The Republic of Moldova has reached the paramount of its co-operation with the European Union in June 2014. The historical moment took place in Vilnius, where the 28-nation union signed the Association Agreements with three Eastern Partnership nations – Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine.
It paved the way to a new stage in the EU cooperation framework with the three countries that is initially the implementation of the Association Agreement and, especially, its intrinsic component – the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA).
They way to the conclusion of the Association Agreement was not easy. Since 2009, the Republic of Moldova has been engaged in an accelerated process of rapprochement with the EU. The country has made substantial progress towards visa liberalisation, and in April 2014 it obtained the visa free regime with the EU. The country demonstrated determined internal political and administrative efforts. The European Integration aspirations were based on a large support of the population in 2009. It has gradually faded away and there are objective factors for it. The Republic of Moldova has found itself in the epicentre of harsh geopolitical rivalries playing out in Eastern Europe. The closer to the finalisation of the negotiations of the Association Agreements by three EaP countries – Georgia, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine, the more pressure and criticism from the Russian Federation has emerged. In Ukraine, it has developed into a dramatic internal conflict with unprecedented interference from its eastern neighbour. Besides, the economic situation in the Republic of Moldova has been influenced by world economic trends. Coupled with discriminatory sanctions imposed by the Russian Federation, relative internal political instability, the European integration idea has lost the overwhelming support of the population. However, the results of the parliamentary elections of November 2014 and local elections of June 2015 give a slight reassurance for the political establishment to continue the European integration agenda.
The association agreement with the European Union and its implementation is the overriding priority for the Republic of Moldova foreign and domestic policy. It is enshrined in the Government Programme. The implementation of the Association agreement has been slowed down due to lengthy process of investing the Government after the parliamentary elections. Moreover, the Government installed in February 2015 resigned in June 2015. The new Government, which was voted in the Parliament on 30 July, undertakes efforts to get back on track with the Association Agenda. The Government and the Parliament agreed on a joint plan to proceed with the necessary legislation enabling a swift implementation of the agreement.
The Association Agreement including DCFTA has a particular importance for contributing to the Transnistrian conflict settlement process. The implementation of the provisions of the DCFTA in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova should help the reintegration efforts of the Republic of Moldova and its partners within the negotiation process. Recent expert studies demonstrate that the implementation of the DCFTA provisions in the Transnistrian region is beneficial for the region’s economy taking into account the structure of the region’s foreign trade dynamics during the last years. The EU relevant institutions and the Government of the Republic of Moldova stand ready to identify a sustainable solution directed towards improvement of the social and economic situation in the Transnistrian region.
Euro Atlantic co-operation
The cooperation of the Republic of Moldova has a specific connotation for the population and the political establishment. Since its independence, the issue of the interaction with the Alliance has evolved despite the controversial attitude of the large public towards NATO and the ambiguous stance of the political forces in power to this topic. The geopolitical architecture around the country has also shaped the frameworks of the Republic of Moldova- NATO relations. The nature of the Republic of Moldova with NATO has been almost a missing issue in the public space in the country even though the intensity of co-operation has gradually increased.
One of the major issues debated within the society and political groups is the neutrality status of the republic of Moldova versus the level of co-operation with NATO. The neutrality is provided for by the article 00 of the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova. However, the experience of other European countries, which are not members of NATO and have either neutral or non-aligning status – Austria, Sweden, Finland, Malta, Ireland, Switzerland, demonstrate that the neutrality is not an impediment to develop efficient co-operation with the Alliance. The simple conclusion is that the neutrality status does not prevent the country form developing efficiently co-operation with NATO in the interest of its national security. Such a co-operation is aimed at reforming and modernising the security and defence sectors in line with the emerging security challenges. Thus process is also of support to the European integration process as the Republic of Moldova concluded an agreement and actively participates in the EU Common Security and Defence Policy.
The recent security and geopolitical developments in the region opened new windows of opportunity for enhancing the o-operation with the Alliance. Building on the existing frameworks of NATO-Moldova co-operation and other NATO initiatives – Individual Partnership Action Plan 2014-2016, participation of Moldova in the NATO-led peacekeeping operation KFOR, Defence Education Enhancement Programme, Building Integrity Initiative, the Republic of Moldova expressed its interest at the Wales NATO Summit to join to recent NATO co-operation initiatives – Interoperability Platform and Defence Capacity Building Initiative (DCBI). In September this year, NATO endorsed the first phase of the DCBI for the Republic of Moldova. A two-year roadmap on the implementation of this phase was agreed by both sides. It envisages NATO assistance in reviewing main security and military doctrinal documents – National Security Strategy, Military Doctrine, Strategic Communication Strategy, and the elaboration of implementation programmes for their enforcement.
An important element of reinforcing co-operation and communication between the Alliance and the Republic of Moldova is the on-going process of establishing a NATO Liaison in Chisinau. It will allow increasing the efficiency of the NATO delivered assistance and improving the communication. It will also contribute to building up public diplomacy efforts aimed at providing the large public with objective information about NATO activities, in particular in the country.
European Integration and Euro Atlantic co-operation are two distinguished processed. The European Integration efforts are the main driving factor for modernising the country and became the priority of its internal and foreign policy. The most important objective of the Government is to consolidate the society around the European Integration priority. Such a consolidation could lead to the consolidation of all political forces around this goal. The Euro Atlantic co-operation does not contravene to the neutrality status of the country and aims at the modernisation of the security and defence capabilities, increase the country potential to contribute to the regional and global security by participating in international peacekeeping and peace-building efforts.