Monday, September 17, 2007

Ukraine: Emerging as Regional ENP Leader

High level EU officials paid an official visit to neighboring Ukraine for the EU-Ukraine Summit last Friday, 14 September. The delegation included the European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso and EU's top diplomat, Javier Solana. The mere fact that these two EU leaders visited Kiev is pretty important both for Ukraine and Moldova. Apparently, Ukraine emerges as a regional leader in EU enlargement debate and negotiations, and Moldova is right in between the two sides.

Ukraine is one of the European Neighborhood Policy countries, along with Algeria, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Egypt, Georgia, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Moldova, Morocco, the Palestinian Authority, Syria and Tunisia. Because the ENP does not open any doors to EU accession, Ukraine has taken a vociferous position in its relation with the EU. Namely, it advocates for a differentiation of the EU approach towards certain ENP countries who have legitimate and clear European integration aspirations, including Ukraine, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Moldova - all former Soviet republics. Ukraine made this position very clear at the first ENP conference Working Together: Strengthening the ENP held in Brussels on 3 September, 2007.

Why is Ukraine's emerging role as regional ENP leader important for Moldova? First, Ukraine is a big country (47 million people) rich in natural resources, which gives it significant negotiation clout. Secondly, Ukraine is perceived as advancing better and faster on EU-driven reform paths. Thirdly, Ukraine has a politically-active citizenry, being a country where the Orange Revolution took place. All these factors allow Ukraine to strengthen its position as a regional ENP leader, and eventually persuade the EU that several countries deserve to be considered for membership. Needless to say, this opens a window of opportunity for the 3.5-million country stretching in between. Although, until recently, the Moldovan Government tried to talk the EU into considering Moldova as an accession candidate along with the Western Balkan states (unfortunately, without any success), it is important that the Government take serious measures not to miss this emerging opportunity, and cooperate closely with Ukraine in sharing and advocating this new position in its relations with EU.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Week-end in Tiraspol

Transnistria is a must-see destination for foreigners visiting Moldova. At least this is what the guidebooks say. So, my friends and I decided to spend our Sunday visiting Tiraspol, the capital city of Transnistria. Today, Tiraspol is a quiet and green city of about 160,000 inhabitants, located on Nistru River. It was established by Alexandr Suvorov in 1792 as a fortress protecting the Christian world against tatars.

However, to me, Tiraspol did not feel like home, unlike Ungheni or Cahul cites would. Maybe it is because the percentage of ethnic Moldovans is unusually small (circa 15%) or because the number of monuments of Bolshevic and Soviet heroes (Lenin, Kirov, etc.), existance of a museum of Transnistrian statehood, the presence of a red-and-green flag emanate the chill of an isolated frozen conflict zone.