Januar 29, 2013

Moldova - A "Last Minute Saviour" for the Eastern Partnership?

José Manuel Barroso, President of the EC visits Moldova,
Foto: Photographic service of the Council of the EU © European Communities
WHO needs whom - Moldova the Eastern partnership or the Eastern partnership Moldova? In the last few weeks and months there have been repeated rumors that the Eastern partnership countries are going to further diversify their cooperation options. There are two perfect examples - Ukraine and Armenia. The European Union is becoming more aware that the developments in the Eastern neighbourhood can represent a risk and it is called to stimulate its relations with some "A-plus students" if it didn't want to jeopardize the credibility of its Eastern policy. Who is eligible to become a showcase? Moldova?! However, it should be handled with caution.

Moldova - A-plus student?

Is Moldova on the right path? Does Moldova question the European integration as a future model for its political, economic and social development? 
  • Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, Natalia Gherman during the 14th round of talks, held on 21-22 January in Chisinau declared negotiations on Association Agreement with EU will be completed this spring. The Director in the European External Action Service (EEAS), Gunnar Wiegand, "said that Moldova is one of the first Eastern Partnership countries to sign the Association Agreement with the EU. „Hopefully next year we will enforce a large part of its provisions”, he added."
  • "Moldova-EU Association Agreement negotiations started in January 2010, whereas the negotiations on the trade part of the agreement – the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area – began in February 2012. (...) Negotiations on the Association Agreement advanced quite a lot in 2012. The biggest achievements of last year in Moldova-EU relations have been the implementation of the Aviation Agreement, the country’s accession to the 7th EU Framework Programme on Research and Development, as well as progression to the second round of negotiations on the liberalization of the visa regime", Moldova.org reported.
What a surprise! These are great news. The developments could be regarded as an appropriate minimum which the European Union could reasonably expect to obtain in the absence of other A-plus students in the immediate neighbourhood.

Old dilemma, new impetus: Moldova is caught between the tensions of Russia and the EU
German chancellor Angela Merkel, José Manuel Barroso, Štefan Füle, and Poland's President Bronislaw Komorowski paid visits in Moldova and underlined their keen interest in the country. But is this only much ado about nothing? Not really. Moldova is located between Romania and Ukraine and the Transnistrian conflict remains more complex than expected.
  • Merkel's showdown with Russia
"Moldova is a pillar in the Eastern Partnership. We apply the “more for more” principle. We know that the members of your Government are fully involved," Angela Merkel said during a visit in Moldova in 2012. But why then has Merkel taken such an interest in Moldova, asked Judy Dempsey. "One reason is that Moldova is sitting on the borders of the European Union and any unresolved conflict there remains dangerous and unstable. Another is that Merkel wanted to use the frozen conflict in Transnistria as a test case for Berlin’s relations with the Kremlin," writes Dempsey and continues: "Where does Merkel’s visit fit in? First of all, it is interesting to note that it unsettled Russia to the extent that prior to Merkel’s visit the Russian ambassador in Berlin summoned his Moldovan counterpart about the motives her trip. Secondly, it was encouraging to see the enthusiastic reception that Merkel, as Europe’s most important envoy to date, received in Chisinau."
  • EU's "big carrots" for its "A-plus student"
The European Union on behalf of its Commission's President Barroso and the Commissioner for Enlargement and Neighbourhood Policy Füle offered some "big carrots" to Moldova: establishing of an EU-Moldova free trade area, Moldova's association with the EU, and action plan on visa liberalisation. Both sides have nevertheless had to take on significant obligations. However, Barroso break a taboo that has prevailed in Europe for decades: Moldova and Transnistria should be threatened as a whole. Barroso made an important commitment in the EU's Eastern policy: "It is critical to settle the Transnistrian conflict, but we cannot speak about an absolute link between this issue and European integration of the Republic of Moldova," he said cited by Tribuna.md. 

And Stefan Füle goes even further and proposed a possible membership in the European Union: "As Moldova comes closer every day to the European Union, I have a dream of a Republic of Moldova, prosperous, loyal to our values, consolidated, modernised, and re-integrated into the European family. But it is more than a dream. It is a real prospect, solidly grounded in hard work and in pro-active diplomacy, which makes the European Union-Moldova relationship a solid, reliable, efficient and beneficial partnership. I want to praise Moldova, its government and its citizens, for their remarkable commitment to our joint initiatives – be they in the area of trade, visas, or political dialogue and coordination," he said during the EU-Moldova Forum organised by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Auswärtige Politik.
  • Poland - Moldova's new old friend 
"Poland will consistently support Moldova's bid to integrate with the western world, hoping that Moldova's good example (...) will have an influence on the entire region," President Komorowski told reporters after a meeting with his Moldovan counterpart Nicolae Timofti in December 2012. As big and influential EU member states are having in mind another picture of current problems in Europe, for Poland, together with Lithuania as the next European Council Presidency Chairman, should be more crucial to bring the Eastern Partnership on the agenda of European politcs.

However, Lithuanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Linas Linkevicius is sceptical on the outcome of the Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius in November 2013. "The European Union’s eastern neighbors demonstrate different progress and cannot be sure of the consolidation of successful results (...) (t)he situation is different in every case. Let’s take Moldova which has moved forward a bit more. We also want to achieve certain results with Ukraine but we see that certain obstacles are there which don’t let us hope for automatic success. Georgia also needs to do a lot of homework, and we are intensively talking with it," Linas Linkevicius said cited by The Lithuania Tribune.

Moldova and the European Union - it is a mutual dependence. Both sides need each other. The EU needs a good showcase for its Eastern Partnership policy. Moldova needs EU in order to gain more independence from Russia.

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