Trapped between two great powers, like the Russian Federation and the European Union, which pull in opposite directions, the Republic of Moldova should set its priorities. At the forefront, there is the reform agenda based on democratic principles, in accordance with the Association Agreement with the EU where Moldova has outstanding actions. The integrity and unity of society that is now divided is another priority. The relations with the neighboring countries were ranked second and no investments were made in this regard for a long period of time, said Dorina Baltag, researcher in foreign policy and EU diplomacy at the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance of London. “President Maia Sandu underlined this moment during her visits to Bucharest and Kiev and the dialogues she had there should be continued, as a priority,” Dorina Baltag sated in IPN’s public debate ‘Tense relations between the European Union and the Russian Federation and impact on the Republic of Moldova”.
The researcher noted the interaction between the foreign policy and the domestic policy should also be among the priorities as these are interdependent. Moldova will be affected by the tenser relations between the EU and Russia to the same extent as in the case of the crisis in Ukraine. “I want to believe that a lot will depend on the elections that I hope will be snap and will give a direction and a stimulus for implementing that package of reforms and will determine our foreign policy in relation to the Russian Federation,” she stated.
According to Dorina Baltag, the recent visit paid to Russia by the head of the EU diplomatic service Josep Borrell-Fontelles ended with an attack on the European official and on the EU’s policy. This is a minus for the EU as Russia not only once exploited the EU’s shortcomings in the foreign policy sector. “The people are another very important aspect of the visit. It goes to the public diplomacy on which the EU centers as it is important to contact with people from authoritarian states. This aspect is not debated in the European Parliament and is not part of the European media – how the EU institutions and member states contact with the people. For the people who are anti-regime, anti-system in Russia, this visit was very important,” stated the expert.
Asked what principles the EU abides by in the relations with Russia and vice versa, Dorina Baltag said the academia often discusses the relationship between the EU and Russia as a strategic marriage in which the sides realize the relations and interests they have. Selective pragmatism has been witnessed in the EU’s principles in relation to Russia. The EU applies particular general principles, such as the development of the EU’s relations with the EaP countries, including Moldova; support for the interpersonal contacts with Russian civil society; selective cooperation with the Russian Federation; counteracting of Russian propaganda, etc. On the other hand, the Russian Federation perceives the EU as an extension of the powers of the U.S and then these relations are always unbalanced.
Dorina Baltag noted there are at least two clear directions that the EU followed in relation to Russia for many years. “It goes to the Department for Counteracting Russian Disinformation and the Institute of Brussels. But the way in which this was founded, by several member states, and the way it works with civil society is slightly atypical. But these instruments should be strengthened as the EU member states said that what they do is not enough. Erroneous information spreads must faster than correct information,” she stated.
As to the possible additional EU penalties faced by Russia after Josep Borrell’s visit to Moscow, the expert noted that the restrictive measures against Russia were extended in 2020 too and these can be described as diplomatic and economic measures.
As regards the measures to counteract the EU’s penalties by Russia, Dorina Baltag said that even if the Russian Federation notes that it has such a powerful economic partner as China, figures show that 43% of Russia’s foreign trade is with the EU, which is an important partner for Russia. “We can also analyze things inversely – what economic relations the EU member states have with Russia, what Germany, France, the Netherlands and other countries do. We will see that these relations have declined. At least the German companies reconsidered their relations after the crisis in Ukraine. Earlier, there were almost 7,000 companies that had commercial relations, but now the figure decreased to 4,000 companies and this is a tendency already,” stated Dorina Baltag.
The public debate “Tense relations between the European Union and the Russian Federation and impact on the Republic of Moldova” is the 172nd installment of the series “Developing Political Culture through Public Debates”. The project is supported by the Hanns Seidel Foundation.