At a meeting of the EU-Moldova Parliamentary Cooperation Committee, Member of the European Parliament Monica Macovei said Moldova should sign the political part of the Association Agreement with Europe first. Macovei, who is the co-chairwoman of the committee on behalf of the EU, responded to fears for Russian aggression in the region on Tuesday 25 March. Moldova has sounded the alarm on Russian pressure on the government coalition in response to its European-integration agenda.
Macovei said “Currently, this is the only solution that can ensure stability”. Her Moldovan co-chairman, Ion Hadarc, fears intensified Russian maneuvers in the autonomous Moldovan region of Transnistra could endanger Moldovan territorial integrity. He said “In this connection, we call on the European Parliament and the Council of Europe to permanently monitor the state of security and the territorial integrity of Moldova”.
The Moldovan Speaker of Parliament, Igor Corman, said the signing of the Association Agreement with the EU is a key priority for Moldova. “The liberalization of the visa regime for Moldovans wasn’t a present from the EU or a reaction to the geopolitical situation. The decision confirmed the fact that we not only adopt laws, but also implement them”. Corman also reiterated the importance of maintaining commercial and economic relations with Russia.
In the east of Moldova lies the breakaway region of Transnistra, home to about 300.000 people. During the collapse of the Soviet Union, Transnistria forcefully resisted Moldova’s independence and remained loyal to Russia. The resulting conflict between Moldova and Transnistria ended in 1992 when Russia stationed 1.200 peacekeepers in Transnistria. Though no nation recognizes the claimed independence of Transnistria, it regards itself as a Russian enclave since 1992.
The parliamentary speaker of Transnistria, Mikhail Burla, asked Russia to annex the region on March 17. In a referendum held in 2006, over 97 percent of the voters opted to join Russia. Russia has never responded to accession requests by Transnistria. Moldovan President Nicolae Timofti warned Russia on March 18 it would make a “mistake” if it would agree to annex Transnistria, Romanian President Traian Basescu said he fears Moldova to be “in great danger”.
Meanwhile, the commander of NATO in Europe, General Breedlove, said on Sunday 23 March Transnistria could be Russia’s next target after the Crimea. He said Russia was amassing troops along Ukraine’s eastern border: “A snap exercise puts an incredible force at a border. The force that is at the Ukrainian border now to the east is very, very sizeable and very, very ready” and fears Russian troops would cross Ukraine to get to Transnistria.
Russia denies the troop presence along the Ukrainian border. Russian Deputy Defense Minister Anatoly Antonov said “Russia’s armed forces are not carrying out any unannounced military activity that could threaten the security of neighboring states”.
Besides Transnistria, Moldova’s autonomous region of Gagauzia also favors closer ties with Russia. In a referendum held on 2 February, 98.4 percent said to favor the Russian-led customs Union instead of the EU. The Moldovan government declared the referendum to be illegal, thought the socialist and communist opposition was in favor.
The Pro-European ruling coalition in Moldova has been in power since May 2013 and strongly supports European integration. The EU supports Moldova, Monica Macovei said adding “We will hold discussions with the EU member states so that the Association Agreement with the EU is signed as quickly as possible”.
The accession of Crimea has sparked fears for the stability and territorial integrity of the region. Russia claimed it intervened in Crimea to secures the safety and security of ethnic-Russians, this means Russia could intervene in more parts of the former Soviet Union, where more countires have significant Russian minorities, including Moldova.
Author: Koen Migchelbrink