Unirea: Inevitable or Possible?

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The other day both banks of the Prut River celebrated a significant date – the Day of National Unity. Commentaries by RTA experts Sergiu Ceban and Christian Russu on how close and possible a remake of this historic event is
Sergiu CEBAN: On the first day of winter, Moldova traditionally did not ignore National Unity Day celebrated in Romania. In her congratulatory message, President Maia Sandu said that Moldova looks to Romania with gratitude and hope, because both in Moldova and in Romania people want to live in peace and freedom, in a common prosperous European home. You can reread and feel the deep spirit of unity in these words. The day before, ruling majority MPs also contributed to the infrastructural link between the two banks of the Prut by ratifying an agreement with Romania on the construction of a trans-border water pipeline. Government officials say Moldova and Romania will be linked by nine bridges across the Prut River by 2026. There is a good chance that in addition to these infrastructure projects, we will also be connected to Romania by modern transport corridors, the first of which may be the “Motorway of Unirea” project. Opinion polls in Moldova give different proportions of supporters and opponents of unification with Romania from month to month. However, if we compare the indicators of 5 or even 10 years ago, the picture looks quite different. According to the latest opinion polls, on the average about 40% of respondents support the reunification of the two countries. No sudden leap in the public perception of this topic has been observed for several years, as both Moldovan and Romanian politicians show with all their appearances as if this question is outside the official bilateral agenda. But who are we fooling, Romania helped Moldova, even if partially so far, but to get off Moscow’s energy hook and actually became the donor of electric energy for our country. If we talk about trade between the two countries, then in the first half of this year there was a 70% increase in bilateral trade, which resulted in Romania firmly ranking first among Moldova’s foreign trade partners and second among the major investors. Taking into account the objective reality and not quite clear actions of Chisinau and Bucharest, it is logical that the ideas of the political arrangement of the joint future will break through from below. For example, the same National Council of Unirea decided to hold The Great National Assembly for the Reunification of Romania on the main square of the Moldovan capital next March. Thus, the unionist public will try to persuade the government to initiate the process of Moldovan-Romanian integration. The initiative can be attributed to the unionists’ yet another attempt to create a joint electorally strong project and try their luck in the local elections. As the former Romanian President and an ardent supporter of the unification of the two countries, Traian Basescu, rightly noted the other day, Moldova does not have the 20 years to become a full member of the European Union. The current generation of Moldovan pro-European elites in power most likely will not have another chance, as there is a risk, and as the polls show, it is very high, that the population will simply punish the authorities and hand over the reins of power to the so-called multi-vector forces again. If the PAS and the current leadership are determined to make a historic move, the processes should be sped up, as the window of opportunity may very quickly collapse. Biden has already declared his willingness to negotiate with Putin, and if it happens, sooner or later the general contours of security and the fate of the European continent will be redefined. After the meetings and our delegation in Bucharest, from December 5 to 7, Maia Sandu will be in Washington, according to the official version, to participate in an international anti-corruption conference. Perhaps this is the best way not to create too much excitement around the trip, which may be of key importance for the shared history of Moldova and Romania. Christian RUSSU: If we consider whether over the past few years Moldova has become closer to unirea or, in other words, to the loss of sovereignty and transition to external governance, I would say definitely yes. Moreover, this process has noticeably intensified over the past two years, and now it is taking place in the form of shock therapy under the guise of achieving the EU “candidate’s minimum”. In our expert and academic circles, people often talk about the geopolitical choice of development vector, which is always associated with Moldova’s statehood and which allegedly our citizens face. We regularly conduct opinion polls, which traditionally include the question of who the Moldovans would like to unite with: our western neighbor or to remain in the zone of Russia’s influence. The results of these polls are certainly noteworthy. However, in reality no one from external partners is interested in the opinion of our citizens and the public cannot influence the foreign policy of their own country. The notorious international conjuncture and our political elite are a different story. It so happens that in those periods when there were strong political figures in power in Chisinau, the process of de-sovereignization slowed down or even reversed. Of course, we can recall Vladimir Voronin’s demarche against the Kremlin in refusing to sign the Kozak Memorandum. And although dubious political decisions were observed later in our country, they can nevertheless be clearly defined as sovereign. This can include the political caprices of Vlad Filat and the elaborate combinations of Vlad Plahotniuc. These two in aspiration for the greater power and concentration of financial streams really conducted an independent policy, albeit in their personal interests. It still reflected more interests of the Moldavian state, than neighboring countries. Raider attacks on the banking system, monopolization of the main spheres of the economy, be it electricity trade, scrap metal or agreements with Tiraspol authorities – behind all this one could see the interest of enterprising Moldovan politicians unwilling to give the country to external control. Certainly, even such willful rulers did not openly hinder some processes of integration with Romania, like cultural and educational expansion, dissemination of the Romanian Orthodox Church or the Romanian media. Yet, at that time there was regularly an occasional cooling in relations with Bucharest. Just to recall, the United States and Russia had to combine their efforts to oust the last “statesman” Vlad Plahotniuc, and there is no reason at all to assume any significant role of Bucharest in this. After Plahotniuc’s flight and dramatic events in Ukraine, our country has no objective possibilities left to resist the de-sovereignization process before the West. Our officials diligently follow the instructions from above to accelerate the transfer of major sectors of economy under the control of foreign financial-industrial groups based in Romania. And this is not necessarily a question of Romanian business and state structures of the neighboring country. Rather, they act as managers and coordinators of these processes, leading to the destruction of the state. The most illustrative example of such shock therapy is putting the country’s energy complex under complete dependence on Romania. First, in order to reduce reliance on Russian gas, the combined heat and power plants in Chisinau were reoriented to Romanian fuel oil, and the Silovye Mashiny (Power Machines) company ruined the contract to overhaul one of the CHP units. Then all enterprises were forced to reduce gas consumption, and finally, they cut off gas to the Cuciurgan power plant in Transdniestria in order to switch completely to Romanian electricity. Remarkably, Romania itself faced power shortages not long ago, but today it steadily keeps the energy balance in surplus so as to export electricity to both Moldova and Ukraine in the range of 2000 MW. In other words, these capacities were planned for commissioning over the past months. For the same reason, the authorities refused to sign a long-term contract with Moldavskaia GRES since summer. Energy experts, not biased civic activists, will confirm that the recent decisions by our authorities defy logic. They are economically irrational, technologically unsafe, and already lead to an emergency operation mode, but they are still implemented for political reasons. It is possible that Romanian power engineers are not happy about this situation, but they are forced to comply with political orders from above. Our politicians have often cited the experience of rapid European integration of the Baltic states as a successful example, where, contrary to the logic of common sense, ties with Russia and Belarus were severed in such strategically crucial areas as energy and rail transport, the financial and banking sector was handed over to the Nordic countries, while security and defense issues fell under NATO’s tight control. All this hit the well-being of citizens hard. For example, the share of the energy component in the Baltic States’ inflation this year is one of the highest in the EU, but no one even thinks about buying electricity from Belarus or Russia. The same story is happening here: the authorities explain on TV that it is not concern for citizens that underlies their decisions but rather the need to geopolitically separate from Russia. So, in the near future, we should brace ourselves for further shocking and forcible transition of Moldova under the Western external control, with all the ensuing consequences for the country and its citizens, and Romania is to administer this process, as a country with a similar historical experience.