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  • Moldova’s Foreign Policy Statewatch Institute for Development and Social Initiatives „Viitorul” Cornel Ciurea Moldova’s Foreign Policy Statewatch represents a series of brief analyses, written by local and foreign experts, dedicated to the most topical sub- jects related to the foreign policy of Moldova, major developments in the Black Sea Region, cooperation with international organizations and pea- ce building activities in the region. It aims to create a common platform for discussion and to bring together experts, commentators, officials and diplomats who are concerned with the perspectives of European Integra- tion of Moldova. It is also pertaining to offer to Moldova’s diplomats and analysts a valuable tribune for deba- ting the most interesting and contro- versial points of view that could help Moldova to find its path to EU. The Republic of moldova foreign policy objectives in 2013 T he Prime Minister Vlad Filat statement that “2013 is a crucial year for the European course of the Republic of Moldova” sets a very high benchmark for the Moldo- van diplomacy ambitions. In 2013 the main goal is to complete negotiations of the Association Agreement, by the date of the Eastern Partnership Summit in Vil- nius in 2013, including provisions relating to DCFTA as an integral part and implementation of all provisions of the se- cond phase of the dialogue with the EU on visa liberalization. In fact, we can say that the Government has reviewed a little its priorities- if in 2012 the Foreign Minister Iurie Leancă was talking about visa liberalization by the end of this year as the ultimate goal, whose failure could cost him office in December, in 2013 the emphasis is on signing the Association Agreement, including free trade, and visa liberalization is an objective so- mehow immersed in uncertainty. Learning from past experien- ces, our diplomatic chiefs no longer make keeping their posts dependant on achieving these objectives. Nevertheless, the fa- ilure of these objectives in 2013, even for reasons beyond the Republic of Moldova, could greatly weaken the positions of the Foreign Ministry current team. Issue 59, January 2013 Board: Cornel Ciurea Cristian Ghinea Witold Rodkiewicz Hans Martin Sieg
  • 2 Moldova’s Foreign Policy Statewatch Str. Iacob Hîncu 10/1, Chişinău MD-2005 Republic of Moldova 373 / 22 221844 phone 373 / 22 245714 fax office@viitorul.org www.viitorul.org Three main objectives of European integration As mentioned above, the three major objectives of the Moldovan diplomacy in 2013 are: 1) signing the Association Agreement with the European Union in late November at the Vilnius Summit; 2) inclusion in this Agreement of the part about Free Trade Area as well; 3) completion of the second phase of the Action Plan on visa liberalization, which is to be confirmed at the same Summit by the European Commis- sion. In this context, however, it would be appropriate to make certain clarifications. With regard to the Association Agreement, to which have referred on several occasions both Iurie Leancă and Vlad Filat but also the European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, we notice different formulations of this objective. In particular, after Barroso’s statements made ​​at the annual conference of Heads of Delegations of the European Union, Moldovan diplomats talk about signing the Association Agreement at Vilnius Summit in November 2013. However, in some situations, as was the 2012 European People’s Party summit in Yerevan, Vlad Filat takes a step back and talks just about completing negotiations of the Association Agreement by the EP Summit in Vilnius in 2013, thus showing that there is no perfect certainty about the signature of the Agreement. Some experts, such as Victor Chirilă, Executive Director of the Foreign Policy Association, considers that for this agreement to be signed, the negotiations have to be concluded in the first months of 2012, and the agreement has to be initialed as early as in May. Given that in the talks on the Association Agreement remain few is- sues - the Preamble and some final clauses – the objective of signing the Agreement can be considered realistic, if there are no political blockages. The part of the agreement on free trade, however, contains some serious problems. The Republic of Moldova has asked conducting four rounds of negotiations in 2013 on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. These negotiations will prove decisive for obtaining protection mechanisms (quotas, safeguard instruments, transitional periods, etc.) for our main exports, primarily agri-food products. However, the Republic of Moldova positions on these issues are not yet known, and forecasts made ​​by some think tanks in Moldova on prospects for abandonment of autonomous preferences regime in favor of the free trade area raise concerns about the display of an exaggerated optimism. Another important issue related to the inclusion of the DCFTA in the Association Agreement refers to the obstructive conduct of Transnistria, which gets involved only as an observer in the negotiations. A study presented by the Polish Institute of Oriental Studies (OSW) in October 2012, suggested three possible scenarios for overcoming the deadlock - a) Moldova will establish a customs border between the two banks; b) The European Union will not accept the DCFTA with Moldova because of possible failure of Chisinau to include Transnistria; c) Transnistria will be given all the benefits of the DCFTA to be granted to Chisinau, regardless of assuming and fulfilling the commitments. It seems that, for now, Chisinau is considering another solution derived from Barroso’s statement made ​​during his visit to Chisinau relating to Transnistria - „We cannot make a direct link between the Transnistrian issue and European integration”. This solution, which will be discussed later, aims to avoid exclusion of Transn- istria from the DCFTA and introduction of a clause in the agreement that Transnistria will be gradually accepted into the DCFTA depending on the progress in the conflict settlement process and fulfillment of commitments regarding the FTA. Finally, objective three of successful implementation of the second phase of Moldova-EU Plan of the visa liberalization is also quite problematic and shrouded in mist. The lack of clarity stems both from the Transnistrian conflict that does not yet enable full security of certificates issued by the authorities on the left bank and due to the lack of a precedent in European practice of such a course of the visa regime liberalization. First of all, Moldova would like to obtain the visa liberalization by the end of 2013, the Member States accepting a possible Commission report on the issue in the same period. Such a development seems, however, improbable because of the resistance that this idea faces in a number of
  • 3Moldova’s Foreign Policy Statewatch Str. Iacob Hîncu 10/1, Chişinău MD-2005 Republic of Moldova 373 / 22 221844 phone 373 / 22 245714 fax office@viitorul.org www.viitorul.org European countries. The realistic goal is to get by the Vilnius Summit in November a Commission deci- sion regarding the end of the second phase of implementation, which will be a recommendation to the Member States to vote the liberalized visa regime with the Republic of Moldova, possibly in 2014. The dialogue on visa liberalization might have the following course. In February and March, the Commission will conduct several missions to assess the fulfillment of commitments by Moldova. Based on these assessments, and also the Progress Report submitted by Chisinau in December 2012, the Commission will develop, by the summer of 2013, the first progress report on the implementation of the second phase, which will also contain recommendations to Chisinau. In June, within the EU-Moldova Cooperation Council, the Republic of Moldova will submit the second progress report to the Commis- sion, which will then be followed by other assessment missions. Chisinau hopes that in autumn the Commission will complete the assessments and by the Summit in Vilnius will submit the final report, favorable to Moldova, which will be a recommendation to Member States to vote the liberalized visa regime with Moldova. The last procedure could take a year or two and will also depend on the goodwill of some European countries such as the Netherlands, which for the time being take a dim view of such a development. Tactical objectives of the Moldovan diplomacy in 2013 There are several objectives that the Moldovan diplomacy has been pursuing over the years, related to acceptance by European states of some aspects of principle, which could bring the Republic of Moldova closer to the EU. 1) Official recognition of the Republic of Moldova European prospects by all Member States. Such statements were made by various European officials during 2012 (Merkel, Fule) but there is not, yet, a formal recognition in this regard that would allow our state to aspire in the near future to the candidate country status. The Moldovan diplomacy will try to include a provision in this respect in the Preamble of the Association Agreement but the exact wording of such a statement is not yet known. Signing the Association Agreement without an explicitly indicated European perspective could be accepted by Chisinau but this diplomatic victory could be deemed partial. 2) Recognition of the lack of connection between the Transnistrian conflict settlement pro- cess and the process of European integration of the Republic of Moldova. ​​The statement made by Jose Manuel Barroso during his visit in November 2012 in Chisinau about the lack of a link between these two processes induced a dose of optimism among our diplomats who, until recently, together with local experts, were convinced that the two processes are inseparable. Disconnecting Transnistria from the European integration processes would allow Chisinau not to depend on Tiraspol agenda and use the European factor as a strong argument in discussions with decision makers in Transnistria, including the local business. Nevertheless, despite such statements, it is hard to believe that such a decoupling, albeit partial, could be operated. 3) Recognition of the principle of differentiation - the fastest progressing integrate more rap- idly. The Moldovan diplomacy will try to convince European chancelleries, and our neighbors in the Eastern Partnership that the signing, as soon as possible, of the Association Agreement with the Republic of Moldova, as a “success story” will be a great regional leap forward that will allow subse- quent acceleration of integration processes both in Ukraine and in Belarus. But there are still many international actors preferring the principle of a “package” approach of the Republic of Moldova and that do not approve of Moldova rapid integration by its decoupling from the regional context.
  • 4 Moldova’s Foreign Policy Statewatch Str. Iacob Hîncu 10/1, Chişinău MD-2005 Republic of Moldova 373 / 22 221844 phone 373 / 22 245714 fax office@viitorul.org www.viitorul.org This publication was produced by IDIS “Viitorul” with the financial support of Str. Iacob Hîncu 10/1, Chişinău MD-2005 Republic of Moldova 373 / 22 221844 phone 373 / 22 245714 fax office@viitorul.org www.viitorul.org Soros Foundation Moldova. The opinions expressed in this publication reflect the author’s/authors’ position and don’t necessary represent the views of the donors. Conclusions The “Crucial Year” 2013 represents a major challenge for the Republic of Moldova diplomacy. If the three major objectives described above are accomplished, the Republic of Moldova could be con- sidered a country firmly anchored to the European integration path, even though popular support for this process shows disappointing rates and political opposition bring more and more often into discus- sion the idea of joining the Customs Union of Russia-Kazakhstan-Belarus. Therefore, we could even say that the current Moldovan government basically bet on an “all or nothing” principle. A failure at the end of 2013 would make it much more difficult to provide explanations for refusing to dismiss the Foreign Minister than at the end of 2012.