Tense relations between EU and Russia and impact on Moldova. IPN debate

The Republic of Moldova is a small country that is easily influenced by its relations with other countries, in particular with the more important partners that are called development or strategic partners. Normally, the state of Moldova depends a lot also on the relations between these partners. The invitees to IPN’s public debate “Tense relations between the European Union and the Russian Federation and impact on the Republic of Moldova” discussed how and if the deterioration of the relations between these partners, as in the case of the European Union and the Russian Federation, affects the relations with Moldova.

Dionis Cenușa, a political scientist, researcher, at the Institute of Political Sciences of Liebig-Justus University in Giessen, Germany, said that as the EU’s relations with other states and with international organizations, the relations with Russia are managed by several players. The EU’s Foreign Affairs Council is the main institutional platform. Alongside this, the EU’s foreign policy involves the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, currently Joseph Borrell, who is helped by the European External Action Service. Traditionally, the Foreign Affairs Council, in accordance with the provisions of the European Acquis, must ensure a unitary, efficient and consistent foreign policy. The Foreign Affairs Council, which consists of the ministers of the national governments of the 27 member states, must take into account the instructions of the Presidents, who come together at the Council of the European Union, another institution of the EU. “In this configuration, Mister Borell has to navigate and he didn’t meet the expectations in Moscow, as we saw,” stated Dionis Cenușa.

He noted that to understand what the relations between the EU and Russia consist of, reference should be made to the only bilateral agreement that exists between the two sides – the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement of 1997. This document was a kind of inspiration for the other agreements signed between the EU and other Soviet states. No other agreements with legal effects were signed by the sides. Since 1997, this agreement has been annually renewed, especially after 2007, and now this relationship between the EU and Russia is somehow built on that document and on other sector bilateral agreements that were developed meanwhile, in the energy sector, in particular, and in other areas related to the management of migration and borders, including international files. It is a complex relationship that is now tested by the new considerations related to Russia’s foreign policy.

Also, the EU included, as one of the main principles in the relations between the two sides, starting with 2014, the relationship that the EU develops with the neighboring states of Russia and the EU. “That’s why what is happening in the Republic of Moldova is important for the European Union when it discusses with the Russian Federation and, similarly, what the Russian Federation does in relation to the Republic of Moldova and other states of the Eastern Partnership influences or can determine particular actions on the part of Brussels,” stated the expert.

Dorina Baltag, researcher in foreign policy and EU diplomacy at the Institute for Diplomacy and International Governance of London, said that as a citizen of the Republic of Moldova who lives abroad, she feels the tensions between the EU and Russian. She works in London but lives in The Hague, the Netherlands, and these tensions were felt the most during the crisis in Ukraine. The relations between the Dutch citizens and the Russian Federation were discussed a lot then. The people reviewed their perceptions and the style of travelling and of purchasing particular Russian products.

Dorina Baltag believes it is important that the Moldovans realize these tensions as, if the citizen’s position is that the country’s modernization should follow a European model, it is important to realize what’s happening at geopolitical level, what the economic implications are, what the relations between the Moldova partners with the EU and with Russia are. There is that critical mass in this sector and the diaspora represents the critical mass and those from the diaspora become a development player for the country of origin.

Victor Chirilă, executive director of the Foreign Policy Association, said the citizens from the diaspora are equally concerned about the tense relations between the EU and Russia as they realize that the impact on Moldova’s economy, security can be negative. That’s why they equally want the relations between these two important players for the Republic of Moldova to be stable and predictable so that Moldova could develop on both of the dimensions – Eastern and Western.

According to him, the tensions in the relations between the EU and Russia are not recent. “They didn’t start together with the annexation of Crimea and Russia’s aggression on Ukraine that resulted in the occupation of particular territories. The deterioration of relations started when it became clear that the Republic of Moldova, Georgia, Ukraine will sign association agreements with the EU. These agreements are rather important for these countries, for their economic, social and political development. But Russia treated these agreements as interference by the EU in its sphere of influence, in the so-called near neighborhood. The values that are promoted by the EU through these agreements run counter to the geopolitical view of the Russian Federation. Moreover, these agreements create an area of values that is different from the one that the Russian Federation and Vladimir Putin’s regime in general would like to build in Russia and in the near neighborhood,” stated Victor Chirilă.

“That’s why the relations started to become tense in 2012-2013 and ended with the annexation of Crimea by Russia with the aim of preventing the anchoring of Ukraine and the post-Soviet space in the Euro-Atlantic space. I don’t think Russia managed to do this as Ukraine is pro-European and Ukrainian conscience developed a lot. The EU-Ukraine relations developed. That’s why Russia feels disadvantaged. To prevent the extension of the European area, Russia has a very efficient instrument, namely the use of military force, which it employed in Crimea.”

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.

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