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Adrienne Warren

Moldova Celebrates, Ukraine Demonstrates, While Romania Advocates…

Moldova is being dubbed the European Union’s Eastern Partnership poster child–after successfully initialling agreements with the EU last week at the Vilnius summit, along with EaP contemporary, Georgia. In spite of their success, the limelight was inevitably snatched away from Ukraine’s decision not to sign and the ensuing protests in the country. Moldova snagged headlines again, however, after a high profile visit this week from US Secretary of State, John Kerry, and increasing speculations about what possible backlash Moldova might face from its Eastern neighbour, Russia, after sealing the deal with the EU. Meanwhile, Western neighbour Romania has its own ideas for Moldova…

Moldova, author:  osti.andrea, source:  Flickr

Moldova, author: osti.andrea, source: Flickr

Michael Slobodchikoff of Russian Direct, explains:

“As protesters lined the streets of Kiev, observers continued to discuss Ukraine’s decision and its ramifications for the former Soviet Union. Few observers, however, paid much attention to the fact that Moldova and Georgia both signed Association Agreements with the EU. The fact is that Russia has never had a good relationship with either Georgia or Moldova. Most famously, Russia and Georgia fought a war in 2008, and are only now beginning the process of building a relationship. However, the relationship between Russia and Moldova is often misunderstood and overlooked. It would be a mistake for scholars and observers to continue to overlook Moldova’s relations with Russia and the EU.”

Slobodchikoff elaborates on the reasons why such a dismissal would be a mistake:

“Russia and Moldova have always had a problematic relationship. Moldova’s geographic location made it a perfect buffer state between the East and the West…Moldova and Russia were never able to build a relationship following the Moldovan Civil War.  Moldova consistently looked to the West (especially to Romania) for assistance, and when the West did not assist Moldova, it reluctantly engaged the Commonwealth of Independent States and the Customs Union offered by Russia. However, Moldova desperately wanted to be able to more actively engage the West and distance itself from Russia.”

But there was a catch:

The problem is that Moldova is almost totally reliant upon Russian natural gas. Until August 2013, it was solely dependent upon Russian natural gas, which Russia could use as a tool to ensure cooperation from Moldova. However, Moldova recently linked up to European Union pipelines to ensure that it would have access to European Union supplies of natural gas. The European Commission estimates that by the end of 2014, the pipeline should provide more than one-third of Moldova’s gas consumption.  With this step of weakening its reliance on Russian gas, Moldova was able to resist pressure from Russia and join the Eastern Partnership.  By signing the agreement, Moldova has declared its intent to move out of Russia’s sphere of influence the way the Baltic states have.”

The consequences could be far-reaching, however:

“The geopolitical competition between Russia and the EU over the former Soviet states has already caused instability in the region. Protests continue in Ukraine.  Will instability follow in Moldova, where the situation between Transnistria and Moldova could again reignite a civil war? It is time that scholars and foreign policy experts pay more attention to events in Moldova and their ramifications for regional stability in the former Soviet Union.”

Meanwhile…

Romanian president, Traian Basescu, has announced  that following its accession to NATO and the European Union, Bucharest’s new major political project should be unification with Moldova. The president made this declaration before the Vilnius Eastern Partnership Summit, and has since has had analysts weighing in on the true merit of the suggestion.

Kamil Całus and Tomasz Dąborowski of OSW explain:
“The widespread debate provoked by the president’s statement in Romania has made it clear that opinion-forming circles are rather sceptical about the idea of unification. However, Romanian politicians have not entirely distanced themselves from the unification slogans…Any major change to this effect is rather unlikely in the foreseeable future. Barriers to it would be the financial costs that would have to be incurred primarily by the Romanian public, being the richer partners, low support from the Moldovan elite and public (most of the voters who would support unification form the electorate of the Liberal Party, whose support level is below 10%), and an unfavourable international climate: there is scepticism among EU member states and strong opposition from Russia.”
Others have said that Romania’s suggestion to reunify with Moldova is merely a way to “bait” Russia. as it unequivocally shows that for many, Moldova’s future is unalterably European. As Basescu said:
“When a nation has the opportunity to be together, it should not give up. I think this is the right time to say that we have this objective, if Moldovan people want this. I am convinced that if Moldova wants to unite, then Romania will accept.”
However, the idea is not one being backed by all Romanians. In view of the fact that Moldova is the poorest country in Europe,  many Romanians are unconvinced whether their own economy could absorb the strain.
Watch this space…

 Sources: RFE/RLRussia Direct

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Graduated in International Relations and Russian. Resident of Estonia, but a citizen of the world. Most interested in contributing to the progress and education of mankind--as the primary tool of achieving global unity.

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