Moldova-Ukraine relations, interview with Andrei Popov
Interview with Andrei Popov, Deputy Foreign Minister (translation from the original text in Romanian). Excerpt from a radio broadcast of the Vocea Basarabiei radio station (December 6, 2009), produced by the Foreign Policy Association (APE) in collaboration with Imedia News and Analysis Agency and with the assistance of the German Foundation Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES).
Relations between Republic of Moldova and Ukraine: the view of Moldovan diplomacy.
Corneliu RUSNAC: Recently you visited Ukraine, where you met with your colleagues from Kyiv. What was discussed at this meeting that, actually, took place after a considerable pause?
VISIT TO KIEV
Andrei Popov: Yes, indeed, a week ago we held bilateral consultations in Kiev with the Ukrainian part, first on the level of experts, then we had a full round of consultation with my counterpart, the Ukrainian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Constantin Eliseev. In these talks we discussed the whole spectrum of cooperation issues between Moldova and Ukraine and tried to feel the ground in order to identify mutually acceptable and advantageous compromise formulas to provide policy makers from the two states concrete solutions to remove the deadlock in Moldova-Ukraine relations, which have been practically overshadowed for almost a decade by several unresolved "nodes", especially related to regulation of property relations and completion of border demarcation process.
There were very complex consultations in which we addressed the unresolved issues point by point and I think we made an important step towards identifying some compromise solutions. It will take some time to shape the compromise proposals. But I think it is important to tell our listeners that there are converging strategic interests between our countries – I also mean here promoting the common goal of European integration and the need to join efforts to solve the Transnistrian conflict and the interests of Moldova to cooperate with Ukraine in order to ensure our energy security. This coincidence of interests and objectives should have drawn us nearer and should have created natural prerequisites for building a genuine strategic partnership between Moldova and Ukraine. But in reality we are rather far away from having a relationship of trust and openness up to this time. Paradoxically, although Moldova has only two neighbors - Romania and Ukraine – we have not managed to establish real partnership relations, a strategic partnership with any of them. Instead of focusing on major issues, attracting investments, promoting common interests, coordinating our agendas of European integration, increasing the constructive involvement of Ukraine in the Transnistrian settlement efforts, we got stuck all these years in some issues that are not necessarily small, as I was incorrectly quoted once, but on issues that, when balancing them all out and considering what Republic of Moldova and Ukraine have to lose, if they are not able to focus on big issues, once can see that there is a tremendous opportunity cost for Republic of Moldova and the outside perception is that Moldova, however, there is something happens to this state, if after so many years, so many governments that have succeeded each other failed to find a "modus vivendi" to move away from post-Soviet and focus on building modern relations.
We must break the vicious circle of "lose-lose" judgment, get out of the trenches, and on behalf of major interests that should unite us, build relationships based on the "win-win" paradigm. Change of government in Chisinau, the adoption of pragmatic approaches in relations with neighbors and with external partners, undertaking a dynamic and predictable foreign policy course, in my opinion create encouraging prerequisites for capitalizing together on this window of opportunity and improving relations between Moldova and Ukraine.
Cornelius RUSNAC: But what are currently the thorniest issues in relations between Moldova and Ukraine? Let's take them one by one, to begin with demarcation.
THORNY PROBLEMS IN RELATIONS BETWEEN MOLDOVA AND UKRAINE
Andrei Popov: Moldovan-Ukrainian border is a relatively long one - 1222 kilometers. It is divided into three sectors. From north-west, from Criva in Briceni district along the Prut river, it goes 300 kilometers to the east, after which 450 kilometers is the center, the Transnistrian sector, and descends down from Palanca to Giurgiulesti where there are another 470 kilometers.
In the Soviet period, it was a rather conventional border. It was an internal administrative border; it was not marked with any border signs. After 1991 we had to jointly write down the line of this administrative border on the maps- basically to build a new border line, as it should be between two independent states. This process is called delimitation. And this process was not an easy one, lasting for years, since 1995, when the delimitation commission was set up, until 1999, when, as the result of several compromises, the State Border Treaty was signed and was ratified by Parliament in 2001.
Once ratified, the Border Treaty has become a fundamental interstate document, which, moreover, under international law, can not be unilaterally canceled. This is a reality. And all the commitments that we have made under this Treaty are the commitments of the Republic of Moldova, thus are not related to who governs in Chisinau, which alliance or political party colors.
Since 2002 we went to the second phase, namely –demarcation of the border, involving the transfer on the ground and marking of the field line agreed on maps. Border posts were being installed.
Today, the demarcation of the north has been practically completed, except for the hydro station and dam on the river Nistru at Novodnestrovsk or Dnestrovsc, Ocniţa district, Naslavcea. Also in the southern sector demarcation has been almost entirely completed, except for several points still not yet agreed upon, remaining portion of 470 km has been demarcated. But among the most sensitive areas are a remaining portion of a few hundred meters of state border at Giurgiulesti still not demarcated and the crossing point at Palanca. There we have to find compromise solutions and complete the demarcation process, so that - very important – Republic of Moldova should have the confirmation, including by the means of border posts, of its 430 meters access to the Danube stipulated in the Treaty and which is essential for the proper functioning of the port and terminal in Giurgiulesti.
Similarly, we have a problem in Palanca – there is a needed to complete the demarcation process, but also to deliver on the Republic of Moldova’s commitment to transfer into the property of Ukraine not only the asphalt but also the land area of 7.7 kilometers of road (which is a portion of the 300 km road between Odessa and Reni), and also to clarify the situation with the land, which under the Treaty of 2001, should be transferred into the property of Ukraine. Moreover, attention - even those who are trying today to politicize this issue and making all sorts of speculation have already passed the road surface and land pertain to the road into the property of Ukraine in February 2002. Thus, the surface was transferred, yet without transferring also the land from under the road. It may be a more complicated problem to be understood.
But what is important to note is that the issue is being examined in a serious and responsible manner, so as to ensure that the transfer of land into the ownership of Ukraine, which has to be finally undertaken by Moldova in accordance with the border Treaty, does not affect people's lives in Palanca, so that they are able to cross the road in certain equipped places and to cultivate their land that is beyond the road. We are talking about setting pedestrian crossings, some traffic lights, and underground passages. I wonder why this was not done before. We have already initiated contacts in this respect between the respective agencies of the two countries. We consult with citizens of Palanca village. I cannot exclude that we may need to agree on amendments to the intergovernmental agreement on the rules for using the road, so that citizens' interests are fully protected. But as a European state, we must respect our obligations, and that, after solving all the problems to which I referred, we will have to submit the Act of land ownership under this road to Ukraine.
Corneliu RUSNAC: How are things in the third sector of the border, the Transnistrian sector? Did you agree with the Ukrainian side that would start the demarcation process of this segment also?
Andrei Popov: Indeed, we have agreed in principle that it is time to find a practical solution, including the involvement of representatives of the Transnistrian region, particularly representatives of public land registry, in the process of demarcation and, secondly, to involve the Assistance Mission at the Moldovan-Ukrainian border EUBAM in the process of demarcation in the field, so that this process can be conducted in accordance with European standards on the matter and this was also one of the topics under the discussions held in Kiev.
We arrived in Kiev by car, thus we traveled from Platonovo checkpoint towards the modern Odessa-Kiev highway, the point of connection Liuboşevka, those were 90 km of an inconceivable road, from the nineteenth century, full of holes and no street lights ... I will say one thing: for the last years, but particularly during the last decade, not only because of the unsolved Transnistrian conflict, but also because of the inability of the two capital cities - Kiev and Chisinau – to focus on construction, on investment project, we found ourselves in a situation where major highways bypass the Republic of Moldova, instead of Republic of Moldova becoming indeed a transit state, to connect Ukraine with Romania, the East with the West.
Although the flow of goods between Ukraine and Romania is still growing, but the flow starts to go around Republic of Moldova, through the north and through the south, especially after the modern Odessa-Kiev highway was put into service and after they have begun to build some modern roads in the area of Carpathian Mountains - Chernivtsi region, Vinnitsa, where links are made with Romanian Moldova, Republic of Moldova is likely to become a white spot and be susceptible to a by-pass in terms of large flows. And it is very easy to lose the status of transit country and very difficult to regain it. [...]