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Thread: Russia to EU: 'Hands off Moldova'

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    Default Russia to EU: 'Hands off Moldova'

    Russia to EU: 'Hands off Moldova'
    "You may claim that Moldova is an immediate neighbor of the EU, but so is Iraq in a certain manner after the opening of negotiations with Turkey," said Russia's EU Ambassador Vladimir Chizhov. Speaking at a conference examining EU-Russia relations following last week's London summit, Chizhov underlined the fundamental agreement between the EU and Russia. "The main thing is how to move forward."

    The Russian ambassador, whilst welcoming EU and US involvement in negotiations on a settlement to Moldova's Transnistrian conflict, stressed the limits to expanded territorial discussions, especially with the Baltic states: "Border agreements are not a Russia-EU issue. They are bilateral matters between Russia and its neighbors."

    So how long will Russian troops be in Moldova, five, ten or even twenty years? "The troops will certainly leave earlier than those stationed in Iraq," joked Chizhov at the Brussels think-tank European Policy Centre's conference. "Nobody wants to see these troops back home more than we do in Russia."

    "Legally borders are a bilateral affair. But the EU is also a community and we cannot accept that some EU regions have less border security than others," said European Parliament Foreign Affairs Committee President Elmar Brok.

    Speaking alongside Chizhov, Brok stressed the 'relations of solidarity' between EU countries. "The EU is interested in clear borders. This is in our common interest. We shouldn't be asking whether a border problem is in our garden or in yours." MEP colleague and former Lithuanian President Vytautas Landsbergis accused Russia of following a divide-and-rule policy.

    "As to the EU's common border with Russia, Moscow has succeeded in splitting Europe and turning the issue not into an EU matter but that of the separate Member States on their own," said Landsbergis. "This is a major challenge for the EU. But in London at the EU-Russia summit, we failed."

    There is, however, a growing EU presence in conflict regions such as Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, and Georgia. Last week, EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner signed a memorandum of understanding with Moldova and Ukraine on a border assistance mission. Starting on 1 December, with €7 million and 50 observers for an initial 24 months, the mission aids border management, including customs, on the whole Moldova-Ukraine border.

    "This will help prevent trafficking in people, smuggling of goods, the proliferation of weapons and customs fraud," said Ferrero-Waldner, speaking last week in Moldova. "We will deploy a number of mobile teams, consisting of approximately 50 border guards and customs officials from EU Member States, to the most relevant locations along the entire border, including the Transnistrian segment."

    The break-away Transnistria regime in Tiraspol along Moldova's frontier with Ukraine has been led by Igor Smirnov. Backed by Moscow, Smirnov has held out against central authorities in Moldova since the early 1990s. "Moldova will be a neighbour when Romania joins. That is why Moldova is part of our neighbourhood policy. Obviously, it is in the EU's interest that our neighbors have safe and fixed borders," said EU External Relations Spokesperson Emma Udwin.

    Russian EU Ambassador Chizhov plays down the significance of the former Soviet 14th Army in Moldova. "The presence of Russian troops in Moldova doesn't play any global or regional role. There are less than 1,100 Russian troops. Their primary task is to guard arms stockpiles on Transnistria terrority," said Chizhov. "But people in Transnistria also count on them as part of their security. So without a settlement it would be difficult to agree to a withdrawal."

    For Chizhov, Russian troops in Moldova are peacekeepers, not occupying forces: "It would be so easy for the Russian troops to leave the arms and go home. Besides, more than half of the arms, and most of the heavy equipment, has been withdrawn since the end of the Soviet Union. When the political dialogue [between Transnistria and Moldovan authorities] was under way, the trains were leaving with arms once every five days. When the whole negotiation collapsed, the trains almost halted."

    The Russian EU ambassador also made a plea for more EU coherency. "I would only welcome a more coherent EU policy on Russia," said Chizhov. "That would only make my job easier. But there is one condition: this policy should not deteriorate into the lowest common denominator."

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    Default Re: Russia to EU: 'Hands off Moldova'

    Moscow placing pieces on Moldova chess board, following the Ukraine method


    Source: Euractiv

    The European Parliament voted this week to lift import duties on Moldovan wine, responding to the “unjustified and arbitrary pressures exerted by Russia”, which banned the product as of 1 January next year. But Russia has not had its last word yet, analysts warn, urging the European Union to speed up its association process with Chisinau to avoid a Ukraine-like scenario.

    The Parliament vote on Tuesday (10 December) was aimed at speeding up the EU and Moldova’s negotiations for a free trade agreement, which would have otherwise only entered into force at the beginning of 2015.

    The move comes two months after Russia banned wine exports from Moldova citing “food safety concerns”, and just a few weeks after Moldova initialed a key association agreement with the EU in Vilnius, which is yet to be formally signed.

    The Parliament vote was generous, “especially coming from wine-producing countries in the EU” like France and Italy, said Dirk Schuebel, the former EU ambassador to Moldova.

    However, its impact might turn out to be more symbolic than a real economic game changer.

    Speaking at a panel debate organised by the European Policy Centre (EPC) in Brussels, Kamil Całus, an analyst specialised on Moldova at the Warsaw-based Centre for Eastern Studies, said wine exports to Russia actually represent “only about 2-3% of the general amount of goods exported” by Moldova.

    For Całus, it is clear that Russia was “aware that the ban was not able to hit the Moldovan economy”.

    Moreover, Moldova does not have the capacity to use all its EU quotas. In 2013, the EU quota was set to 240,000 hectoliters, of which Moldova was only able to use 65-80% up until December 2013, according to the official numbers from the Moldovan Ministry of Economy.

    “It’s obvious that the full abolition of wine trade restrictions would render no effect on the economy in this year and probably just a minimal effect, if any, in 2014,” Kamil Całus told EurActiv.

    A much more serious blow to the Moldovan economy, experts say, would come from a Russian ban on products such as fruits or vegetables, as well as restrictions on Moldovan migrant workers.

    Seasonal workers abroad contributed €2 billion to the Moldovan economy this year. And 60% of that amount came from migrants working in Russia.

    As Całus put it, Moscow was until now merely placing its pieces on the Moldovan chess board rather than playing the game, as in the run-up to the Vilnius Summit, all eyes were on Ukraine.

    EU ‘not yet an irreversible choice’ for Moldova


    Even though Chisinau is seen as the champion of the EU’s Eastern association process for now, things could heat up in the course of 2014.

    The country is set to hold general elections in November 2014, with a Communist opposition which has a much different, pro-Russian plan for the country. A victory would most probably mean the end of the EU integration process for Moldova, warned many of the panelists at the EPC event.

    If the EU fails to speed up the association process with Chisinau in 2014, the country could easily fall into Moscow’s orbit, they warned.

    Ambassador Caras called for the Association Agreement initialed in Vilnius to be signed next September, “thus allowing the current parliament to ratify it”. Signing the AA before the election would make the EU choice “a point of no return” for Moldova, the ambassador said. However, he admitted the signature would be conditional on Chisinau delivering on the promised reforms.

    Getting closer to the signature will also most probably trigger stronger pressure from Moscow, Całus said. “Until now the Kremlin was not trying hard to prevent the initialing of the agreement with the EU because it was concentrated on Ukraine, but not only,” he said.

    “Russian decision-makers are fully aware that there is time between the initialing and the signing. They probably assume that it would be better to act in 2014 as it is an election year. In Moldova, it’s easier to change the government than to make this government change its mind on EU integration.”

    Moscow can apply several leverages on Moldova, the panelists explained – ranging from food products ban and migrant workers restrictions to the sensitive issue of Transnistria and the internal political structure.

    Travelling freely

    If progress on the Association Agreement cannot be done, an option for the EU to make itself more attractive to Moldovan citizens is liberalising the visa regime and allowing Moldovans to travel freely in the EU for touristic purposes, ambassador Caras stressed.

    The Commission issued a positive report on the matter in November, stating that Chisinau had fulfilled all the requirements.

    Dirk Schuebel, who now works in the European Commission’s Eastern Partnership division, said EU officials were “impressed” by Moldova’s progress, “and believe me [the Commission] is not easy to please,” he added jokingly.

    However, “the ball is in the court of MEPs and member states,” the Moldovan ambassador reminded, adding that he hoped for a swift vote before the next EU election and in time before the Moldovan ones.

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    Default Re: Russia to EU: 'Hands off Moldova'

    Fears that Russian “peace keepers” in Moldova are becoming a secessionist army

    By NEOnline | IR


    The Moldovan Foreign Ministry summoned for the Russian Ambassador in Chisinau to demand from Russia to stop recruiting locally for the Russian Armed Forces.

    The clue to understanding the dispute is that recruiting mostly takes place in a territory not controlled by Moldova, that is, Transnistria. With the de facto secession of the region of Transnistria in 1992, a de facto independent state was established that has until recently economically viable thanks to Russian subsidies in cash and natural gas. Most Transnistrians carry a Moldovan and often a Russian passport.

    The territory borders Ukraine, but not Russia.

    In this context, the conscription of Moldovan citizens has added negative significance, because they are to be deployed as “peace keepers” by the Russian army, theoretically, side by side Ukrainian observers. This is in line with a 1992 ceasefire agreement that has all but collapsed.

    Russian “peace keepers” in Transnistria in effect operate as check point guards for the regime. But, they also guard more than 20,000 tones of arms brought to Transnistria when Soviet troops withdrew from Eastern Europe 25 years ago. When recruited locally, they are becoming gradually a Transnistrian army with Russian uniforms.

    The Ukrainian government has denounced the security framework agreed in 1992 for Transnistria. Therefore, the legal mandate of the Russian troops in Moldova is not clear. The Moldovan government demands the withdrawal of the Russian military contingent and the transformation of the peacekeeping operation into an international civil mission.

    (publica.md, TASS)

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    “You Americans are so gullible.
    No, you won’t accept
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    outright, but we’ll keep feeding you small doses of
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