Romanian Interests. Moldova Remains a Bucharest’s Priority Objective

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From the beginning of next year, the Romanian government will be able to adopt general decisions in the Council of the European Union. The Prime Minister of the country will become chairman of one of the two legislative bodies of the EU for six months. The chairmanship in the Council was announced as one of the main stages and tools for strengthening the authority and significance of Romania in the European Union. This goal is the first line in the list of foreign policy priorities of Bucharest. The ‘to do list’ of Romania includes the Republic of Moldova, relations with which, as the Bucharest’s officials promise, will be among the main issues on the agenda of Romania’s EU Council Chairmanship. Using the potential of European institutions, the Romanian authorities expect to strengthen the country’s position in Eastern Europe, including strengthening its influence on Moldova. Bucharest, to this day, considers the territory of the Republic of Moldova as part of the ‘Great Romanian’ cultural and historical space. The Governance Programme for 2018-2020, besides issues related to the growth of Romania’s importance in the EU, NATO and the expansion of strategic cooperation with the United States, pays special attention to the “eastern direction”. This is Romania’s contribution to the security of the EU external border and to the support of the European Eastern Partnership program. This course of the country’s foreign policy is described in the document as an important tool of Bucharest in providing stability on the eastern borders. The Governance Programme attaches particular attention to the topic of further European integration of the Republic of Moldova through the support of democratic reforms and infrastructure projects. Bucharest has been trying on the role of the ‘European guide’ for Moldova for a long time, taking various steps to strengthen this status. In 2010, the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership of Moldova and Romania was signed. In this document, Romania pledged to support the sovereignty, unity and territorial integrity of Moldova in accordance with European principles and standards, meanwhile its signatories were convinced supporters of the idea of uniting the “two Romanian states” – Traian Basescu and Mihai Ghimpu. The former president of Romania continues his political career in Moldova today, being the main inspiration for unionism. The prospect of Moldova’s membership in the European Union has since been used by Bucharest as an advertising slogan for the neo-imperial ‘Unirea’ project, which implies the entry of Moldova into the European Union through accession to Romania. It is telling that no mention is made of the Moldova’s independence in the program documents of Romania. But much is said about the territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova – which is considered by the Romanian leadership in the context of the Transdniestrian issue. This is also reflected in the Governance Programme for 2018-2020: it states that Bucharest will actively promote the progress in the 5+2 format negotiations on the solution to the Transdniestrian problem that takes into account the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova in internationally recognized borders. By participating in the processes around Transdniestria, Romania officially seeks to help Chisinau, but ultimately intends to strengthen its own weight as a regional player. This should be promoted by energy projects, which are the strategic goal of the Romania’s leadership, as Bucharest positions itself as an important element in the energy security of Europe. The energy transport infrastructure is becoming a significant factor in Moldova’s creeping absorption. Signed in 2014 by the Chisinau Association Agreement with the EU involves integration of the country into the unified energy system of the European Union, so Bucharest is in a hurry to make efforts to complete the construction of the Iasi-Ungheni-Chisinau gas pipeline and the Isaccea-Vulcanesti-Chisinau power line. Through the Romanian energy system, Moldova will join the Pan-European energy system, which is important for Chisinau, both within the framework of further European integration, and in relations with Russian Gazprom – today the main supplier of blue fuel, to which Moldova has accumulated a significant debt. The interconnection of the gas transmission systems of the two countries is included in the list of 20 results to be achieved by Romania by 2020. The Romanian company Transgaz, which has a construction permit, has already received the green light from the Moldovan authorities to conduct procurement tenders and start work. At the same time, the interests of Bucharest in the field of energy are not limited only to strengthening the mediation role. The country claims the status of a regional energy player and expects to become a gas hub of Eastern Europe, both by having crossings of the gas mains on its territory, and by developing its own deposits. Today, Romania produces about 10 billion cubic meters of gas and consumes 11.5 billion, while planning to export blue fuel to Hungary. To increase production under these conditions is very profitable, however, the development of existing deposits will require huge investments. Their source can become European and American companies that have been interested in Romania’s energy potential for several years. The development of infrastructure, which will allow to connect the pipes to Moldova – and maybe even Ukraine – will only spur this interest. Experts believe that interconnection of the energy systems of the Eastern Partnership countries can become one of the main topics of Romania’s chairmanship in the EU Council. Here a concrete private interest in the Iasi-Ungheni-Chisinau gas pipeline and geopolitical views on Moldova are tied together. Moreover, the topic of gas is quite sensitive for Moldova and is already used by local politicians in electoral marketing. Bucharest’s constant interest in Moldova is openly demonstrated through various policy documents – both official and adopted at the level of individual politically parties. The pro-presidential national liberal party of Romania two years ago presented the strategy “The Republic of Moldova – the priority of the Romania’s policy”, which involves integration of the public structures of the two countries and facilitation of admission to the Romanian citizenship for the Moldova’s residents regardless of their ethnicity. The document also suggests popularization of Romanian culture in order to “develop the Romanian identity”, and also provides for the support of the “Metropolis of Bessarabia”, which is subordinate to the Romanian Church (which is not separated from the state) and competing with the Moldavian Metropolis of the Russian Orthodox Church. This spring, the deputies of both chambers of the Romanian Parliament adopted the “Solemn declaration on celebration of the 100th anniversary of the unification of Bessarabia with the mother country of Romania”, expressing readiness to reunite with the Republic of Moldova. Citizens of the latter, meanwhile, increasingly lose faith in their own state.