Facebook Twitter Instagram Youtube LinkedIn

Analyses

Moldova-Romania relations and the issue of the “gentle calf sucking from two cows”

Moldova-Romania relations and the issue of the “gentle calf sucking from two cows”
©EPA-EFE/ROBERT GHEMENT  |   Moldovan Prime Minister Natalia Gavrilita (L) and Romanian Prime Minister Nicolae Ciuca (R) during a joint press conference at the Victoria Palace in Bucharest, Romania, 09 December 2021

Relations between the Republic of Moldova and Romania have often been described as privileged, and there is even talk of a strategic partnership. However, on numerous occasions during the last few decades, Bucharest’s efforts and openness have stood out more, even when it was met with hostility by a country that has ever strived to strike a balance between its “Eastern” and Western orientation.

Even a strongly pro-European government like the one currently in power, which has firmly argued in favor of consolidating relations with Romania and made a number of steps in this direction, put a company from India in charge of modernizing its infrastructure, a country that has no expertise or knowledge of this region. Moreover, whenever a serious crisis arose (as was the case with the latest gas crisis), Chișinău was quick to call Russia for help, signing a five-year non-transparent agreement with Gazprom. Meanwhile, the  150-million-Euro pipeline built by Romania (admittedly with funding from international banks) risks gathering rust over the next five years.

The Moldovan Cabinet’s back-and-forth surges in terms of its energy policy are ambiguous and often confusing. On the one hand, Moldova signs a five-year contract with Russia, whereas on the other hand Chișinău officials travel to Bucharest to discuss terms for stockpiling gas in Romania’s deposits as a token of goodwill.

Such oscillating actions bring back into the limelight the double-standard policies of the 1990s of former president Mircea Snegur as regards relations with Romania, or the policies introduced after 2000 by Voronin’s communist regime, which were suggestively described as “a gentle calf sucking from two cows”. But this is 2021, and the actions of a Cabinet comprising Western-educated young politicians raise a number of questions as to how exactly relations between Chișinău and Bucharest should be defined.

More often than not, Chișinău authorities have always identified the commercial aspect as central to any business partnership or development plan. However, a series of partnerships cannot be built only on mercantile foundations, but also on longer-term strategies.

What can Moldova learn from Romania’s Strategic Partnership with the USA?

The most telling example in this respect is Romania’s Strategic Partnership with the United States, and the US investments made in key areas such as vehicle manufacturing, the oil industry, defense and, in the near future, nuclear energy. These came after during the first few years, Romania seemed to be striking unfavorable deals as per the USA’s instructions, such as the procurement of a number of multirole fighter jets. As it eventually turned out, the deals brought Romania numerous benefits on the medium term.

Veridica.ro talked to a number of political pundits in Chișinău, who described what a possible partnership between Romania and the Republic of Moldova should consist of.

“The Strategic Partnership between Romania and the Republic of Moldova is a construct that should also take under advisement each party’s needs, a joint path that both partners must embark on. This will require the modernization of institutions and society in the Republic of Moldova in line with Western standards, as well as a transfer of technology, investment and skills and the training of the future generations. The pillar underlying such a partnership must be a common identity and trust in a shared future. These should be the foundations of the future strategic partnership. I believe that, of all the agreements and strategic partnerships Moldova can pursue, the agreement with Romania is key in order to ensure democratic stability and to straighten out Moldova’s domestic and foreign policies”, political analyst Igor Munteanu from the “Viitorul” Institute for Development and Social Initiatives (IDIS), a former diplomat and MP, has told Veridica.ro

Igor Munteanu also explained that, after the recent signing of the Roadmap and the repeated visits of representatives of the Moldovan administration – president Maia Sandu, prime minister Natalia Gavriliță and more recently deputy prime minister, Andrei Spânu – the present timing is ideal for implementing ambitious projects. Except that the Republic of Moldova must act in accordance with the logic and principles of the European single energy market, instead of strengthening Russia’s monopoly.

“First of all, I believe we should render operational the Iași-Ungheni pipeline, which is currently out of commission, although the investment stood at 160 million Euro. The pipeline is not being used according to its original design, because it is not connected to the Republic of Moldova’s natural gas grid. Certain transactions need to be performed in order for the gas to reach the end user. For that, of course you need a platform for trading natural gas that should observe certain conditions and provide guarantees, in line with European standards, to anyone who wishes to transport a certain amount of natural gas”, the political expert went on to say.

Igor Munteanu added that, in terms of electric energy, the Republic of Moldova needs to create the proper framework in order to make room for other distributors – Romania, Ukraine, Poland, etc. – and solve its current predicament, where the market is dominated by a single distributor – the Cuciurgan power plant in the breakaway region of Transnistria.

“It’s extremely important that the Government in Chișinău should observe systematic approaches as a point of reference, instead of answers or resolutions to various conjectural situations. In such cases, our biggest problem is to fail to understand the scope of Moldova’s energy problems.

You can get an answer from Gazprom right now, but this is a company that wants to preserve its position on the market by maintaining a profitable price for the time being. Conversely you can get diverted from your European integration efforts and sidetracked from pursuing certain standards and objectives of the European single energy market, which is extremely serious. Therefore, the choice must reflect a tactical and strategical advantage for the Republic of Moldova’s national interest”, Igor Munteanu also said. 

Funding, scholarships and European citizenship

Over the years, Romania provided Moldova with much more than the Iași-Ungheni pipeline or with an alternative source of electricity (which still remains untapped). It has provided funding, citizenship (Moldovans with Romanian citizenship are also citizens of the EU, with all the benefits that entails) and education. The latest official data shows that some 1.05 million Moldovan citizens also own the Romanian citizenship, of whom 750,000 are adults. Therefore, according to the Statistics Office in Chișinău, 40% of Moldova’s total population of 2.7 million people are fully-fledged Romanian citizens, with all the rights and obligations associated with that status.

Moreover, between 2014 and 2020 alone, Romania invested 62 million Euro worth of European funds in 78 cross-border projects involving the Republic of Moldova. An additional 60 million Euro consisted in foreign direct investment from Romania in the last decade. Most of these funds, tantamount to over 30 million Euro, were earmarked to rehabilitate over 80% of Moldova’s borders. Adding to these are the thousands of annual scholarships that the Romanian Government has been providing to Bessarabian pupils and students for decades.

Political analyst Ion Tăbârță told Veridica.ro that Romania must not give up on its citizens here, although things may become thorny when it comes to top-level relations.

“Moldovan-Romanian relations developed at two separate levels. The official level, inter-government relations, which have oscillated a lot, and the level of the common folk, the citizens. And here, we’ve never had any problems. However, there are problems at government level. Right now, unfortunately, the current administration is not making the most of relations with Romania, so that Romania can truly become a strategic partner for the Republic of Moldova’s European integration”, Tăbârță said.

Ion Tăbârță describes the actions of Minister Spânu in terms of energy relations with Romania as opportunistic, adopted only when the worst came to the worst.

“And this is not the correct approach. I believe we should review our attitude in this respect. The current government must understand that the relationship with Romania must be a special one, whether our development revolves around European Union accession or not. And we should not approach this relation in exclusively unionist terms either. Indeed, the Government of the Republic of Moldova cannot adopt a unionist policy, but why not push for closer relations, similar to the partnership between Cyprus and Greece, for instance?”, Ion Tăbârță also explained.

The upcoming 100-million-Euro assistance package: where should the funds go?

On the other hand, Bucharest must also understand that relations with Chișinău must be tackled in a more pragmatic paradigm, and follow the example of other European states that protect not just their grants and financial assistance, but also their businesses in Chișinău. Part of this category is also the upcoming technical assistance package, worth 100 million Euro, which Romania will disburse to the Republic of Moldova, a revamped version of the 2010 agreement, aimed at supporting the development of the Republic of Moldova.

“I believe these prerequisites are inevitable and necessary. Loans are handed out over a certain period of time, which can be shorter when subjected to a risk analysis. Accordingly, loans must be accompanied by certain terms related to the predictable actions of the current or future governments. Loan agreements must not be tied to figures of a certain popularity who have been mandated by the citizens with the power of oversight.

I would revert to the terms previously mentioned by Romania’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Bogdan Aurescu, in the autumn of 2020. I would update them and list them as commitments under the Romania-Republic of Moldova Strategic Partnership, in the context of resilience demanded of all EU member states in relations with their eastern partners”, political expert Igor Munteanu argues.

For many years now, Romania has been Moldova’s largest trade partner. Some 28% of Moldova’s exports reach the Romanian market. The volume of exports to Romania is 3.5 times larger than Moldova’s exports to the Russian Federation (4th). Still, Romania fares poorly in terms of technical assistance and the promotion of investment and development programs in the Republic of Moldova. The issue is not entirely new, and Romanian diplomats are well aware this needs to change. It remains to be seen whether they will act on it.

Compared to Romania, Russia has an oversized embassy in Chișinău which, among other things, protects its business interests in the Republic of Moldova.

“Last but not least, the Republic of Moldova also needs Bucharest’s ambitions to modernize and redesign its business sector. It’s not enough to just urge Romanian businesses to invest in certain industries or sectors in the Republic of Moldova. You also need to provide safety nets. And that means government support [from Bucharest] for clear-cut projects, and I would add the prevention of possible conflicts pertaining to the implementation of certain contracts”, Igor Munteanu said.

The political analyst added that Romania needs to learn from its past experience and apply these lessons with utmost diligence when it comes to boosting its strategic partnership with Chișinău. “Romania needs to understand that the common path is like a bridge that needs to be built, starting from the smallest of details to the very comfort of the future beneficiaries”, Igor Munteanu added.

In turn, political analyst Ion Tăbârță concluded that Romania should lobby for the Republic of Moldova more in international fora.

“Romania is doing a lot, but Russia erases all its endeavors and creates alternative realities. Media-wise, Romania should be more present and diversify its approaches. There are official channels it can use – TVR Moldova and Radio Chișinău – but it can also come up with films, entertainment programs, etc.”, Ion Tăbârță concluded.

 

Tags: Republica Moldova
Propaganda de Razboi
Other articles
“Muslim lives don’t matter”: how Trump reopened Iraq’s old wounds

“Muslim lives don’t matter”: how Trump reopened Iraq’s old wounds

Trump’s pardoning of people close to him has sparked massive protests in the United States, backed in particular by Democratic politicians. The Blackwater Guard pardon also triggered a UN response. Taken a year after Trump pardoned a Navy Seal accused of war crimes during the military campaign against the Islamic State, the decision will only rekindle old resentments against the United States, dating back to the war in Iraq in the 2000s.

From Sofia With Love: Bulgaria-Russia relations are challenged after espionage claims

From Sofia With Love: Bulgaria-Russia relations are challenged after espionage claims

Once Moscow’s most reliable satellite in Eastern Europe, Bulgaria expelled six Russian diplomats for spying since October 2019. Is Sofia trying to step out of Moscow’s shadow, or merely creating a smoke screen for affairs on a different level?

Is Erdoğan's Turkey going East? Or West?

Is Erdoğan's Turkey going East? Or West?

Squeezed between its own regional ambitions and those of global players, between domestic challenges and its own policy errors, the current regime in Ankara speaks and acts in an increasingly erratic manner. And the consequences are difficult to foresee at this stage.

Mădălin Necșuțu

21 Dec 2021
Mădălin Necșuțu

Follow us on Google News

8 minutes read
  • The Moldovan Cabinet’s back-and-forth surges in terms of its energy policy are ambiguous and often confusing. On the one hand, Moldova signs a five-year contract with Russia, whereas on the other hand Chișinău officials travel to Bucharest to discuss terms for stockpiling gas in Romania’s deposits as a token of goodwill. Such oscillating actions bring back into the limelight the double-standard policies of the 1990s of former president Mircea Snegur as regards relations with Romania, or the policies introduced after 2000 by Voronin’s communist regime, which were suggestively described as “a gentle calf sucking from two cows”. But this is 2021, and the actions of a Cabinet comprising Western-educated young politicians raise a number of questions as to how exactly relations between Chișinău and Bucharest should be defined.
  • Over the years, Romania provided Moldova with much more than the Iași-Ungheni pipeline or with an alternative source of electricity (which still remains untapped). It has provided funding, citizenship (Moldovans with Romanian citizenship are also citizens of the EU, with all the benefits that entails) and education. The latest official data shows that some 1.05 million Moldovan citizens also own the Romanian citizenship, of whom 750,000 are adults. Therefore, according to the Statistics Office in Chișinău, 40% of Moldova’s total population of 2.7 million people are fully-fledged Romanian citizens, with all the rights and obligations associated with that status. Moreover, between 2014 and 2020 alone, Romania invested 62 million Euro worth of European funds in 78 cross-border projects involving the Republic of Moldova. An additional 60 million Euro consisted in foreign direct investment from Romania in the last decade. Most of these funds, tantamount to over 30 million Euro, were earmarked to rehabilitate over 80% of Moldova’s borders. Adding to these are the thousands of annual scholarships that the Romanian Government has been providing to Bessarabian pupils and students for decades.
  • On the other hand, Bucharest must also understand that relations with Chișinău must be tackled in a more pragmatic paradigm, and follow the example of other European states that protect not just their grants and financial assistance, but also their businesses in Chișinău. Part of this category is also the upcoming technical assistance package, worth 100 million Euro, which Romania will disburse to the Republic of Moldova, a revamped version of the 2010 agreement, aimed at supporting the development of the Republic of Moldova.
Experts: NATO’s presence in the Baltics must grow
Experts: NATO’s presence in the Baltics must grow

The Baltic states are probably among the NATO countries most exposed to a possible Russian attack and were among the first to express concern about the aggression of the Putin regime. Their NATO membership offers them protection, but experts feel that the Alliance needs to consolidate its position in the region.

Kaspars Germanis
Kaspars Germanis
17 May 2022
“They’re loading stolen goods into trucks and raping 11-year-old girls”. The Russian independent media writes about the brutality of Putin’s forces in Ukraine
“They’re loading stolen goods into trucks and raping 11-year-old girls”. The Russian independent media writes about the brutality of Putin’s forces in Ukraine

Despite measures taken by Moscow to secure a monopoly on information regarding the war in Ukraine, Russian independent journalists continue to cover this topic. Veridica has selected a number of press articles describing what is happening in Ukrainian oblasts under Russian control: how the Russian armed forces are abusing the locals, how men have started disappearing, how the new “military-civilian” administration is installed and who the key figures appointed as leaders of the newly conquered territories are.

Mariana Vasilache
Mariana Vasilache
17 May 2022
How May 9 turned from a celebration of the might of Russia and the USSR into a day of solidarity with Ukraine
How May 9 turned from a celebration of the might of Russia and the USSR into a day of solidarity with Ukraine

Outside Russia, Moscow’s representatives and supporters tried to mark Victory Day in ex-Soviet and ex-communist countries, but in most cases, their actions were overshadowed by protest actions against Russia’s acts of aggression or demonstrations of solidarity with Ukraine. Veridica’s contributors in ex-Soviet and ex-communist states have closely followed May 9 celebrations.

Cătălin Gomboș
Cătălin Gomboș
11 May 2022
The independent Russian media writes about the dead soldiers, Syrian mercenaries and the failure of a possible general mobilization called by the Kremlin
The independent Russian media writes about the dead soldiers, Syrian mercenaries and the failure of a possible general mobilization called by the Kremlin

Tens of thousands of people have left Russia in the last three months due to oppression, condemning the aggression in Ukraine. Many have stayed however, continuing to oppose the establishment and to take part in anti-war actions. A large number of journalists, activists and human rights militants have no intention of letting up, despite the repressive legislation and the risk of facing criminal punishments. Veridica has selected a number of topics from the top independent sources in Russia.

Mariana Vasilache
Mariana Vasilache
10 May 2022