The President of the Republic of Moldova Maia Sandu last week made an official visit to Bucharest, at the invitation of the President of Romania Klaus Johannis, in connection with the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations between the two states. The evolution of the institutional framework of the bilateral Moldovan-Romanian relations derives from the Joint Statement on the institutor of a Strategic Partnership between the two states for the European Integration of the Republic of Moldova that was signed in Bucharest on April 27, 2010. After a glacial period in the relationship between two Presidents of the two states, due to the policy of anti-Romania Moldovenism pursued by Igor Dodon, Maia Sandu’s victory in the last presidential elections held in the Republic of Moldova broke the diplomatic ice and made possible the declaring of the common intention of the two Presidents to strengthen the Strategic Partnership between the two states for the European Integration of the Republic of Moldova, based on the common language, culture and history of the majority population of the two states. However, despite the recognition of the common language, culture and history, they didn’t go further, avoiding discretionarily the phrase “the two Romanian states” that was used with condescendence during the most cooperative periods in the interstate relationship. We will yet see if this omission is a simple accident or we are witnessing the shaping of a principled approach to the bilateral relations.
“Roadmap”, a document with long perspective
We must admit that the time wasn’t the most opportune for the official visit of the President of the Republic of Moldova to Romania, which occurred at the height of the governmental political crisis occurring in Bucharest. This circumstance somehow diminished the public resonance of the visit, the attention of the press being caught by the effects of the overcoming of the political crisis by voting in the Ciucă Government. During the visit, the ministers of education signed the Agreement between the Government of the Republic of Moldova and the Government of Romania on the mutual recognition of diplomats, certificates and scientific titles. The agreement introduces rules that simplify the process of recognizing the diplomas, with a positive impact on academic and professional mobility between the two states. It was the only document with a practically immediate impact signed by the sides. Some can say that one signed document is not enough for an official visit paid by the President, whose public effects are associated rather with the assessment about the mountain that gave birth to a mouse.
But this perception is diminished by the signing by the Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Nicu Popescu and the Romanian Minister of Foreign Affairs Bogdan Aurescu of the Roadmap on Moldovan-Romanian cooperation that envisions the building of a road bridge in Ungheni (Romania) and Ungheni (Republic of Moldova), strengthening of the Galați-Giurgiulești road bridge, rehabilitation of the Galați-Giurgiulești railway bridge. They also agreed to sign a new Agreement between Government of the Republic of Moldova and the Government of Romania on the implementation of the technical and financial assistance program based on non-reimbursable financial assistance provided by Romania to the Republic of Moldova. This is a document with a long perspective based on palpable economic pragmatism given the pressing need of swift solutions for counteracting the multiple crises that embraced the Republic of Moldova.
Conclusions that look gloomy for prospects of Moldovan state
Maia Sandu’s visit to Bucharest coincided with the publication by the Independent Think Tank “Expert-Grup” of the periodical multidimensional analysis titled “Republic of Moldova 2021. State of Country Report”. In this report, the experts pointed to a long multiannual rule typical of the political process for developing the Republic of Moldova, which sounds as a resonance warning for the current government and which specifies: “each new government focuses on measures with an immediate impact, the most difficult reforms being put off for the next few years. Owing to the approaching new electoral cycles, these are postponed in a chronic way. It seems that the current Moldovan government is fully attracted into this noxious tendency in the organization of the political crisis management.
Some of the decisive conclusions of the country report look rather gloomy for the perspectives of the Moldovan state. At economic level, not even after 30 years of independence, the Republic of Moldova reached the level of the GDP of 1990, today the GDP representing slightly over ¾ of the value of 1990. From social viewpoint, over ¼ of the country’s population lives in poverty, which is one of the highest poverty rates in Eastern Europe. The differences in urban-rural poverty are also huge: the absolute poverty rate in 2020 was 35.3% in villages, as opposed to 14% in towns. As a result, the depopulation reached the proportions of a real national disaster. During 30 years of independence of the state, the population of the Republic of Moldova declined by over 1 million persons. In the Corruption Perception Index that is determined by Transparency International, the Republic of Moldova is permanently ranked among the states with a high corruption risk with the conclusion that judging by the steps taken to fight corruption the last few years, “the country needs 45-50 years to catch up with Estonia”. The conclusion says that “as a nation, the Republic of Moldova hasn’t yet developed into a community of people that would fully agree on their identity and history and, which is as important, on their future. As a country, the Republic of Moldova is not yet ready to impose its sovereignty on its internationally recognized territory. As a state, the Republic of Moldova is yet dysfunctional in a number of aspects, including as regards the fundamental pillars, such as democratic institutions, supremacy of the law and ensuring of a stable economic basis”.
Evident defectiveness of applied development paradigm
A simple enumeration of the problems and failures during the 30 years of construction of the Republic of Moldova points to the evident defectiveness of the applied development paradigm. The key question is the general feasibility of the state project in the space included in the borders of the Republic of Moldova, which are recognized at international level. At the current stage, Moldovan society does not have a clear-cut response to this question. Alongside the sovereignist development model (sovereign and independent state), the unionist project (political union with Romania) becomes more deep-rooted in the collective mentality even if the pragmatic aspect of the Moldovan-Romanian relations that were officially dominated by the Republic of Moldova’s strategic objective of integrating into the EU during the last almost two decades prevailed at political level during the 30-year period.
During all these years, the official approach of Romania was based on the brotherly relations between two states and, newer, contributed to the irreversibility of the European integration course of the Republic of Moldova and to making Moldova a zone of stability and security at its Eastern border. During Maia Sandu’s recent visit to Bucharest, it was again noted Romania’s position about the overwhelming, sustainable and cross-party support for the Republic Moldova, attached to the strategic bilateral partnership on the integration of the Moldovan state into the European community.
Symbiosis of sovereignist and unionist development models
The Moldovan-Romanian relations in the interpretation of President Maia Sandu, articulated during her visit to Bucharest, included the expressing of satisfaction for their return to a normal, brotherly relationship. It was mentioned Romania’s contribution to the fight against COVID-19, Moldova’s exports that go primarily to Romania, the big expectations of the Romanian investments in concrete economic projects under implementation and of the future, the powerful voice of Romania’s in the EU in favor of the Republic of Moldova. At the same time, this approach to the Moldovan-Romanian relations adopted by the official Chisinau amounts to the customary (sovereignist) paradigm of the last decade, without palpable attempts to fill these relations with new principled content. They bank a lot on the intensification of the multidimensional interstate Moldova-Romanian dialogue that indisputably has great potential that hasn’t been yet fully developed. But the whole experience of the previous years speaks in favor of the necessity of a radical change of the situation in the Republic of Moldova in the current Moldovan-Romanian cooperation format. A new principled approach, a symbiosis of the sovereignist and unionist development models of the Republic of Moldova are required, based on a new principled content for intensifying the Moldovan-Romanian relations.
Cooperation with integration elements
The cardinal European reform in Moldovan society can be done the best with the contribution and direct participation of Romania, which is an EU member state. The close cooperation with economic, social, cultural and political integration elements between the Republic of Moldova and Romania is the shortest and safest path to European integration. One of the first steps that should be taken on this path is to officially reaffirm the character of the Moldovan-Romanian relations as relations between two Romanian states. This way, the élan of the demobilizing identity debate in the Moldovan society will be diminished. Real preconditions will be created for overcoming the ideological clichés implanted in the collective mentality by imperialist policies of the past and the present. If we miss this unique opportunity for stepping up the European reform in the Republic of Moldova, we risk achieving the current development level of such states as Estonia in 50 years. This is a sad perspective that condemns some more generations in the Republic of Moldova to poverty and misery.
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.