Moldova: A Forgotten Dispute Between EU and Mother Russia
30 mayo, 2014
With the increased tensions between Russia and Ukraine, many smaller post communist states in Eastern Europe found themselves divided between EU integration and Russian influence.
Moldova, a tiny country between Romania and Ukraine is not exception to this division. Ethnically, people from Moldova are related to Romanians; however, the eastern part of the country is inhabited by the Russians and Ukrainians. Moldova proclaimed its independency from the USSR in 1991, but ever since, is struggling to choose the path between east and west.
The dependency resulted also in several territorial disputes. One of them has to deal with Tranistria, a region of the country which has called for its independency from the nation. They have asked both the UN and the Russian Federation to recognize it. This started back in the 90´s when they already proclaimed independency, now with the huge crisis the government is dealing with and using the Crimea peninsula as an example they have decided to take action and open the process.
In a referendum held in the autonomous Moldovan, region of Gagauzia, February 2nd, asked locals about their preferences in having closer relations with the EU or the CIS Customs Union. Gagauzia´s population voted against a free trade deal with the EU. Around 97.2 percent were against closer EU integration. On the other side, a remarkable majority, around 98 percent, voted for integration with a Russia-led Customs Union.
The central government of Moldova had tried to stop the referendum, which it sees as a challenge to the country’s territorial integrity. Several investigations of the Gagauzia referendum reject it as an unconstitutional process with no legal legitimacy.
The future of economic relations between Moldova and Russia remain highly unstable. As the poorest country in Europe, and heavily dependant upon agricultural exports, Moldova has proved historically vulnerable to Russian domination. 28% of the country’s important wine exports are sold in the Russian federation, while the Russian ambassador Farit Mukhametshin has suggested that the half a million or so Moldovan migrant workers in Russia send back up to $2 billion annually or a third of the GDP. In the past Russia has used Moldovan economic dependence to influence government policy, periodically imposing trade embargoes to force government compliance with Russian interests.
On the other hand, Relations between the European Union and Moldova have recently increased. This relationship is based in three main pillars: the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP), the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and The EU-Moldova Action Plan. The nature of the three agreements is the cooperation and the progressive integration in the fields of economy and politics of Moldova. Furthermore, some important and specific objectives are pursued, such as the improvement of social structures and the widening of a deeper free-trade area. Also easing travels for Moldova citizens is a long- term objective for both sides.
Moldovan Prime Minister Iurie Leanca (left) shakes hands with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton as European Commissioner for Trade Karel de Gucht looks on after Leanca initialed Moldova’s Association Agreement with the EU.
Despite these ambitious purposes, the level of integration of Moldova depends significantly in the real commitment of the country and its ability to implement the different points of the agreements. In return, EU promises to upgrade cooperation and increase political dialogue, intensify financial support and assistance in Moldova, the possibility of steady participation of the country in EU programs, among many others.
Therefore, Moldova’s territorial, political and economical integrity is under stake as long as Ukraine situation does not settle down. Any prediction for their future seems very blurry up to this point.