Guest post by Andrey Devyatkov—The EU–Moldova Forum held in Berlin on October, 22-23, 2012, was meant to raise the profile of Moldova as a “success story” within the EU Eastern Partnership. The message from the Moldovan delegation was traditional: the European Union should give Chisinau a clear European perspective untill the next parliamentary elections (in two years). For the Moldovan government, this is a matter of political survival, and it needs progress on the road toward the EU. Moldova is facing great challenges in convincing Germany that the EU should rapidly correct its policy. Even if after the next Eastern Partnership summit (Vilnius, November 2013) Moldova will receives agreement on “association,” visa liberalization, and the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA), this might be not enough to support Moldovan as a “success story.”
To some extent, the Moldovans succeeded in delivering their message when EU Commissioner Stefan Fule confirmed the accession perspective for Moldova. But two arguments played against rapid EU political commitments for Moldova. Firstly, German parliamentarian M. Grund, the head of the German-Moldovan forum, acknowledged that due to the European financial crisis it is politically inacceptable nowadays for political elites in the EU to launch a new wave of enlargement. Secondly, European officials and experts are still critical to the tempo and depth of the reforms in Moldova.
But what is most important is that the Moldovan future was tackled again in the context of EU-Russian relations. German officials were often talking about the Russian-German Meseberg initiative of 2010 that stipulated the forming of a EU-Russian security committee under the condition of a Russian contribution to the resolution of the Transnistrian conflict. For Germans, the Meseberg initiative is one of the key instruments to engage Russia as a “strategic” partner in pan-European affairs. For Moldova, due to the Meseberg initiative, the reintegration of Moldova can become a more important priority for the EU than its “EUropeanization.” The Moldovans tried to convince the German delegation that the strategy of engaging Russia and using Moldova as a test-case for Russian-EU partnerships is illusory. Nevertheless, the response was quite clear: Berlin will put the Meseberg initiative on the table at the forthcoming Russian-German intergovernmental consultations.
In spite of the German readiness to take into due account Russia’s position, the only Russian participant, Dmitry Danilov of the Institute of Europe in Moscow, said simply that Moscow and Brussels should create a bilateral security committee without focusing on the Transnistrian conflict. It was a good illustration of the Kremlin’s logic: Moscow wants to skip serious political and security issues in its relations with the EU and concentrate mostly on trade and visa liberalization. It is only a question of time for Germany to understand that no serious dialogue and engagement is possible with such a Russian standpoint.
As for Chisinau, its goals are two-fold: to do its homework, on one hand, and to engage Tiraspol, on the other. The EU seems unwilling to accept the Cypriotization of Moldova; Brussels sees the reintegration of the country as a prerequisite for its successful Europeanization. The head of the Moldovan delegation for negotiations with Tiraspol, Eugene Carpov, said at the Forum that his government has tried to involve Tiraspol into negotiations on DCFTA, but then specified that Moldova is ready to speak further with Transnistria only if the issue of the political status of the region would be resolved on the basis of the Moldovan constitution. Such statements signal that Moldova is not ready to move toward a de facto federalization of the country.
There is a long way to go to realize rapprochement.
Andrey Devyatkov is a Visiting fellow at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP).