independence?
In Moldova… and Transnistria
Coming together with the celebration of its Independence day, Moldova announced that it will soon be able to get gas directly from the EU and international markets, for the first time in its history, following this week’s launch of the works to construct a 42km long gas pipeline connecting Ungheni (West of Moldova) and Iaşi (East of Romania).
The EU Energy Commissioner Günther Oettinger, Prime Minister of Romania Victor Ponta and Prime Minister of Moldova Iurie Leancă jointly inaugurated the launch in a ceremony held near Ungheni.
The “Ungheni-Iaşi pipeline” will have a maximum transportation capacity of 1 billion m3/annually, covering around 1/3 of the gas consumption in Moldova, which is currently 100% dependent on imported natural gas from Russia and has no domestic gas production.
Moldova is a member of the “Energy Community” which aims to extend the EU internal energy market to EU neighbours in Eastern Europe and the Western Balkans. The EU aims to integrate these countries to the EU market through legislation and by connecting them physically to the European energy market.
In an exclusive interview with Eastbook.eu, Moldovan Ambassador to Estonia, Victor Guzun, explained the importance of the coming year for Moldova:
“Moldova celebrated yesterday the 22nd anniversary and, on this day, remembering historic August 1991 events, we are looking clearly and optimistically in the future. The future where we see Moldova as member of a big European family, sharing the same values of freedom, democracy, rule of law and economic progress.”
Ambassador Guzun continued, saying:
“2013 is very important for R.Moldova from the perspective of Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit, which will bring Moldova’s relations with the European Union to a new level. One example of strengthening the cooperation with EU is yesterday launching of construction of gas pipeline inter-connector Iași-Ungheni by Mr. Iurie Leancă, Prime-minister of Republic of Moldova, Mr. Victor Ponta, Prime-minister of Romania and Mr. Günther Oettinger, EU Commissioner for Energy, which will connect for the first time the gas supply systems of R.Moldova and EU.”
In other independence news for Moldova, Moldova’s breakaway region of Transnistria has announced that it wants to gain independence in the upcoming years. In a statement made by the self-appointed leader of the separatist region, Evgheny Shevchuk said:
“I believe that in the next one and a half years international recognition of the Moldavian Transnistrian Republic will be decided upon. The Transnistrian nation has created its republic already. Now the question is related to the international recognition.”
On September 2, the separatist administration will mark “23 years of independence” in the capital of Tiraspol. The event will be honored by the Russian Vice-President, Dmitry Rogozin, who is also Russia’s special envoy for the Transnistrian conflict resolution process.
One day after Independence Day- lovely pictures from Moldova http://t.co/DQUlMEe5HN
— Bo Knutson (@BOatCouncils) August 28, 2013
— Linas Linkevicius (@LinkeviciusL) August 27, 2013
In a statement marking the celebration of Ukraine’s Independence the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Catherine Ashton also spoke about the Ukraine’s future and the pivotal nature of the choices made now:
“This is an occasion to reflect on Ukraine’s achievements, the way forward and its vision for the future. As an independent country, Ukraine is the master of its own destiny. As a close partner, the EU has a great interest in the steps that Ukraine is taking, because the future of our relationship will depend first and foremost on Ukraine’s own choices.”
“…The country has huge untapped potential….I believe that hard work and political will translate vision into reality. Modernisation is a longer term endeavour. It requires the correct legislative and institutional framework, but also sustained and vigorous implementation. This approach – rather than geopolitical concepts – has the potential to bring positive change to the day-to-day lives of Ukrainians, who want no more than to enjoy freedom and prosperity.”
Ashton also underscored that potential further integration with the EU is not an end within itself, but the beginning of a process:
“This year, the European Union and Ukraine have an unprecedented opportunity to make a major leap forward in their relations by signing the Association Agreement, which will also provide for the establishment of a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. This partnership is mutually beneficial and altogether achievable. It offers a concrete agenda for Ukraine’s modernisation, for fulfilling the aspirations of Ukraine’s people. However, it cannot improve the daily lives of 45 million Ukrainians unless Ukraine’s institutions make an extra effort to bring themselves closer to EU standards and respect for the values we share. In December 2012, the European Union spelled out its expectations for Ukraine’s progress in three critical areas: elections, judiciary, including addressing the issue of selective justice, and overall reforms set out in the jointly agreed Association Agenda, in order to enable the signing of the Association Agreement.”
Ukrainian President, Viktor Yanukovych also address his nation on the 24th, saying:
“Ukraine gained its political sovereignty 22 years ago. Today our state is doing everything to achieve economic stability and prosperity. The path walked by our country demonstrates that we can develop our own state independently and responsibly. I am confident that we can do that. Together we will build a socially fair and prosperous state. I believe in Ukrainian people, their millennial wisdom, strength and perseverance.”
In relation Moldova’s breakaway region, Transnistria, and their agenda for achieving national recognition, Ukraine may have its own role to play. As the current holder of the OSCE Chairmanship, Ukraine has the task of helping to successful mitigate the on-going conflict and aid in achieving a resolution. Ashton also addressed this in her independence day speech:
“…Ukraine is particularly well placed to build bridges. We welcome, for example, its determination to promote the negotiations on a settlement of the Transnistria issue, in the established format, with the participation of the European Union. Ukraine’s pivotal role for gas transit to Europe is yet another example of Ukraine’s crucial broader, international role.”
On this day, 22 years ago we declared our independence from the Soviet Union. Happy Independence Day, Ukraine! pic.twitter.com/QXLZj1zhrU
— ASOT650inKiev (@ASOT650inKIEV) August 24, 2013