“The Triumvirate in Bucharest”: What Were Scholz, Iohannis and Sandu Discussing?

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Sergiu Ceban
The frequency of Maia Sandu’s visits to the neighboring country over the past few months suggests that Bucharest and Chisinau had jointly prepared a plan which they presented to the German leader on the Romanian territory
Early this week, Maia Sandu visited Romania again. This time she had a trilateral meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. The German leader’s visit was meant to symbolize principled support for Romania, an important NATO ally whose territory borders warring Ukraine and vulnerable Moldova. It is clear that this “mini-summit” placed special emphasis on supporting our country, including in the energy sector, on the European membership prospects and regional security. Speaking to the press, the three leaders mainly talked about the need to back Moldova in its crisis and resistance to Moscow’s destabilization attempts. The meeting resulted in a large package of assistance, to be provided in the shortest possible time. The President of Romania did not reveal the details for some reason, saying only that everything is in the final stage. We can expect injections into the key public and economic sectors so as to build a protective umbrella ensuring the political stability of the system and the current Moldovan government. Despite the actual rupture in bilateral relations, Russia has not lost interest in Moldova and is bracing itself for revenge, and keeping Moldova off the list of so-called “unfriendly states” proves that. By all indirect and other signs, the Kremlin is clearly up to something. For now, the protest plan has been put on a conditional pause in order to regroup forces and launch new one-day political parties to serve short-term tactical goals. The Kremlin’s focus on Moldovan affairs prompts Western partners to be proportionate in their response. Last year, France, Germany and Romania launched the triune Moldova Support Platform, that allowed them to raise money for our country in the form of loans and grants throughout the year. It is hard to say now if the project was useful or not. The real picture is still hidden from the public eye, but, basically, some funds did enter the accounts of the Ministry of Finance. True, most of them are likely to have been external borrowings, because the gross external debt reached its next record in 2022, increasing by about 8%, or almost 700 million dollars. Therefore, support for Moldova should be more meaningful as regards the long-term prospects of the country’s development, with particular potential to respond promptly and protect the state from external threats. It is possible that such decisions have already been or are being prepared not only in the central structures of the European Union, whose plan is to deploy a civilian mission to Moldova in May, but also in Bucharest. Especially, if we consider the desire of the latter to change its status as Moldova’s “lawyer” in the EU to a financial, economic, military and political donor that provides full life support and protection of our state. Meanwhile, Scholz arriving in Bucharest to meet with Iohannis and Sandu looks rather peculiar. Many wondered what was behind Berlin’s decision to agree to such a trilateral format. Of course, it could be the American partners that persuaded the German chancellor to go to Romania. But it does not even matter that much, because there is no logic in traveling to the Romanian capital just to voice trivial words of support for Moldovan authorities. So, there is reason to think that the meeting addressed much more delicate and vital issues, which are not yet made public due to their high “political and social sensitivity”. Given the number of Sandu’s visits to a neighboring country in the past few months, it is quite possible that Bucharest and Chisinau jointly prepared certain document (concept, plan, roadmap) which was officially presented to Germany in Romania. Germany is not just the EU leader but also one of the influential international actors whose opinion carries a lot of weight, especially in overall European matters. Moreover, the Germans are one of the few European nations with a unique and more or less recent experience in reunifying the two states. At the same time, it would be wrong to talk about the meeting in Bucharest in terms of banal unionist concepts – this would greatly simplify the situation. After all, both regional and international reality is much more complex and diverse, and this must be taken into account when preparing any initiatives. So far, the unfolding regional situation suggests that politicians and the public on both banks of the Prut are once again faced with a historic choice and the need to make important decisions. On the other hand, so far none of the ideological inspirers of the Moldovan-Romanian unity has offered a more or less sensible idea of what exactly it will be. No matter how hard some forces try to force the processes and others to slow down the merger of the two states, sooner or later Bucharest and Chisinau will have to answer the question of their relationship and what the optimal model for mutual coexistence in the coming decades should look like. The process of European integration of our country creates certain conditions to make the two integration tracks parallel. There is no doubt that the possible reunification/confederal rapprochement, etc. between Moldova and Romania must be approved by the main international players, as well as by NATO and the EU, with Romania as one of its members. At the same time, the mutual integration must not cause financial and economic damage, primarily to Bucharest, hence, the process must be provided with a separate stabilization fund and additional external injections. It is no less important to view the Moldovan-Romanian hare-brained plans also through the prism of internal political processes in our country. Another batch of foreign aid promises to Moldova, which, moreover, are mainly aimed at increasing the defense potential, most likely will not allow the much-needed “social anesthesia” and boost the ruling party’s rating. Therefore, there is nothing left but to offer citizens ahead of local and next elections a major historical project-idea that would open up great prospects and overshadow all the current socio-political adversities.