The European Commission will do “utmost in way of legal preparation” to sign the Association Agreement with Moldova and Georgia at the Eastern Partnership summit in November, according to EU’s Enlargement and European neighborhood Commissione Štefan Füle. The definitive statements from Füle come after what analysts are saying is haste to sign the two countries emerge after Russian pressure has intensified on the EaP countries to prevent them from signing the deals with the European Union. After Armenia’s surprise announcement that it intends to join the Russia-led Customs Union, all eyes have turned expectantly on the other countries tipped to sign the free trade agreement in November, particularly after last week’s events in Moldova…
“If we are able to initial those important Association Agreements with Moldova and Georgia in the Vilnius summit, the [European] Commission made it very clear that they will do utmost in way of legal preparation, translation of those documents to be signed before the end of the term of the duty of this Commission. In the case of those two countries, we are ready to do our utmost, almost impossible, to deliver on signing them as soon as possible,” Mr. Füle emphasised in his statement.
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It was announced last week that Russia will being imposing import ban on Moldovan wines and spirits again citing health concerns. The ban is another in a string of trade-war maneuvers from Russia upon its neighbours, which experts argue are designed to deter its former republics EU aspirations. Exports of wines and spirits such as cognac and vodka are a big money maker for Moldova–one of Europe’s poorest countries. Russia is its main buyer, and represents the main market for its alcoholic drinks, which brought in some €100 million last year.
According to Nikolaj Nielsen of the EU Observer, a high-ranking Moldovan official, who wished to remain anonymous, explained that Russia has a history of imposing bans to exercise political pressure on Moldova’s “sovereign choices.” The source was careful to point out that the Moldovan wines blacklisted by Russia meet EU standards.
In fact, the EU is Moldova’s first trading partner with 54% of Moldova’s total trade – followed by Ukraine (15%). Experts are saying therefore, that Russia’s move to pressure Moldova economically will hit hard, but trade relations with the EU may well be enough to sustain the country, and maneuver around Russia’s tactics. In fact, the move has inspired EU to step-up its trade quota with Moldova, as it pertains to wine-imports, as Štefan Füle indicated in his statement at the European Parliament last week:
“The EU’s own food safety authorities have not established any health or hygiene problems with imports from Moldova; and we continue to import wine and other agricultural products.
Together with my colleague Dacian Ciolos responsible for agriculture, we intend to look into the possibility of being able to further increase the wine quota for Moldovan exports to the EU. We also intend to send short term expertise to Moldova to help overcome some of the remaining barriers that their exports in other sectors such as poultry face. These signs of solidarity are also applicable to other partners which are subject to undue pressure.”
— nicu popescu (@nicupopescu) September 11, 2013
Moldovan Ambassador to Estonia, Victor Guzun, spoke to Eastbook.eu about Russia’s attempts to deter Moldova’s path to the EU, and emphasised that Moldova would not be swayed:
“Moldova made the choice and this is irreversible-future member of EU family. It is the choice not for geographical or geopolitical reasons but for values, norms, standards, rule of law and freedoms.Every country should make own decision about the future and the interference from third countries are unacceptable, unfriendly and counterproductive. “
The EU has slammed Russia for its attempts to pressure the Neighbourhood countries in recent weeks. As Füle elucidated to the EP last week:
“Let me be clear: the development of the Eurasian Economic Union project must respect our partners’ sovereign decisions. Any threats from Russia linked to the possible signing of agreements with the European Union are unacceptable. This applies to all forms of pressure, including: the possible misuse of energy pricing, artificial trade obstacles such as import bans of dubious WTO compatibility and cumbersome customs procedures, military cooperation and security guarantees, the instrumentalisation of protracted conflicts.”
— Jacek Saryusz-Wolski (@JSaryuszWolski) September 9, 2013
— Ville Kostian (@Kostian_V) September 16, 2013
— Ariel Cohen (@Dr_Ariel_Cohen) September 16, 2013
There is always another side…
— MFA Moldova (@Diplomacy_RM) September 16, 2013
— Moldova.org (@moldovaorg) September 16, 2013