Following the Riga summit, more realism is required over what the EU can offer its eastern partners

The latest Eastern Partnership summit was held in Riga on 21-22 May. The summit was the first to be held since the Vilnius summit in November 2013 which precipitated the Ukraine crisis. Ellie Knott writes on the outcome of the summit and what it means for the development of relations between the EU and Eastern Partnership states. She notes that the EU is now faced with a difficult balancing act of convincing Russia that it is not engaged in direct competition for influence over post-Soviet states, while offering enough concessions to those Eastern Partnership countries that would like to pursue deeper EU integration.

The recent Riga summit (21-22 May 2015) was the fourth summit since the Eastern Partnership (EaP) was initiated in 2009. While the Riga Summit may have been a “survival summit” against the backdrop of “war in Ukraine”, it also signalled “a new era of our partnership” between the EU and 6 EaP states, with a new High Representative (Federica Mogherini), EU President (Donald Tusk) and Commissioner for Enlargement (Johannes Hahn).

The interim between the Vilnius (November 2013) and Riga summits saw one of the biggest crises of post-Soviet states. Ukraine experienced both a revolution, and then Russian incursion, first with Crimea’s annexation and then with support for separatism in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, leaving the country somewhere between a civil war and full-scale war with Russia.

This period also saw an acceleration of negotiations between the EU, Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia with the signing of Association (AA) and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTA) in June 2014, and a visa-free regime with Moldova in April 2014. Meanwhile, the three other EaP states, Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan, have signed up to a Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union (EEU). And yet, in the wake of the Ukrainian crisis, even these EaP “laggards” showed renewed interest in intensifying their relations with the EU, as Kadri Liik (ECFR) argues, to “hedge against Russia’s pressure”.

With this new EU administration, so too is the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), of which the EaP is a major constituent, under review in a period of ongoing consultation which will not be finalised until autumn 2015. As such, the Riga summit came during a period of uncertain change and increasing tensions between these post-Soviet EaP states, the EU and Russia. In this sense, Riga was more, as Pierre Vimontargues, of a “stock-taking exercise” in the run-up to an uncertain future revision of the ENP.

A “two tier” approach

Although uncertainty remains concerning the future Eastern Partnership approach, two aspects were clear at Riga: the EaP’s emphasis on differentiation and sovereignty. In terms of differentiation, the EU is likely to adopt a two tier approach, continuing more deep engagement with AA/DCFTA states, who are not bound to the Eurasian Economic Union (Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia), while offering a more “tailor-made” engagement to Belarus, Armenia and Azerbaijan. The table below illustrates the current picture among the six EaP states.

Table: Eastern Partnership states

Note: The ‘quality of democracy’ assessment is from the 2015 Freedom House report. The ‘corruption score’ is the score (out of 175, where a higher score indicates more perceived corruption) for Transparency International’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index. GDP per capita figures are from Eurostat.

These states cannot sign up to the DCFTA, as members of the Russian-led Eurasian Economic Union, of which a constituent part is a customs union. They present, therefore, different challenges to the EU in terms of the types of relations possible, requiring a different model to that of AA and DCFTA Eastern Partnership states. Moreover Belarus poses a problem as a state currently under, and unresponsive to, EU sanctions, including a travel ban and asset freezes on 232 individuals and 25 entities, including the country’s president, Alexander Lukashenko.

The idea of the Eastern Partnership underlining the sovereignty of its partners became a theme at the Vilnius (2013) summit, but was unmentioned at the previous summits in Warsaw (2011) and Prague (2009). At Vilnius, as relations with Russia concerning EaP states became tenser, the EaP outlined the “sovereign right of each partner freely to choose the level of ambition”, to indicate that the EU wanted to resist a coercive Russia deciding how these countries should interact with EU states. At Riga, this discourse of “sovereign choices” was reaffirmed, alongside shoring up the “territorial integrity” and “independence” of allEaP states.

Hence, we can infer a degree of continuity in the EU’s approach towards EaP states, by trying to brand this cooperation as technocratic, endorsing the continued approach of “more for more” (i.e. more access to the EU for more transformation) and endorsing everything short of membership. As Junker outlined at Riga, EaP states “are not ready [for membership], and we are not ready”.

Was the Riga summit a failure?

This sense of continuity is partially responsible for the framing of Riga as “disastrous” and a “failure” for two reasons: namely because the EU is unwilling to advance the membership option and also unwilling to castigate Russia’s coercive approach toward EaP states. However, it should not come as much surprise that the EU is unwilling to extend the membership option, both in light of the fact that the EU sees these states as “not ready”, but also, as Merkel argues, because the EaP was not designed as “an instrument for enlargement” but of “rapprochement”. The problem is that the (pro-EU) political class of Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova view the membership option as a panacea, both to shore up wavering domestic support for EU integration and as a counter to Russian leverage.

Before 2013, the EaP was largely a technocratic project aimed at encouraging the reform of democracy, the rule of law and the economies of partner states, rather than to facilitate a region-building geopolitical project. Hence Russia was not explicitly mentioned in previous joint declarations in Vilnius (2013), Warsaw (2009) or Prague (2009). While Russia might have been mentioned in informal conversations during the Riga summit, in an official context, Russia was mentioned only vis-à-vis the EU’s role in “facilitating gas talks” between Russia and Ukraine.

Implicitly, however, Russia was nevertheless criticised via the Joint Declaration’s condemnation of the “illegal annexation” of Crimea and Sevastopol, calls for de-escalation of the conflict in Donestk and Luhansk, and via the declaration’s emphasis on sovereignty, which can no longer be “taken for granted”. In this sense, EU leaders continue to emphasise that the EaP, and more broadly relations between the EU and these post-Soviet states, is not “directed against Russia” nor part of a competition or “beauty contest” with the country.

The reluctance of the EU to criticise Russia has been seen as a key failing of Riga, with the EU portrayed as cowering to ongoing Russian aggression. However, the EU continues to irritate Russia, with Russia’s Foreign Ministry complaining that “once again [the EU] growled its inadequate position on Crimea”. The refusal of Armenia and Belarus to sign up to the condemnation of Russia’s annexation (in the Joint Declaration) also demonstrates the limits of the EaP in showing a unified front vis-à-vis Russia, given the different perspectives articulated by the six EaP states and, too, within the 28 EU member-states.

What are the challenges going forward?

Looking forward, the EU’s relationship with its Eastern Partners will continue to face significant challenges, both from the more advanced EaP states’ disappointment in not being offered a membership option, the delay to visa-free agreements for Georgia and Ukraine, and the difficulties in navigating relations with EaP laggards, who are more advanced in their relations with Russia. In this sense, the “idea” of the Eastern Partnership may be “even more important than ever”, as Merkel argues, but it is also exposed to more challenges vis-à-vis Russia.

The EU also has to contend with growing apathy toward Europeanisation in EaP states, in particularMoldova and even Georgia. Key to this is the endemic corruption experienced in some states, notably in Moldova which, following the scandal of the “missing billion” of GDP, has increasingly seen antipathy toward the pro-European elite directed at the concept of Europeanisation itself. In this sense, the EU has to be more forceful in its “more for more approach” and this includes requiring domestic EaP elites to implement and respect more wide sweeping reforms to try to win back support for Europeanisation.

Russia too will remain a key challenge for the Eastern Partnership and for European security more generally. Russia’s ability to coerce EaP states relies on territorial weaknesses, such as influence over existing de facto states (Transnistria, Abkhazia, South Ossetia) and new de facto states (the ‘People’s Republics’ in Donetsk and Luhansk), and anti-democratic elites (e.g. in Belarus and Azerbaijan). Hence, the more successful EaP states are, Ukraine in particular, the more likely Russia will try to push back.

Ultimately, the EU finds itself between a rock and a hard place: between convincing Russia it’s not engaging in a competition for influence, and convincing Eastern Partners they’re committed to them. EU leaders want “strategic patience”, in an era when they appear increasingly nervous about relations with Russia. When even Belarus wants to intensify its relations with the EU, to increase its leverage against Russia, this shows the tensions existing in EaP states since Russia’s annexation of Crimea. But really it’s up to the political class of EaP states to commit to more reforms, and for the EU to enforce the implementation of these reforms. Yet, there are paradoxes here, such as in Belarus where chances of reform, to the extent desired by the EU, remain unlikely.

This article was originally posted on LSE’s EUROPP Blog.


If there had been a free and fair referendum, would Crimean residents have voted to secede?

When Crimea will go to Russia, for example, how is it there and who ate our salo… I say, you know, I do not know who ate your salo and when Crimea will join Russia, probably it will never happen.

In this post, I’ll try to give an answer concerning a question I was asked recently: if there had been a free and fair referendum, would Crimean residents have voted to secede?

Firstly, was the Crimean referendum free and fair?

FCO comparison
Table: UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office compare Crimea vs. Scottish referendum (Source: FCO)

No: it’s quite clear that the secession referendum was not free or fair (given among other factors that it was held under military occupation, see table above). Rather it was a legitimacy tool for a result that had already been decided by both the separatist movement in Crimea and the Russian government. Even a branch of the Russian government have disputed the final numbers, with results posted on the Council under the President of the Russian Federation for Civil Society and Human Rights website reporting a much lower turnout (30-50%) and lower support for unification with Russia (50-60%) than Crimean official sources.

Would a majority have voted for annexation?

While it’s easy to assume a majority in Crimea would have voted for Crimea’s annexation by Russia, had there been a free and fair election, I would argue that this is incredibly hard to call. Elsewhere I’ve argued that it would be misleading to assume that a majority of ethnic Russians in Crimea, though comprising a majority according to the 2001 census (~58%), identified with Russia. Rather, I argue that the majority, based on those I interviewed where content to be part of Ukraine.

Beyond identity, the idea of secession and annexation by Russia was also seen by a majority of those I spoke to as unlikely and undesirable. Even among those affiliated to organisations, such as the Russian Community of Crimea (Russkaia Obshchina Kryma) saw secession from Ukraine as something unlikely and undesirable because it would leave to “bloodshed” and a “cataclysm”. That Crimea could secede from Ukraine was therefore seen as highly unlikely, if not impossible.

Opinion polls show this too: there was far greater support, historically, for the status quo option, where Crimea remained an autonomous republic within Ukraine, than there was for Crimea (without the rest of Ukraine) to be part of Russia (chart 1). What’s more, support for this status quo was increasing over time while support for separatism was decreasing.

Status of crimea
Chart 1: What should the status of Crimea be? (Source: IRI)

What is clear therefore was that pre-2014 there was not overwhelming support for the kind of annexation that took place in 2014. There was not was a concern, by the majority, for the rights of ethnic Russians and Russian language compared to other more pressing socioeconomic concerns (chart 2) Nor was there a concern for Crimea to breakaway from Ukraine. Secession was seen as far too costly, unlikely and undesirable.

Chart 2: which three of the following issues are the most important for  Crimea?
Chart 2: Which three of the following issues are the most important for
Crimea? (Source: IRI 2013 & 2009)

Rather, and particularly in Crimea, there was support for Ukraine maintaining a close relationship with Russia, whether in a single state (chart 3) or as part of a Eurasian Customs Union (chart 4). Here the reason, overwhelmingly, seems not to be about identity but about prosperity, given that KIIS opinion polls show a higher support that a Eurasian/Customs Union would provide better chances for jobs and industrial products, than the EU.

Should Ukraine and Russia unite in one state? Source:
Chart 2: Should Ukraine and Russia unite in one state? Source: KIIS
EU or Eurasia
Chart 3: Which integration would you choose? (Source for West, Centre, South, East & Ukraine: Research & Branding; Source for Crimea: KIIS)

Euromaidan vs. Eurasian Customs Union

While in Crimea, and eastern Ukraine more generally, there was a preference for maintaining ties with Russia, and this was founded on a largely economic basis, there wasn’t support for dissecting the Ukrainian state and separating from Russia. What happened in 2014 was therefore completely unthinkable and unpredictable, following the departure of Yanukovych. It concerned, I would argue, the relations between Crimean politicians and Kyiv, with a Party of Regions finding itself in tatters.

Without a strong Party of Regions ruling Ukraine from the top down, and ruling Crimea through Donetsk politicians, there was uncertainty about personal livelihoods, corrupt practices and nepotistic networks: what would a new Ukrainian government do to their assets and structures of power? The mass sentiment of everyday Crimeans was not what was at stake here, but rather the opportunity to seize something that, in a newly governed Ukraine, might never be possible again.

Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine’s signing of EU co-operation agreements marks their transition from ‘post-Soviet’ to ‘European’ states

On 27 June, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine signed co-operation agreements with the EU. Ellie Knott assesses what the agreements mean for each state and how they might influence future EU-Russia relations. She writes that while the agreements are largely technical in nature, their real value is symbolic as they represent a final break from each country’s Soviet past. She argues that with tensions already high over the Ukraine crisis, the agreements will also have a significant impact on the wider relationship between the EU and Russia.

Since the Vilnius summit in November 2013, relations between the key Eastern Partnership states (Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia), the EU and Russia have shifted inextricably. The EU has sped up its signing of Association Agreements (AA) and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements (DCFTA) with Georgia and Moldova, and held on to its commitment to sign these agreements with Ukraine, with the official signing of these agreements with all three states taking place on 27 June.

Meanwhile, Russia’s willingness to challenge Ukraine’s territorial integrity, by seizing Crimea, its tenuous relations with separatists movements in Donetsk and Lugansk and its cessation of gas exports to Ukraine, have drastically changed not just the configuration of the Ukrainian state and society, but have been one of the biggest earthquakes for relations between Russia and the wider post-Soviet region.

The key question remains: why should Russia be concerned with what are essentially 1,000 page technocratic documents between Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia and the EU? As Herman Van Rompuy, President of the European Council, continues to argue, there is “nothing in these agreements, nor in the European Union’s approach, that might harm Russia”. Van Rompuy has been careful to use rhetoric that argues that this is not a “zero-sum game”: Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia are free to have relations with Russia to whatever extent they choose, except becoming members of the Eurasian Customs Union.

To Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, signing such agreements with the EU might not be a zero-sum game, and in fact the biggest challenge will be how to maintain relations with Russia. Yet in the way that the leaders of Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova welcomed the signing of the AA and DCFTA with the EU, it is clear that these leaders do consider the agreements to be decisive in how they situate themselves geopolitically. In an interview with CNN, the new Ukrainian President, Petro Poroshenko, remarked that “this is a civilisation choice. This is the Rubicon – when we crossed the Rubicon to Europe and left in the past our Soviet past”.

The Association Agreements are therefore not just political and economic documents but, as Poroshenko described, a “symbol of faith” and “unbreakable will”. Moreover, these agreements are considered to be the first step in a journey towards, as Iurie Leancă the Moldovan Prime Minister states, their “primordial/essential objective” towards becoming a “full-fledged member of this great family of the European Union”. For Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, their more formalised relationship with the EU, and the hope that this might one day be converted to membership, is more than about technocratic documents, but about being recognised as European, in status, rights and identity, and about no longer being seen as a former Soviet republic.

However the beginning of this journey of closer political and economic association with the EU, and the opening up of the free trade potential, is also the continuation of substantial uncertainty regarding how this will affect their relations with Russia. Russia is a significant trading partner for all three states, and in particular for Ukraine where Russian imports and exports exceed those of the EU. As the Table below shows, Russia is still an important trade partner for Moldova, though less for Georgia. All three states have been exposed to Russian embargos on goods, and Georgia, and more recently Moldova, have learned the importance of diversifying who they trade with.

Note: The Table shows the value of exports and imports between each country and Russia/the EU, and the percentage of total trade which the EU and Russia account for in each case. Figures are from European Commission trade statistics forUkraine, Moldova and Georgia
Table: Percentage of foreign trade with the EU and Russia in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine

Note: The Table shows the value of exports and imports between each country and Russia/the EU, and the percentage of total trade which the EU and Russia account for in each case. Figures are from European Commission trade statistics for UkraineMoldova and Georgia

All three states have energy requirements which are not just dependent on Russian gas, but also on the cheap price of this gas. In Ukraine, residential customers have paid only about 25 per cent, and industrial consumers only 75 per cent, of what the gas would be worth on the European market. It is unlikely, whatever the outcome of the current Ukrainian-Russian gas crisis, that any deal going forward will lead to significant increases in this price.

This will be augmented by Ukraine’s loss of the Black Sea Fleet in Sevastopol. Russia had agreed a lease with Ukraine for the naval base in Sevastopol which was key in negotiations over a reduced gas price and which Ukraine had used to offset the country’s debt to Russia. However, following the annexation of Crimea, Russia tore up the Kharkiv accords, which extended Russia’s lease to 2042, and which Ukraine can no longer use as a way to offset their Russian debt, the payment of which, in addition to Russia’s move to increase the cost of gas, are key to areas of contention in the 2014 crisis. Gazprom, too, has shown itself to be reflective of Russia’s territorial claims, given that the map they showed at their AGM included Crimea within Russian territory.

Russia also has high leverage over Georgia and Moldova’s energy market. In the case of Moldova, their market is dominated by Gazprom and MoldovaGaz, of which Gazprom hold the majority of shares. Even attempts to diversify Moldova’s energy dependency via the construction of the Iasi-Ungheni pipeline are unlikely, even in the best case, to provide more than a third of Moldova’s gas needs, and perhaps only 5-10 per cent.

In the energy sector, there is little the EU can do to assist these states’ dependence on cheap Russian gas. Many EU member-states are themselves dependent on Russian gas and those who receive their gas via pipelines through Ukraine are particularly vulnerable in the current crisis. The EU finds itself also in a tense situation with Russia over its right to reverse the flow of gas via Slovakia to service Ukraine’s lack of energy, which Gazprom’s CEO, Alexei Miller, claims is a “semi-fraudulent mechanism” because “this is Russian gas”.

A second area of contention regards the proposed South Stream pipeline which is designed to “diversify gas export routes and eliminate transit risks” by bypassing Ukraine, running through the Black Sea to Bulgaria, and on to Central and Southeast Europe. The European Commission has warned Bulgaria not to go ahead with the project, which severely destabilised the current Bulgarian administration and will lead to early elections being held in October.

Beyond energy dependence, there is also the ongoing threat of territorial instability. Georgia, Moldova and, now and most prominently, Ukraine all have territorial contentions with Russia. This uncertainty and instability gives Russia leverage from the perspective of knowing that states remain paranoid about future incursions, while Russia knows also that there are limits to how far these states can progress with Europeanisation while these territorial questions remain. Indeed, Moldova and Transnistria still need to resolve whether the latter will be a part of Moldova’s Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU or not. Poroshenko has argued that Crimea is part of Ukraine’s agreement with the EU and that without the return of Crimea, “normal” relations between Ukraine and Russia will not be possible.

This year will be remembered in Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia as a year in which their relationship with the EU altered dramatically with the formalised signing of the Association Agreements and Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreements. In the case of Ukraine, it will be remembered also as the year of “revolution of dignity” which led also to an unfathomable deterioration in Ukraine’s relations with Russia, and as a year in which Ukraine’s right to govern Crimea, and parts of Donetsk and Lugansk, began to face an unprecedented challenge.

These are challenges that Georgia and Moldova have faced since the beginning of the post-Soviet period. The EU must realise that even if it does not pitch itself to be in competition with Russia, this is a naive position which ignores the extent to which Ukraine, Moldova and Georgia, at least symbolically, see Europeanisation as reversing ‘Sovietisation’, and as a decoupling of their centre-periphery relations with Russia, in favour of a new centre-periphery relationship with the EU. The question now is how these states’ relationships with the EU and Russia, and their own citizens too, can be managed, and in turn how the EU can manage its relationship with Russia.

This article was originally posted on LSE’s EUROPP blog.

Будущее Молдовы и ассоциация с ЕС: фактор России и кризис в Украине

This article was originally posted on EastBook and is a translation of an earlier article on EUROPP.
Подписание Соглашения об ассоциации ЕС с Молдовой запланировано на июнь 2014 года, а парламентские выборы в стране пройдут в ноябре этого года. В своей статье Елли Нотт и Девид Риннерт описали влияние кризиса в Украине на внутреннюю политику Молдовы и ту тонкую грань, на которой Молдова балансирует между ЕС и Россией. По их утверждениям, кризис осложнил политическую ситуацию в стране с этническими группами, разделенными отношением к ЕС и захвату Крыма Россией. Это может оказать влияние не только на внешнюю политику страны, но и на поддержку избирателями политических партий в ноябре.

За последние два года, задолго до недавних событий в Украине, восточные соседи ЕС стали вызывать все большую озабоченность. Однако вторжение России в Украину привело к ухудшению политической ситуации в регионе. С момента аннексии Крыма будущее Молдовы рассматривалось с некоторым пессимизмом, однако чрезмерно упрощенные прогнозы о будущем страны и ее геополитической вовлеченностью нельзя рассматривать как полезные.

В последние месяцы ситуация в Молдове стала более сложной не только внутри страны, но и на уровне всего региона, потому что уже в обозримом будущем страна столкнется с необходимостью определиться со своей позицией между Россией и ЕС.

Первые последствия украинского кризиса Молдова вероятнее всего ощутит в ходе двух ключевых событий в ближайшие месяцы, а именно: во время планируемого подписаниия Соглашения об ассоциации с ЕС в этом месяце и на парламентских выборах в ноябре.

Политическая ситуация в Молдове была напряженной ещё до кризиса в Украине в связи с отставкой бывшего премьер-министра Владимира Филата в 2013 году и увеличением давления со стороны России на Кишинев, а последние события в Крыму и за его пределами еще больше дестабилизировали страну с ее 3,5 миллионным населением. Во-первых, после интервенции России в Украину, Молдова столкнулась с увеличением внутренней нестабильности в нескольких частях страны. В марте парламент Приднестровья, де-факто государство в восточной части Молдовы,официально обратился к правительству Путина с просьбой включить их в состав Российской Федерации. Месяцем ранее Гагаузия, автономная область на юге страны, провела неконституционный референдум, в котором подавляющее большинство участников голосования выразили свое желание присоединиться к Таможенному союзу России. Хотя конкретные последствия этих шагов для Молдовы остаются пока неясными, они уже указывают на повышенный риск этнических или языковых разногласий в стране.

Во-вторых, растущие внутренние разногласия в Молдове также подчеркивают противоположные мнения граждан о геополитическом курсе страны. С момента начала работы правительства Филата в 2009 году поддержка ЕС населением постоянно снижалась. Так, в мае 2014 года всего 44 процента молдаван поддерживали членство в ЕС, а не Таможенный союз. В 2010 году эти показатели были гораздо более высокими. Такое снижение числа сторонников ЕС за прошедшие годы отражется и во мнениях молдаван по поводу действий России в Украине, как показано на графиках 1 и 2 ниже.

График 1: Ответы представителей разных этнических групп, проживающих в Молдавии, на вопрос: “Если бы в следующее воскресенье проводился референдум о присоединении Республики Молдова к ЕС/Евразийскому таможенному союзу, как бы Вы проголосовали?” (апрель 2014 г.)

Примечание: в графике использованы данные опросов Института общественной политики (апрель 2014 г.). График не включает варианты ответов “отказываюсь отвечать/не знаю/другое”. Молдаване и румыны составляют большинство населения страны (более 70 процентов). Россияне, украинцы и другие этнические группы составляют лишь небольшой процент населения, поэтому следует с осторожностью принимать во внимание данные опросов для этих групп.

График 2: Ответы представителей разных этнических групп, проживающих в Молдавии, на вопрос: “Поддерживаете ли вы аннексию Крыма Россией?” (апрель 2014 г.)

Примечание: в графике использованы данные опросов Института общественной политики (апрель 2014 г.). График не включает варианты ответов “отказываюсь отвечать/не знаю/другое”. Молдаване и румыны составляют большинство населения страны (более 70 процентов). Россияне, украинцы и другие этнические группы составляют лишь небольшой процент населения, поэтому следует с осторожностью принимать во внимание данные опросов для этих групп.

В-третьих, политические партии пытаются нажить политический капитал, используя эти разделения и кризис в Украине в преддверии ноябрьских парламентских выборов в Молдове. В то время, как нынешняя проевропейская власть, состоящая из Либерал демократической партииДемократической партии и Либеральной партии, нацелена на подписание Соглашения об ассоциации в конце этого лета, пророссийский лидерКоммунистической партии Владимир Воронин подчеркивает, что Республика Молдова «должна поддерживать отношения со своим стратегическим партнером [Россией и странами бывшего СССР]». Тем не менее, как показывает график 3, недавние опросы общественного мнения свидетельствуют о том, что кризис в Украине привел к снижению общественной поддержки коммунистов, которые в 2013 году значительно выигрывали от кризиса в стране, связанного с бывшим премьер-министром Филатом.

График 3: намерения голосовать в Молдове (январь 2013 года – май 2014 года)

Примечание: в графике использованы данные опросов Института общественной политики и Молдавской социологической ассоциации опросов общественного мнения, касающиеся вопроса: “Каким из партий Вы бы отдали голоса, если бы парламентские выборы проходили в следующее воскресенье?”

В выстраданном ЕС Восточном партнерстве – инициативе, направленной на стабилизацию политической ситуации и усиление экономики на восточной границе ЕС,Молдова получила право на главный источник финансирования, если принимать во внимание соотношение численности населения и экономику. ЕС недвусмысленно продемонстрировал, что не собирается таким образом создавать “геополитическую конкуренцию” с Россией из-за Молдовы и не считает углубление политических и торговых отношений Молдовы с ЕС несовместимыми с российско-молдавскими отношениями. Однако эта позиция наивна, потому что ЕС стремится соответствовать тому, что предлагает Россия (альтернативный поставщик газа и альтернативный рынок для вин Молдовы). Кроме того, ЕС утверждает, что его зона свободной торговли не нарушает суверенитет Республики Молдова, в отличие от Евразийского таможенного союза, который, по утверждению ЕС, является “наднациональным образованием”, ограничивающим суверенитет Республики Молдова через торговые решения.

С самого начала кризиса в Украине наблюдается четкая риторика со стороны ЕС, стремящегося показать странам Восточного партнерства “более серьезные, решительные и твердые намерения”, предложить им “иное будущее”, как альтернативу их “проблемному прошлому”, и явное изменение темпа в развитии политики Восточного партнерства в Молдове и Грузии. 

Даже в декабре 2013 года Герман Ван Ромпей утверждал, что ЕС теперь готов “ускорить” подписание соглашения об ассоциации с Грузией, Украиной и Молдовой.

В связи с кризисом в Украине, подписание Молдовой Соглашения об ассоциации уже передвинулось с августа на июнь этого года. В апреле молдаване получили безвизовый доступ в ЕС. Этот шаг давно рассматривался как “наиболее важный вопрос” для государств Восточного партнерства из-за материальных выгод, которые он приносит простым молдаванам и бизнес-элите. И все-таки, согласно данным опросов Института общественной политики, количество простых молдаван, которые ездят в ЕС, завышено по сравнению с 83 процентами тех, кто в течение последних 5 лет не выезжал в ЕС . Трудно также сказать, сколько граждан, действительно побывавших в странах ЕС, воспользовались для этого румынским паспортом, принимая во внимание облегчение процедуры получения или возврата румынского гражданства, введённое Румынией.

Хотя ассоциация ЕС с Молдовой набрала темпы, принципиальные вопросы, связанные с отношениями Молдовы и ЕС, остаются нерешенными.

Особое значение имеет тот факт, как Приднестровье впишется в Глубокое и всестороннее соглашение о свободной торговле (DCFTA) Молдовы с ЕС, которое является частью Соглашения об ассоциации. До 2015 Приднестровье и Молдова должны выяснить свои отношения в свете этого соглашения, но все указывает на то, что Приднестровье не согласится с позицией Молдовы и потеряет свои привилегированные торговые преференции с ЕС.

По утверждениям Нику Попеску, Приднестровье должно подумать о своих собственных интересах и избежать “уничтожения остатков экономики Тирасполя из-за политических лозунгов”, учитывая, что 30 процентов экспорта Тирасполя направлено в Молдову, в то время как еще 40 процентов направляется в страны ЕС, и лишь небольшой процент идет в Россию. Однако призыв Приднестровья к интеграции с Россией демонстрирует более напряженную политическую ситуацию между Россией, Приднестровьем и Молдовой, а вопрос самоопределения Приднестровья остаётся непредсказуемым.

Румыния была одним из ключевых защитников Молдовы в ЕС. Румыния – это также один из основных двусторонних партнеров Республики Молдова, который  с помощью Ясско-Унгенского газопровода пытается стать противовесом России для Молдовы. Этот путепровод обеспечит  Молдову альтернативным первичным источником газа (25 процентов будет финансироваться за счет ЕС). Тем не менее, позиция Румынии в отношении Молдовы часто переходит рамки прагматики и направляется в сторону сентиментальных отношений: эта страна воспринимается как территория, несправедливо аннексированная Советским Союзом, где, по заявлениям Румынии, большинство населения составляют этнические румыны (вот причины облегчения процедуры получения румынского гражданства).

Во время последнего саммита Восточного партнерства в Вильнюсе, который должен был быть посвящен углублению отношений Молдовы с ЕС, к большому ужасу ЕС президент Румынии Траян Бэсеску говорил о повторном объединении с Молдовой, как о все еще актуальной цели внешней политики Румынии (которая уже добилась вступления в НАТО и ЕС).

Следовательно, позиция Румынии в отношении Молдовы зажата между этими конкурирующими подходами и может быть контрпродуктивной для отношений ЕС с Молдовой.

Тем не менее, Молдова будет вынуждена найти баланс между отношениями с ЕС и Россией, потому что Россия останется ключевым партнером для Молдовы в качестве основного источника денежных переводов и газа. Позиция России в отношении Молдовы остается сложной не только из-за призыва Приднестровья, который до сих пор воспринимается с осторожностью. Но и из-за региона Гагаузия, который находится в интересном положении, будучи единственным регионом в Молдове, где Россия сняла свой винный запрет после гагаузского референдума, упомянутого выше. Позиция России в отношении Молдовы фокусируется на необходимости ее постоянного нейтралитета. Действительно, министр иностранных дел России Сергей Лавров заявил, что Приднестровье может не опасаться российского вмешательства, пока Молдова остается “нейтральной”.

Тем не менее, понимание того, каким должен быть нейтралитет Молдовы, можеть быть различным. С точки зрения НАТО, партнерство Молдовы с НАТО “совместимо с нейтралитетом”, что основано на отношениях с уже нейтральными государствами, а также “совместимо с хорошими отношениями с Россией”. Однако со стороны РоссииДмитрий Рогозин утверждает, что даже “Ассоциация с ЕС означает изменение нейтрального статуса Молдовы” на том основании, что “для вступления в ЕС нужно присоединиться к НАТО”. Это утверждение придает чрезмерное значение предложению ЕС, учитывая, что акцент делается на том, что Соглашение об ассоциации не следует приравнивать к обещанию будущего присоединения.

Однако прогноз российско-молдавских отношений не должен быть полностью пессимистичным. Россия показала большую готовность вмешаться, чем прогнозировалось, но Россия также имеет больше интересов, чем она в состоянии одновременно удовлетворить. Это стало очевидно сейчас в Абхазии, где Россия столкнулась с побегом президента в де-факто государстве, которое она поддерживает. Поэтому трудно предсказать, как будут развиваться российско-молдавские отношени, ведь украинский кризис вызвал растущую неопределенность на широком постсоветском пространстве.

В своей совокупности кризис в Украине еще более осложнил (гео)политическую ситуацию в соседней Молдове в разных аспектах.

Понятно, что Молдова будет продолжать определять свое положение между Россией и ЕС, но она уменьшает возможности для маневра, позволяющие это делать.

Как утверждалось ранее, государства-члены ЕС должны более внимательно учитывать фактор России в своих делах с Молдовой и, например, отделить рассуждения о европеизации от рассуждений о безопасности.

Внутренне ЕС должен обеспечить обтекаемую позицию, особенно в отношении румынской внешней политики. Молдова должна также попытаться укрепить региональное сотрудничество, особенно с Украиной, потому что обе страны в настоящее время сталкиваются с аналогичными геополитическими ситуациями, находясь между Россией и ЕС. Для Молдовы ближайшие месяцы остаются напряженными не только из-за окружающей геополитической ситуации, но также из-за предстоящих парламентских выборов, которые могут привести к национальному политическому землетрясению в конце 2014 года.


Перевод с английского выполнила Ольга Яцына

Статья опубликована в Блоге Лондонской школы экономики 5 июня.

The Ukraine crisis has complicated Moldova’s political situation ahead of signing an Association Agreement with the EU

Moldova is scheduled to sign an Association Agreement with the EU later this month, with Parliamentary elections also due to be held in November. Ellie Knott and David Rinnert write on the impact the Ukraine crisis has had on domestic politics and Moldova’s delicate balance between the EU and Russia. They argue that the crisis has complicated the country’s political situation, with ethnic groups divided over relations with the EU and Russia’s annexation of Crimea. This could have an impact not only in terms of foreign policy, but also on the support for political parties in November.

Over the past two years, well before recent events in Ukraine, the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood had become an increasing concern. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, however, has led to a deteriorated political situation across the region. Ever since the Crimean annexation, Moldova’s future has been analysed with waves of pessimism, however overly simplistic predictions about the country’s future and its geopolitical implications are not useful.

The situation in Moldova has become more complex in the past months, domestically and regionally, and the country, for the foreseeable future, is faced with having to negotiate a position between Russia and the EU. The first impacts of the Ukraine crisis on Moldova are likely to be felt in two key events in the next months, namely the planned signing of an Association Agreement with the EU this month and parliamentary elections in November.

While the political situation in Moldova was already tense before the Ukraine crisis due to the resignation of former Prime Minister Vladimir Filat in 2013 and increased Russian pressure on Chisinau, recent events in Crimea and beyond have further destabilised the 3.5 million-strong country. First, following Russia’s Ukraine intervention, Moldova faces increased domestic instability in several parts of the country. In March, the Parliament of Transnistria, a de-facto state in the east of Moldova, formally asked the Putin government to incorporate it into the Russian Federation. One month earlier, Gagauzia, an autonomous region in the south of the country, held an unconstitutional referendum in which a large majority of the voters expressed their will to join Russia’s Customs Union. Although the specific consequences of these steps for Moldova remain unclear for now, they already underline the increased risk of ethnic or language-based tensions in the country.

Second, rising internal divisions within Moldova are also emphasised by citizens’ polarised opinions on the country’s geopolitical direction. Since the Filat government took office in 2009, public support for the EU has decreased steadily, with 44 per cent of Moldovans preferring EU membership over Customs Union membership in May 2014 compared to much higher numbers in 2010. This declining support for the EU over the past years is also reflected in Moldovans’ opinions on Russia’s actions in Ukraine, as shown in Charts 1 and 2 below.

Chart 1: Responses in Moldova by ethnic group to the question: “If there were a referendum on Moldova’s accession to the EU/Eurasian Customs Union next Sunday which would you vote for?” (April 2014)
Note: Created by the authors using polling figures from the Institute for Public Policy (April 2014). Chart does not include refused/don’t know/other responses. Moldovans and Romanians make up the majority of the country’s population (over 70 per cent). As Russians, Ukrainians and other ethnic groups only make up a small percentage of the population the polling figures should be treated with caution for these groups.
Chart 2: Responses in Moldova by ethnic group to the question: “Do you support the annexation of Crimea by Russia?” (April 2014)
Note: Created by the authors using polling figures from the Institute for Public Policy (April 2014). Chart does not include refused/don’t know/other responses. Moldovans and Romanians make up the majority of the country’s population (over 70 per cent). As Russians, Ukrainians and other ethnic groups only make up a small percentage of the population the polling figures should be treated with caution for these groups.

Third, political parties are trying to gain political capital out of these divisions and the Ukraine crisis ahead of Moldova’s Parliamentary elections in November. While the current pro-EU government, consisting of theLiberal Democrats, the Democratic Party and the Liberal Party, aims at signing the Association Agreement later this summer, the Russian-leaning Communist Party leader Vladimir Voronin underlines that Moldova “needs to have relationships with its strategic partners [Russia and the FSU countries]”. Nevertheless, as Chart 3 shows, recent polls indicate that the Ukraine crisis has led to decreasing public support for the Communists, who in 2013 benefited significantly from the domestic crisis surrounding former Prime Minister Filat.

Chart 3: Voting intention in Moldova (January 2013 – May 2014)
Note: Created by the authors using figures from Institute for Public Policy and Moldovan Sociological Association opinion polls asking the question: “For which of the following parties would you vote if there were Parliamentary elections next Sunday?”

Within the EU’s plagued Eastern Partnership (EaP), an initiative aiming at political stability and economic strength on the EU’s eastern border, Moldova has been eligible for the greatest source of funding relative to the size of its population and economy. The EU has been explicit that it does not situate itself in “geopolitical competition” with Russia over Moldova, and does not see Moldova’s deepening political and trade relations with the EU as incompatible with Russian-Moldovan relations. However this position is naive because the EU is seeking to match what Russia offers (an alternative supplier of gas and an alternative market for Moldova’s wine). Further, the EU argues its free trade zone does not impede Moldova’s sovereignty, unlike the Eurasian Customs Union which the EU argues, as a “supra-national institution”, would restrict Moldova’s sovereignty over its trade decisions.

Since the crisis in Ukraine began, there has been a clear rhetoric from the EU in showing EaP states an “even stronger, more determined and resolute commitment” to offer them “a different future” to their “rocky past”, and a clear change of pace in the advancement of EaP policies in Moldova and Georgia. Van Rompuy indicated, even in December 2013, that the EU was now willing to “speed up” the signing of Association Agreements with Georgia, Ukraine and Moldova.

In the wake of the Ukraine crisis, Moldova’s signing of the Association Agreement has already moved ahead from August to June of this year. In April, Moldovans received visa free access to the EU. This was long seen as the “the most crucial issue” for EaP states due to the tangible benefits that this brings everyday Moldovans and the business elite. Yet this overstates the degree to which ordinary Moldovans are travelling to the EU with 83 per cent, according to an IPP poll, not travelling to the EU within the past 5 years. It is hard to tell also how many of those who did travel to the EU did so with Romanian passports, given Romania’s policy of facilitating the (re)acquisition of Romanian citizenship.

While the EU’s association with Moldova has gained pace, crucial issues relating to EU-Moldovan relations remain unresolved. Of particular importance is how Transnistria would fit within Moldova’s Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) with the EU, which is part of the Association Agreement. Transnistria and Moldova will have until 2015 to resolve their relations in respect of the agreement, but all signs have indicated that Transnistria will not agree to Moldova’s position, and instead would lose its privileged trading preferences with the EU.

As Nicu Popescu has argued, Transnistria needs to think about its own interests and avoid “killing what’s left of Tiraspol’s economy because of political slogans” given that 30 per cent of Tiraspol exports are directed to Moldova, while another 40 per cent are directed to EU countries, leaving only a small percentage directed to Russia. Transnistria’s call to Russia for integration, however, demonstrates the increasingly tense political situation between Russia, Transnistria and Moldova, and how Transnistria will situate itself remains unpredictable.

Within the EU, Romania has been one Moldova’s key advocates. Romania too is one of Moldova’s core bilateral partners and has tried to counter-balance Russia’s influence in Moldova, through measures such as the Iasi-Ungheni pipeline which would offer Moldova an alternative first source of gas (of which 25 per cent will be funded by the EU). Yet Romania’s stance toward Moldova often steers too much beyond pragmatic relations toward a sentimental relationship with the country, as a territory that it feels was unfairly annexed by the Soviet Union (key to Romania’s facilitated citizenship policy) and where Romaniaclaims the majority of the population are ethnic Romanians.

During the last Eastern Partnership summit in Vilnius, which should have been about Moldova’s deepening relations with the EU, the Romanian President, Traian Băsescu, talked of (re)unification with Moldova still being the remaining goal of Romania’s foreign policy (having already achieved NATO and EU accession), much to the EU’s consternation. Romania’s stance toward Moldova is therefore caught between these competing approaches, and can be counter-productive for EU-Moldovan relations.

However, Moldova will be forced to strike a balance between Moldovan-EU and Moldovan-Russian relations because Russia will remain a key partner for Moldova, as the main source of remittances and gas. Russia’s position for Moldova remains complex, not only because of Transnistria’s call which it has so far heeded. But also because of the region of Gagauzia, which is situated in an interesting position of being the only region within Moldova where Russia has lifted its wine ban, following the Gagauzian referendum mentioned above. Russia’s position toward Moldova focuses on the need for its ongoing neutrality. Indeed Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s Foreign Minister, has said that Transnsitria is not at risk from Russian interference so long as Moldova remains “neutral”.

Yet ideas of what constitutes Moldova’s neutrality have many interpretations. From NATO’s perspective, a Moldovan partnership with NATO “is compatible with neutrality” based on their relations with already neutral states, and is also “compatible with having good relations with Russia”. From the perspective of Russia, however, Dmitri Rogozin has argued that even an “association with the EU means changing Moldova’s neutral status” on the basis that to “join the EU you need to accede to NATO”. This overplays what the EU is offering, given that there has been a careful emphasis on the fact that an Association Agreement does not equate to a promise of future accession.

The prognosis, however, for Moldovan-Russian relations should not be totally pessimistic. Russia has shown itself to be more willing to intervene than predicted, but Russia also has more interests that it can simultaneously instrumentalise. This is evident now in Abkhazia, where Russia is faced with dealing with the president fleeing in a de-facto state they endorse. It is hard to predict therefore how Russian-Moldovan relations will progress because the Ukrainian crisis has caused growing uncertainty across the wider post-Soviet region.

Taken together, the crisis in Ukraine has further complicated the (geo)political situation in neighbouring Moldova from a number of perspectives. It is clear that Moldova will have to continue to negotiate a position between Russia and the EU, but it has decreasing room for manoeuvre in which to do this. As argued previously, EU member states should consider the Russia factor in their affairs with Moldova in more depth and, for example, separate the Europeanisation discourse from a security discourse.

Internally, the EU should ensure a streamlined position especially with regard to Romanian foreign policy. Moldova should also try to strengthen its regional cooperation, especially with Ukraine, because both countries now face similar geopolitical situations between Russia and the EU. For Moldova, the coming months will remain tense not only because of the surrounding geopolitical situation, but also because of upcoming Parliamentary elections that might lead to a domestic political earthquake later in 2014.

This article was originally posted on LSE’s EUROPP blog.

Ukraine’s Place in Russia’s World

This article was originally posted on Banitza.

For Ukraine, its relationship with Russia in recent months has seemed much like a Thomas Hardy novel where, no matter how hard you try, you cannot escape your roots. As Putin said in 2013, before Ukraine decided not to sign the EU Association Agreement, wherever Ukraine goes “we’ll still meet sometime and somewhere” because “we are one people”. Hence, as is argued in one Chatham House report in 2012, Russia wants to maintain influence over Ukraine, not just because it is a ‘foreign policy priority’, but also because it is an ‘existential imperative’.

Certainly, Ukraine has the largest number of ethnic Russians and Russian speakers outside of the Russian Federation, and this makes them vulnerable to Russia’s policy towards this group. However, the issue with Ukraine goes further. Putin claimed at last year’s Valdai conference both a strong cultural and political connection between Russia and Ukraine, professing not just a ‘love’ for the Ukrainian nation but also a strong sense of belonging, that it was part of ‘our greater Russian, or Russian-Ukrainian, world’.

Russia’s origin story is rooted in the idea that its ‘statehood has roots in the Dnieper’, meaning that Russia and Ukraine are inextricably linked, whether Ukraine consents to this connection or not. Medvedev also stressed such a primordial connection between Russia and Ukraine, writing in his 2009 letter to Victor Yushchenko that ‘since the dawn of time’, Russians and Ukrainians ‘have been and remain not only neighbours, but a brotherly people’.

Despite the claims by Putin in 2013 that Ukraine could not escape its connection with Russia, he did not indicate at that time a willingness to undermine Ukrainian statehood. At the Valdai Meeting, Putin repeatedseveral times that Ukraine is “an independent state, and we respect that”. He explained that Ukraine “must and can” be a “bridge between Russia and Europe”. What seems clear now is that Russia sees Ukraine as a bridge between Europe and itself only on its own terms, where Ukraine acts a proxy for Russia’s own interests, and that they respect Ukraine as an independent state only when it is governed by authorities deemed legitimate by Russia.

Ukraine too was the keystone in the Eurasian Union project. Back in 2013 Gleb Pavlovsky, a Russian political technologist, remarked that Russia needs Ukraine to be part of the Eurasian project because without it Putin would lose interest in creating the Union, rendering his project ‘impossible’. Putin needed Ukraine to play along in participating within the Eurasian Union to Europeanise the project. Without Ukraine, Russia’s plan would look much more like an “Asian project”.

Russia under Putin and Medvedev, have therefore shown an uneasiness towards Ukraine leaving the ‘Russian world’ (Russkiy Mir) and has sought to make this as difficult as possible. The pinnacle of this was Putin’s recent claim that Ukraine leaving USSR was “not quite legal”. If further evidence was needed, beyond the annexation of Crimea, that Putin does not respect Ukraine’s sovereignty, then questioning the basis on which that sovereignty was established is a pretty good insight. For Ukraine, who thought they had put these issues to bed back in 1997, Russia has shown Ukraine – try as they might, cannot escape Russia’s grasp.

Attention has now shifted to other parts of Russia’s near abroad where it might try to increase its leverage, in particular in Transnistria. However, Russia’s claim to the very roots of Ukraine, that they are part of the same ‘world’, is unique in the post-Soviet space. Certainly Russia’s actions in Crimea, have created a new precedent which Transnistria is trying to capitalise on. But Russia has made few threats concerning the basis on which Moldova departed from the Soviet Union and few claims that Moldova is, regardless of consent, part of the ‘Russian world’.  Russia might try to increase its leverage in Transnistria but more in a way that would indirectly affect Moldova, rather in terms of direct intervention in Moldova outside of Transnistria.

What is more concerning is how Russia might continue to behave towards Ukraine. In Crimea, Putin argued that Russia’s pre-emptive move allowed them to avoid conflict, but with rising unrest and violence in Donetsk and Kharkiv, there is a big question mark regarding how far Russia is willing to go and, in the meantime, how far Ukraine is able to govern these regions.

Whatever happened to Moldova’s Twitter generation?

This article was originally posted on SSEES Research Blog.

Young people spearheaded the 2009 Twitter Revolution in Moldova but are now deeply disillusioned with electoral politics. The country’s future direction in Europe may depend on whether they can be re-engaged, argues Ellie Knott.  

It commonly assumed that young people in Moldova are politically uninterested, inactive and inert. However they were among the most active during the 2009 Twitter Revolution against the re-election of the Communist Party.

Young people also formed a crucial part of the electorate: 18-29 year olds are the base electorate of the two of the three parties in the previous Alliance for European Integration (AIE), and the recently formed Pro-European Coalition, comprising 43% of Liberal Democrat Party’s (PLDM) votes and 41% of the Liberal Party’s (PL) votes. To hold on to power in next year’s parliamentary elections, for at least two of the three parties in the Pro-European coalition, ensuring that young people vote – and that they vote for them – will be fundamental to their continuing success.

Young people often describe the change of government in 2009, which saw the AIE displace the Communists, as a turning point for Moldovan politics. It inspired them and encouraged them to believe that things would be different. Many concede that since the ‘democratic’ parties took power the situation has improved, particularly in terms of personal and media freedom and Moldova’s progress with EU integration. But this initial positivity has been often dampened. Several interviewees described how they had stopped following the political situation in the media of late because as one put it  ‘the more I watched news, the sadder I got’. They often spoke of the ‘drama’ and ‘theatrics’ of Moldovan politics, the constant fighting between politicians and how lying and stealing are running rife.

‘Hungry wolves’

There was a lot of anger that politicians were just ‘hungry wolves’, acting in their personal business interests and rarely in the interests of society. One woman spoke of how Moldovan politics was just about ‘a few people […] dividing everything’; she said that ‘everyone knows’ what is going on but ‘no one speaks about it’. Another interviewee told me how politicians treat political parties as their ‘property’ using them to protect their interests and were unwilling to share power even within their own parties. The ‘democratic’ parties could not now be counted on to be better than the Communists. Politics was just a way for individuals to ‘have some kind of immunity and no one can touch you’ from their corrupt businesses and ‘dirty stuff’ that politicians were involved in.

Many felt voting had no impact. One interviewee explained how he felt his vote could influence who was elected, but you could not then count on those elected to follow through on their electoral promises. Several people I encountered said that they would not be voting in future because they felt let down by the current political environment and by the failure of changes that they had hoped, and campaigned for after 2009 to materialise.

A more alarming aspect of this disenchantment was that some saw a need for authoritarianism in a desperate attempt to achieve the social and economic changes necessary, for example, for EU integration. One conversation along these lines began with a man discussing how he wanted more power to lie with the president because Moldova needed ‘one good, responsible leader’. He continued by saying that a ‘dictatorial system is needed for sometime’ because Moldovans were spoilt by ‘democratic concepts’, ‘too free’ and ‘don’t respect anyone’.

Divisions over integration

Four years after it was formed, for many young people, the leaders and parties of the Alliance for Integration, and now the Pro-European Coalition, have failed to show themselves to be anything other than dirty and corrupt. The coalition is now faced with the difficult task of convincing younger sections of the electorate that it is worth voting for them, and worth participating in a political process where current politicians inspire little hope.

At the same time, if the Pro-European politicians are not able to do this then the Communists (PCRM) may get back into power, alone or in coalition with the Democrats (PDM). Many of those I spoke to did not think this would change the domestic situation in Moldova much. But in terms of foreign policy, the gap between the AIE parties and PCRM is huge. While the AIE is resolute in pursuing EU integration and the Communists support ties with Russia, the CIS and the project of Eurasian Integration. While the electorate overall is split in their preferences for European or Eurasian integration, Moldovan youth are stronger in their support of European integration. The future direction of Moldova may rest on how its post-Soviet generation can be inspired to participate in politics.

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