Moldova’s Relations with European Union

Category: Europe, European Union
Last Updated: 07 Jul 2021
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In 1538, the principality became a tributary to the Ottoman Empire, but it retained internal and partial external autonomy. In 1600, inhabitants of the Romanian provinces saw for the first time their dream of reunification as reality. Michael the Brave leaded simultaneously the Romanian principalities of Wallachia, Moldova and Transilvania for one year. In 1812, despite numerous protests by Moldavan nobles on behalf of their autonomous status, the Ottoman Empire ceded to the Russian Empire the eastern half of the territory of the Principality of Moldavia along with Hotin and Budgeac.

The next 106 years, Romanians from Basarabia were under continues Russification and Romanian language was gradually removed from official and religious use. Basarabia proclaimed independence from Russia on February 6, 1918, and on April 9, 1918 united with the Kingdom of Romania. In August 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and its secret additional protocol were signed, by which Nazi Germany recognized Basarabia as being within the Soviet sphere of influence, which led the latter to actively revive its claim to the region.

On June 28, 1940, the Soviet Union, with the acknowledgement of the Nazi Germany, issued an ultimatum to Romania requesting the cession of Basarabia and northern Bucovina, with which Romania complied the following day. The Moldovan Soviet Socialist Republic was established and Moldova became a tiny part of the “Evil Empire”. During the Soviet period, deportations of locals to the northern Urals, to Siberia, and northern Kazakhstan occurred regularly. Other forms of Soviet persecution of the population included 32,433 political arrests, followed by Gulag (in 8,360 cases) or execution and collectivization.

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In 1944-53, there were several anti-Soviet resistance groups in Moldova; however the NKVD and later MGB managed to eventually arrest, execute or deport their members. Official Soviet policy asserted that the language spoken by Moldovans was distinct from the Romanian language (“Moldovenism”). To distinguish the two, during the Soviet period, Moldovan was written in the Cyrillic alphabet, in contrast with Romanian, which was written in the Latin alphabet.

On August 27, 1989, the Popular Front of Moldova organized a mass demonstration in Chisinau, that became known as the Grand National Assembly, which pressured the authorities of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic to adopt a language law on August 31, 1989 that proclaimed the Moldovan language written in the Latin script to be the state language. Its identity with the Romanian language was also established. 2. From RSSM to Republic of Moldova The third richest colony of Soviet Union, Moldova, obtained its independence in 1991 and in just 20 years managed to become the poorest country in Europe.

After the breakup of Soviet Union in 1991, Moldova found itself in a new reality. In 1990, 5 Moldovan districts with less than 1 million inhabitants, located on the left side of river Nistru, declared their independence. Tensions between the Moldovan government and the breakaway Transnistria Republic escalated into a military conflict that started in March 1992 and was concluded by a ceasefire in July 1992. Transnistria's sovereignty is not recognized by any member of the United Nations and it has no official diplomatic relations with any of those states.

Nevertheless, Russia is great supporter of Transnistria and other self-declared independent territories of the former Soviet Union countries (Abhazia, South Osetia). Transnistria accounts for 40% of Moldovan GDP, the main part of the Moldovan industry is located on the left side of the Nistru, and therefore it is a strategic region for Moldova. Transnistria is still under the control of Russian 14th Army, which constitutes a serious violation of International Public Law and of the 1999 Istanbul Agreements.

On July 8, 2004, the European Court of Human Rights stated in a ruling that the Russian army "stationed in Moldovan territory [is] in breach of the undertakings to withdraw them completely given by Russia at the OSCE summits in 1999 and 2001. " Even with domestic conflicts and tensions, Moldova had to establish its state institutions and undertake a complex process of social and economic reforms. Moldova established its diplomatic relations with other countries and organizations, including European Union (EU). Despite the relative short period of cooperation between Moldova and EU, these relations were marked by striking “ups and downs”. . Moldova’s relations with EU For the purpose of this paper, I would like to distinguish between following stages of Moldova- EU relations: 1. 1991-1998 - “wait and see” period 2. 1998-2008 – “two steps forward and one back”, 3. 2009-2010 – “twitter revolution”- turning point in Moldova – EU relations 4. November, 28th 2010 in Moldova will be held the Parliamentary elections which are crucial for Moldova’s European future. 3. 1. 1991-1998 - “wait and see” period The first framework for EU-Moldova relations was provided by TACIS (Technical Assistance for Commonwealth of Independent States).

TACIS was established in 1991 and provided grant-financed technical assistance to 12 former USSR countries, except Baltic countries, to help in their transition to democratic, market-oriented economies. TACIS was not a bilateral agreement between Moldova and EU, it was drawn by EU as a common tool for 12 former USSR colonies aimed at enhancing the transition process. In 1994 Moldova and EU signed first bilateral Agreement, the so-called Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), which entered into force in 1998. While this ramework agreement was passing through a cumbersome ratification procedure by the EU member states, Moldovan President P. Lucinschi expressed, by successive official letters addressed to the President of European Commission and to all EU heads of states and governments, the aspiration of Moldova to become an associate member of the EU. Though no formal answer followed, through different channels it was suggested that before passing to the associate stage a full implementation of the EU-Moldova PCA was necessary. 3. 2. 1998-2008 – “two steps forward and one back”

During this period Moldova-EU relations gained more consistency, but the relations were marked by changing of the power in Chisinau. The communist Party won the Parliamentary elections in 2001 with 50, 07 % and in 2005 with 45, 98 %. From 2001 to 2008 the Communist Government promoted the so-called ‘facade Europeanization’. Moldova had double standard messages for Brussels and Moscow, the promotion of European values and democracy were done just to gain more voters. No wonder all the actions which aimed to bring Moldova closer to EU were undertaken at the end of the first Communist mandate (2005).

In March, 2003 – EU and USA introduced a visa ban against self-declared Transnistria leaders. After the Eastern enlargement of EU in 2004, EU launched the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). The objective of the ENP is to share the benefits of the EU enlargement with neighboring countries. ENP was intended to offer a privileged relationship to EU’s neighbors, which will build on mutual commitment the common values principally within the fields of the rule of law, the respect for human rights, the principles of market economy and sustainable development.

ENP was intended to be an incentive for Europe’s neighbors to pursue reforms and to import the EU’s values and practice as the candidates states do. In February, 2005, in the framework of ENP, Moldova and EU signed the Action Plan, which initially was intended to be for 3 years, but eventually it was extended by one year more. Among the objectives of the Action Plan, I would like to mention: the strengthen of the institutions guaranteeing democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights, promoting economic reform, improving living conditions, etc.

The Action Plan supported efforts to achieve a lasting resolution of the Transnistria problem. In October 2005, the EU has been invited to join the mediation process as observers in the so-called 5+2 format. Moldova, Transnistria, OSCE, Russia and Ukraine are mediators, while USA and EU are observers. In my opinion this format is not functional and needs to be changed. There is a big question mark whether all of the mediators are engaged in a fair process of mediation and can ensure a resolution of Transnistria conflict and in the same time the territorial integrity of Moldova.

The format 5+2 is not balanced, because Russia and Ukraine (officially and/or non-officially) support Transnistria, OSCE is mainly controlled by Russia, EU and US having the status of observers, cannot intervene in the mediation process and at the end of the day, Moldova does not have the necessary levers to sustain its points during the mediation. This question was recently raised by Kalman Mizsei, the European Union Special Representative for Moldova at the OSCE Summit in Vienna on 16-18 October, 2010.

Helping Moldova to ensure full control over its borders and customs territory, the EU has deployed since December 2005 an EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) on the Moldova – Ukraine state border (including the Transnistria sector). Other priorities of EU-Moldova relations include reforming the judiciary system, ensuring respect for freedom of expression and media, cooperating on issues such as migration, fight against trafficking, organized crime, corruption and money laundering, thereby contributing to the long-term objective of sustainable development.

Even if the Action Plan provided certain actions that should be fulfilled by Moldovan Government, it did not have a particular and lasting approach from Moldovan side. Government’s actions often achieve good results at project level, but have less impact at sector and national policy level partly due to a lack of continuity and coherent long-term sector planning. In spite of all the advantages and benefits of ENP, the 2006 spring (when Russia established embargo for the Moldovan wines) pointed out that ENP cannot be compared with political and economic pressure of Russia in Moldova.

In the ENP framework, EU offers immediate and limited benefits and cannot cancel the effects of Russian economic blockade. This is one of reason why EU decided to double financial assistance in Moldova for the period 2007-2010, thus Moldova became the second beneficiary per capita of the EU assistance, after the Palestinian Authority. EU has provided about 210 million euro of assistance to Moldova through European Neighborhood and Partnership Instrument. The ENP and Action Plan brought new dynamics in the relations etween Moldova and EU; extended their cooperation opportunities; specified and detailed co-operation process between parties; updated the areas of dialogue […] However, this is not say that everything went smooth in the implementation process of EU-Moldova Action Plan. While performing quite well on the economic dimensions of the document, Moldovan authorities proved an obvious lack of administrative capacities and unwillingness to promote fully-fledged reforms in crucial areas, such as respect of human rights, freedom of the media, the rule of law, fight against corruption and business environment. . 3. 2009-2010 – “twitter revolution”- turning point in Moldova – EU relations The next period of Moldova-EU relations is directly linked to the events of April 2009 and the so-called “twitter revolution”. On April 5th, 2010 in Moldova were held the Parliamentary elections. For the 3rd time in a row the Communist Party won the elections with 49, 48 %. The opposition parties and civil society organization accused the Communist Party that they rigged the elections.

On 6th and 7th of April, 2009, around 30000 people went into streets to protest against the results of the elections, the number quickly increased due in large part to new technologies and social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Odnoklasniki, etc. A large group of protesters stormed the Parliament and the Presidential Palace vandalizing both buildings and leaving the Parliament in flame.

The Government reaction to the storms was severe, thousands of students were arrested and there were credible reports about mistreatment and torture of detainees, three fatalities were reported in connections with demonstrations and detentions. However, the Communist Party lacked one vote to elect the President and in July 2009 new Parliamentary elections were held. A new government formed by a fragile alliance of liberals and centrist was established after the elections. There was no coincidence in naming the coalition the Alliance for European Integration.

These events brought Moldova back on the EU agenda; the new government started a diplomatic offensive to charm EU capitals and created high expectation in Moldova, especially for the educated, young electorate which tends to see the EU as an opportunity to bypass isolation and poverty. The events in Moldova coincided with the launching of EU Eastern Partnership - an institutionalized forum for discussing visa agreements, free trade deals and strategic partnership agreements with the EU's Eastern neighbors, while avoiding the controversial topic of accession to EU.

Among the main provisions of the Eastern Partnership: new association agreements including deep and comprehensive free trade agreements, for those willing and ready to take on the far-reaching commitments with the EU that these entail; a conclusion of “mobility and security pacts”, allowing for easier legitimate travel to the EU while at the same time stepping up efforts to combat corruption, organized crime and illegal migration. These pacts would also cover the upgrading asylum systems to EU standards and the establishment of integrated border management structures, etc.

The ultimate long term goal would be full visa liberalization, on a case by case basis, provided that conditions for well-managed and secure mobility are in place; the Commission will study possibilities for labor mobility with aim of further opening of the EU labor market; enhanced energy security in the partner countries themselves and with the European Union, including through support to investment in infrastructure, better regulation, energy efficiency and more efficient early warning systems to prevent disruption of supply; enhanced cooperation on environment and climate issues, etc.

The new Government quickly engaged the country on the pro-European way. The Government gathered support for a new and very ambitious project, called “Rethink Moldova”. The EU, USA, IMF, WB and various EU member states took part in this action and in total $ 2,6 billion are scheduled to help Moldova for 2011-2013. In 2010, the financial assistance from the international organization increased 4 times.

The unconditional supporter of Moldova “Europeanization” is Romania. On November 13th, 2009, Moldova signed the Agreement on Small-Scale border traffic with Romania, which went into effect on February, 25th, 2010. The Agreement permits people who have been residents in the border area of either country for at least a year, to travel in the neighboring state’s border zone without a visa, for 3 months. Another achievement of the pro-European Government from Chisinau is the beginning of negotiations for the Association Agreement and Deep and Comprehensive Trade Agreement with EU.

There were four rounds of negotiations in 2010. Currently, Moldova and EU negotiations focus on four working groups addressing issues that relate to foreign policy, security, justice and economic cooperation. Regarding the “economic cooperation” were closed already 18 of the 22 chapters which have been negotiated. After the last negotiations held in October 2010, Gunnar Wiegand, the head of EU delegation, Director for Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia, mentioned that:”This year [2010] has been enormous progress in EU-Moldova relations”.

The European official said that after the conclusion of the fourth round of negotiations, the EU will provide some key recommendations for Moldova, concerning the creation of free trade area. After Russia imposed the second embargo on Moldovan wine in 2010, which had catastrophically consequences for Moldovan wine industry (which constitutes 25 % of Moldovan GDP), EU doubled the quota for Moldovan wine. In March, 2010 Moldova joined European Energy Community, which will contribute to the diversification of the energy sources in Moldova.

In just one year, Moldova became a champion in negotiations with EU. Since November 2009 to November 2010 there have been 5 EU Commissioner Visits in Moldova (from 1991 to 2008 just 4 visits). During September – October 2010 Moldova hosted 16 high EU missions. 3. 4. November, 28th 2010 in Moldova will be held the Parliamentary elections. These elections are crucial for Moldova’s future. Moldovans have to choose between continuing the course toward European economic integration or live with the past and the shadow of Soviet Union. 4. Current issues of Moldova – EU relations Watch out, Moldova joins EU through the back door”. During the summer of 2010, many Europeans newspapers as Der Spiegel, The Daily Telegraph, Daily Express, Il Giornale, Le Figaro expressed their concerns about Romania giving “too many” citizenships to Moldova’s inhabitants. I would like to address this issue from Moldovan perspective. In 1940, when USSR by force occupied Moldova, they changed the nationality of the Moldova’s inhabitants from Romanian to “Moldovan” and none of them were asked if they wanted to become Soviet Moldovans.

The political decision of Moscow to create a new identity - “Moldovan”, a new language with Cyrillic alphabet - ”Moldovan” was a continuation of the process of Russification that was started in 1812. But what Soviet Union did not take into account is that, they could not erase a memory of a nation. After the 1991 independence, a lot of Moldovans refused the “Moldovan” identity (written in their ID) as their nationality and sued the Moldovan Government for admitting of the false information in the documents.

All in all, the Romanian citizenship offered by Romania comes as a rehabilitation of historical injustice made to Romanians from Moldova. The process is named re-gain of the citizenship, which means that once, because of the historical circumstances the citizenship was lost but without their will. More than 70 % of the Moldova’s inhabitants could be eligible for Romanian citizenship. There is no statistical data, but unofficially around 300 000 Moldovans have double citizenship: Romanian and Moldovan and there are around other 1 million applications for Romanian citizenship.

The procedure of re-gaining the Romanian citizenship is tough and time consuming (more than 4 years), there is a list of around 20 documents that the applicant has to provide, including certificate of birth of grand-parents, certificate of marriage, criminal records from Moldova and Romania, etc. The applicant has to prove that his grand-parents were born Romanians and he is their descendent.

Moreover, Soviet Union Rusificated the Moldovan’s name by adding the Russian endings like” –va” and “- vici” to the Romanian names and in order to be eligible for Romanian citizenship, the applicant should embrace a bureaucratic and costly process of correcting his name and his parents’ name. A lot of concerns were raised to the number of Romanian citizenships offered to Moldovans, but as we can see in the following table, Romania offers much less citizenships than other EU member states: Table 2: Citizenships offered by selected countries of the EU in 2008:

Another key issue in Moldova – EU negotiations is liberalization of visa regime with EU. I would like to point out that Moldova almost fulfilled the technical requirements for liberalization of visa regime without being asked to (Ukraine did it in 3 years). There were a lot of fears concerning the liberalization of EU-Moldova visa regime, most of them related to illegal immigration. But, a logic exercise of the Moldova reality would show that these fears are not realistic. Moldova has around 4 million inhabitants (including Transnistria).

According to migration studies, the potential migrants are between 20 to 49 years old. In 2009, in Moldova there were 1,677,616 inhabitants between 20 to 49 years old. Therefore, if there was free visa regime between Moldova and EU 1,677,616 of Moldovans would become potential immigrants. Taking into account that around 30 % of Moldovans (~1 mln) already left the country for EU, US, Russia, etc. , the fears of illegal immigration disappear. Moldovans are already in EU, a big majority of them working for 2, 5 and even 8 years without getting a chance to visit their families.

An interesting fact is that just 14 % of Moldovan immigrants plan to settle abroad. The free visa regime between Moldova and EU will improve and legalize the situation of Moldovans who work in EU and also would decrease the illegal immigration (some Moldovans pay 4000 Euro to get to EU). 5. Which way further? An actual question is which way further will Moldova go? Will it stick to its past or it will try to build a European future? It is certainly a question which answer we will found after November elections.

One issue is obvious, the changing of the power in Chisinau brought Moldova back on EU agenda and the international circumstances are very favorable for solving the Transnistria conflict. On 4-5 June, Russia and Germany signed the Meseberg Memorandum. The document proposes creating an EU-Russia Political and Security Policy Committee, to be chaired by the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Policy Catherine Ashton and Russia’s Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov, for high-level consultations and decisions.

The committee’s mandate would include “setting ground rules for joint civilian and military crisis management operations by the EU and NATO,” as well as “working out recommendations on various conflicts and crisis situations, to the resolution of which the European Union and Russia may contribute within appropriate multilateral forums. ” On these definitions, the EU-Russia Committee would be vested with greater powers than those of the NATO-Russia Council. It would also institute an EU-Russia policy coordination mechanism, such as the EU does not have with the United States or with NATO.

The German government has identified the conflict in Moldova’s Transnistria region as the issue most likely to demonstrate that the EU can work one-on-one with Russia on European security. In Berlin’s view, Russia should ultimately withdraw its troops from Moldova’s territory and allow Moldova to reunify with Transnistria. In return for cooperating to settle this conflict, Russia could receive a major role in European security affairs, with access to EU decision-making processes via the proposed committee. The German initiative can generate a positive dynamic in the negotiations on Transnistria.

It can also help raise this conflict high on the EU-Russia agenda. After the French-Russian-German summit in Deauville on 18-21 October, 2010, the Russian President, Dmitri Medvedev, for the first time in last 20 years, talked about including Romania in Transnistria negotiation process. Some analysts would argue that this propose is related to the invitation of Romania to participate in South Stream project, instead of Nabucco project. On October 21, 2010, the EU Parliament adopted a Resolution concerning EU-Moldova relations.

The resolution stresses the substantial progress in EU-Moldova relations over the last year and calls on the Commission to swiftly adopt a visa liberalization plan for Moldovan citizens. Parliament also approved the recent initiative launched by German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Russian President Dimitri Medvedev to create an EU-Russia Security Committee to discuss regional issues such as a settlement of the Transnistria conflict. In addition to German support, Moldova also received positive signals from Central East European countries and Baltic countries, as Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, Estonia, etc.

In September 2010, Moldovan Prime-Minister had a bilateral meeting in Budapest with Hungarian Prime Minister, Viktor Orban. The next month, the Hungarian Prime-Minister visited Moldova and reiterated the Hungarian support for Moldova’s cause. At the beginning of November, the Polish economist Leszek Balcerowicz, famous for his “Shock Therapy” (a method for rapidly transitioning from a communist economy, based on state ownership and central planning, to a capitalist market economy), visited Moldova at the invitation of Moldovan Prime-Minister and expressed his will to share with Moldova Poland’s experience concerning economic transformations.

In conclusion, one issue is evident, the so-called Moldova twitter revolution had changed the European agenda concerning Moldova. Not so long ago, Moldova was seen as a lost country, “black hole of Europe”, “the poorest European country”, “a grey zone under Russian influence” and no one expected the quick change that would bring Moldova in the headlines. The change came from inside the country, from young Moldovans and students, from the so called “twitter generation”, who does not accept a totalitarian regime and wish for a better country to live in.

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Moldova’s Relations with European Union. (2018, Aug 03). Retrieved from

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