Bucharest proposes the EU to establish strict control over the (amateur)activities of the new government of Moldova
After the “technocratic” government of Ion Chicu was formed, Moldova’s foreign policy is increasingly becoming multi-vector. The Moldovan authorities are trying to please everyone and are looking for happiness, primarily financial, both in the West and in the East. The pragmatic approach to the country’s international contacts even forced the head of state, at least for a while, to reconsider his previous views on certain issues. Nevertheless, exemplary behavior is not too helpful to establish relations with its nearest neighbor – Romania.
Like Chisinau, Bucharest this year went through the procedure of anti-oligarchic cleansing. The leader of the ruling social democrats in Romania (by the way, considered the patrons of the Democratic Party and Vlad Plahotniuc), Liviu Dragnea, went to prison. The political reshuffle brought to power supporters of President Klaus Iohannis, who was easily re-elected for a second term.
As you know, the Romanian leader has a good personal relationship with the leaders of the ACUM bloc, Maia Sandu and Andrei Nastase. Therefore, it is not surprising that after the fall of the Plahotniuc regime in Moldova and the almost simultaneous collapse of the social democrats’ power in Romania, relations between the two states generally remained positive. Moreover, Maia Sandu pointedly made her first official foreign visit as Prime Minister to Bucharest.
However, problems began after the ruling coalition of the PSRM and ACUM collapsed. Official Bucharest did not even try to hide its disappointment with the changes in the leadership of the RM, and Klaus Iohannis called the vote of no confidence in the Sandu’s government “a vote against Moldova”. This reaction was expected. First, trustworthy and friendly pro-Europeans in the government were replaced by pro-Russian socialists. Secondly, the informal leader of the PSRM, President Igor Dodon, is undoubtedly the most known opponent of the unification of Moldova and Romania and is critical of any measures that, in his opinion, somehow bring hypothetical unification closer.
The chill in the relations between the two presidents was easily noticeable in their personal meeting in New York, where Iohannis not only did not respond to Dodon’s offer to pay a visit to Chisinau, but also did not extend a counter-invitation.
It is not surprising that at the OSCE Ministerial Council 2019, Romanian Foreign Minister Bogdan Aurescu said frankly that the Bucharest’s support of Moldova will be revised: “Support from Romania, including financial support, will not continue in the expected volumes, but will be redeployed, depending on the specific actions of the new government”. At the same time, the Romanian Minister did not hesitate to again praise the already former Sandu’s government for its success in implementing reforms, fighting corruption and ensuring the independence of justice.
Just a few days later, Aurescu went from words to deeds and presented an initiative to the EU Foreign Affairs Council, suggesting the strict monitoring of the situation in Moldova, and in fact almost external management. In particular, it refers to the close monitoring and strict control over the actions of Chisinau on the implementation of the Association Agreement with the EU and making EU’s financial assistance and political support dependent on real progress in the implementation of reforms. In addition, it emphasizes the focus of support on “projects of direct interest to the citizens of Moldova”. That is, in simple terms, the money will be given directly to the regions, and not to the government of Chicu. The latter is likely to be completely banned from the financial assistance of the European Union just under the pretext of the failure of European reforms.
Sensing the moment, former Prime Minister Maia Sandu lashed out at Dodon’s foreign policy, which she said had led to a deterioration in relations with Kyiv and Bucharest and threatened the country’s energy security. In addition, the PAS leader promised mass protests in case of disruptions in gas supplies.
Transit of natural gas to Moldova really remains an extremely pressing issue given the lack of serious progress in the negotiations between Moscow and Kyiv. At the same time, there is a feeling that the Moldovan authorities are hoping for the Ukrainian gas supply route, and have worked out alternative scenarios rather poorly. At the moment, the most realistic option is considered to be the reverse of gas from Romania through the system of trans-Balkan pipelines.
In the context of the apparent cooling of relations between Chisinau and Bucharest, as well as Sandu’s statements, some experts began to talk almost about the “closure of the Romanian pipe” for the reverse of gas to Moldova next year. However, in our opinion, such a radical step from Bucharest is still unlikely. In case of problems with Ukrainian transit, Romania is likely to help out its neighbors. But, despite this, Igor Dodon and the socialists should not expect other support from Bucharest for sure. The establishment of strict EU control over the activities of the Chicu’s government is only the first of multiple unfriendly steps to suppress power of the PSRM and arrange the revenge of pro-European forces in the next presidential and possible off-year parliamentary elections.
Get real time update about this post categories directly on your device, subscribe now.