Realizing that Russia opposes the reunification with Romania, the current pro-Western government in Chisinau is seeking to join the European Union.
By Nicholas Dima l August 28, 2012
Angela Merkel and Moldova’s President Nicolae Timofti. (Photo/Timpul.Md)
German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the most powerful woman in the world according to a Reuters report cited by Forbes magazine. The question is why did the most powerful leader of Europe visit Moldova, the poorest country of the continent?
On Wednesday, August 22, Chancellor Merkel paid a short visit to Chisinau allegedly to discuss the problems of the secessionist region of Transnestr and Moldova’s intention to accede to the European Union.
Moldova became independent at the breakup of the USSR. Ethnically, Moldova is attracted to Romania where it belonged for most of its history. Realizing that Russia opposes the reunification with Romania, the current pro-Western government in Chisinau is seeking to join the European Union. As it is well-known, Moscow was not pleased with the dismemberment of the FSU and has tried hard to keep its former territory. Consequently, Moscow managed to retain control over Belarus and Ukraine, to dismember Georgia, and to exercise a strong influence over Moldova. A short reminder of the past of Moldova is in order here.
The current republic of Moldova is a truncated part of the former Romanian province of Bessarabia. This province changed hands several times between Russia and Romania and after the First World War rejoined Romania. Yet, it was annexed again by Moscow in 1940 following the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939. To complicate the issue, Soviet Moldova was given a sliver of land located on the left bank of the Dnestr River known as Trans-Nestr or Transnistria.
Allegedly, when Mikhail Gorbachev agreed to let Germany reunite, the two countries also decided on a number of significant East European issues and apparently Moldova remained under Russia. After the dissolution of the USSR, knowing that the Moldovans wanted to reunite with Romania, Moscow used the proverbial carrot and the stick approach. On the one hand, it promised Bucharest to allow the reunification on the condition that Romania would not join NATO. On the other hand, to blackmail Chisinau, in September 1992 Moscow helped the Transnestr area declare its own independence – the Kremlin, always the mischief maker. Ever since, Moldova has remained in limbo between Moscow’s geopolitical interests and its pro-Romanian and pro-Western aspirations. (For details see Dima’s books).
For over 22 years, the so-called Transnestr “republic” has remained a bone of contention representing one of the unresolved conflicts of the East. Despite various proposals, local Russian leaders and Moscow have refused any solution. Consequently, there are two political trends happening these days in Moldova. At a governmental level, Moldova is conducting negotiations to adhere to the EU. In this regard, on August 22Romanian Global News (RGN) wrote that Graham Watson, British member of the European Parliament and reporter for the Accord of Association of Moldova to the EU, just ended his own visit to Chisinau and declared that “the integration in the EU is Moldova’s sole option.” On the other hand, the unionist movement is growing and is increasingly vocal. Nevertheless, following recent manifestations in the city of Balti, the Russians threatened to break up Moldova’s territory even further. Moscow’s vehemence against the reunification with Romania, against NATO, and against the new American anti-missiles shield located in Romania, is beyond imagination. Moscow certainly remembers that in 1941 Germany attacked the USSR from Poland and Romania, but it refuses to admit that the only reason Romania joined Germany was to recuperate Bessarabia. Since the province was last ceded to Russia by Germany in 1940, some Moldovan journalists questioned the meaning of Ms. Merkel’s visit.
Prior to the visit, the Moldovan press stressed the huge interest of the people for the event and emphasized that many Moldovans had high hopes and expectations. The journalists even called the visit an historic event. Indeed, Ms. Merkel’s visit received ample coverage. The Moldovan paper Timpul of 23 August described in detail the meetings of Ms. Merkel with President Nicolae Timofti and with Prime Minister Vlad Filat. The Moldovan President thanked Ms. Merkel for her visit and spoke among other things of Moldova’s decision to join the EU. Ms. Merkel comments were evasive, but promised Germany’s support. Then, she asked about Moldova’s position regarding the Russian troops stationed in the Transnestr region. The President answered that the mission of these troops as a “peace maintaining force” had expired and that they should be withdrawn. The perspective of Moldova’s plea to join the European Union was also discussed by with Prime Minister Filat. According to Agence France Presse (AFP) and as reported byMediafax of 23 August, “Ms. Merkel‘s position was not very encouraging. She recommended patience, further reforms, and a step by step approach.”
The German press was skeptical with regard to the timing and purpose of the visit. Die Welt, for example, downplayed its importance and called it an “excursion.” The publication stressed that if the visit could have solved the (Transnestr) conflict, or could have helped improve the lot of the Moldovan people, then it would have been justified. In addition, Die Welt added that the current Moldovan Prime Minister is pro-Russian and he wants to keep Moldova in the Russian sphere.
At the same time, the chief of the Communist Party of Moldova, former President Vladimir Voronin, was denied a private meeting with Ms. Merkel, but he met her together with a group of Moldovan leaders. Voronin also played down the importance of the visit and sent Ms. Merkel a long letter. Among others, he expressed his fear of a possible reunification of Moldova with Romania which, in his opinion, would lose the constitutional neutrality of Moldova. (Timpul, 22 August).
In the end, Ms. Merkel visit did not offer any concrete solutions to Moldova’s pleas. According to a number of publications of August 24 (www.moldova.org, romanialibera.ro, RGN, and Stratfor global news) she only recommended patience and further negotiations to solve the Transnestr conflict. Actually, following the visit, Stratfor of 23 August made some pertinent comments:
Under these circumstances, the media stressed that the Moldovan population was disappointed with the visit. None of their problems were solved. Some journalists and leaders even concluded that seeking to join the European Union is the wrong path. And they wrote that reunification with Romania is Moldova’s sole option. Yet, the visit was symbolically important as a sign that the West has not forgotten the area. (RGN, 23 August).
And there is one more small, but symbolic element. Ms. Merkel’s visit to Chisinau was on 22 August and the next day, 23 August, she went to meet the Baltic leaders. The Ribbentrop-Molotov Pact was signed 23 August (1939); perhaps, she is trying to undue a past injustice.
Nicholas Dima, Ph.D., is a former professor and author of numerous books and articles including the autobiographical memoir, Journey to Freedom, a description of the effects of communist dictatorship on a nation, a family and an individual. (Refer to updated editions). He is currently a contributor to