The Czech Republic is a strong supporter of the Moldova’s European integration policy. Consequently, Moldova considers the Czech Republic as being one of the most important partners within the EU. How would you evaluate the current stage of the partnership between our countries? What has been achieved? What are the perspectives of the Moldovan-Czech Cooperation?
Really, even if the bilateral cooperation and partnership between CR and Moldova is clear and is taking on good dynamics the bigger part of the cooperation is now concentrated to the multilateral issues. The Moldova’s integration policy, which is of course fully owned by the Moldova’s authorities, was up to now shaped through the EU – Moldova Action Plan and supported through the projects financed mostly from the EU budget. The Czech delegates participate in and contribute to the work of different bodies and structures in Brussels, which assist to formulate together with Moldovans the programs of cooperation and evaluates the implementation of them. Our motivation for quite strong support of Moldova’s integration policy in Brussels comes from our general attitude and approach to the country which declare and works towards European membership and which needs an assistance as we have needed it some fifteen years ago. The assistance through close mutual cooperation is needed mostly during the period of reforms to enable the country to take on its own responsibility for developments on the higher level and in line with the Europeans rules and values. So, this is our approach to the Eastern dimension of the European neighborhoods policy in which Moldova is in our special focus. But to be able to keep this policy sustainable, in Prague and Brussels we have to demonstrate good outcomes from this policy, which I perceive as our common with Moldavians task. Because of this, and I believe it is our common understanding with our Moldavian partners, I might be sometimes more open when commenting some developments in Moldova related to the EU, than it might be expected from the foreign diplomat.
Once the CR is paying its part to the budget of the EU from which all EU´s projects for development assistance in Moldova and elsewhere are being paid - we contribute thru this channel financially as well. This seemingly anonymous financial channel is sometimes not well perceived by beneficent. When using this money in responsible manner it might be worth to remember that this money is coming not from somewhere, but from our and other European taxpayers pockets.
If we look on the Czech-Moldovan bilateral cooperation in economic and business sphere, we see that it has a large room for further improvement and development. We are not among the most important trade partners each to other. But one could expect more Czech inward investment to Moldova after the business and investment environment is further improved. The Czech business presents and investments in Moldova were really small, almost zero. But recently a Czech – Slovak financial group “G & T” has signed an investment agreement with Moldovan side of the volume of six hundred million euro. A new high-tech power plant on coal will be built in Ungheni, near Rumanian boarder, which will be connected also to the European Union electrical grid. This investment means a good contribution to the Moldova’s energy security.
Such a huge investment, which is almost twice as much in volume as the whole foreign direct investment coming to Moldova in 2007, will change the figures.
But this investment seems to be rather special case. In practice, more important for Moldova would be bigger number of the much smaller investments. I have in mind our experience, when even before our entry to the European Union, there were almost three thousand joint Czech-Austrian ventures in the Czech Republic. So people found their own way how to realize a common interest and this process worked smoothly even without having finished at that time the EU´s framework. So it was more about the will, possibilities, opportunities and their exploitation. Of course, some business conditions must be in place in any case. Safety of the investor’s money must be guarantied in its complexity. Not only banking sector and business legislation but also justice, fair decisions of the particular business disputes by courts and consistent fight against corruption are extremely important in building the investor’s confidence.
In this context it should be mentioned that the EU is a family with relatively tough business rules. But all recognizes them because they do guarantee stability and common trust in the environment through which visible initiative of especially small businesses is generated.
As concerns of the Czech-Moldovan perspectives for cooperation, I see them rather good. To develop them on the rational foots we probably should avoid only so called “political cooperation” and “nice words” and “shaking hands”- of course it is necessary at the beginning, but what is more important is to develop very natural cooperation of two countries: contacts between people and normal business which does not need influence of the State.
The role of the State, and I am representing the State structure, is only to open the door and create conditions for making free and fair business and people to people contacts possible. And if it is done then the responsibility is laying on people and economic agents themselves and not on the State anymore. I believe that we are now moving towards this very moment. I think the bilateral Czech- Moldova’s Commission on economic and technical cooperation, which renewed its work in the previous year, is working in this direction.
Starting with January 1, 2009, the Czech Republic has taken over the EU Presidency. Which are the main priorities of Czech Presidency?
The Czech Presidency, after having worked out the tree-semester framework program together with the previous French Presidency and future Swedish Presidency, has carefully generated and declared three main priorities to pay attention to during its presidency term known as “three e” priorities: economy, energy and European Union in external relations. Looking on the last “e”, the priorities contained in it reads as follows: Euro-Atlantic Partnership, Western Balkans and Eastern Dimension Importance of the Euro-Atlantic Partnership grow even faster in the light of the global developments and search for solution of financial crises. We have deep and long historical relations and contacts with Western Balkan countries. So, we understand them. They have done remarkable progress in the last 10 years and we would like the EU to facilitate further improvement of the situation there. The relations with EU need to be cultivated further. And, the last but not least priority in this set is the Eastern Dimension of the EU neighborhood policy. We believe that it will be developed as a strong part of the last “e” and that relations with Moldova will fill a good place in it.
Looking on the prepared program of activities we see nice and quite actual priorities to be followed. But we should have in mind a question of reality. In the European Union context one could not to draw and do what he or she want, but what one is able to convince about its partners. We must admit that in the current time the room for main steps in all policy’s dimensions seems to be rather limited. For the next half of year or so there are scheduled important events and developments to happen in line with long term calendar of the European Union and which are out of the scope of business of the particular Presidency. However they will influence the life of the European Union as a whole substantially.
First, there are the elections to the European Parliament in June 2009. We could expect that for certain period of time European officials will take care more about the politics than about the current issues. Even in the discussions within member countries one have to expect deeper attention to be paid to the Parliament’s issues than to the substantive ones.. Those issues that need to be confirmed by Parliament might have to wait for the new Parliament.
The second real obstacle to the smooth course of the Czech Presidency emerged in the form of financial crisis that in number of countries transformed itself to the economic recession. It will influence the business performance substantially. We have to expect a lot of discussions in the EU oriented on support of businesses and on creation of new jobs, locally and globally, within the EU and within each and every country. In the context of the economic crises a new round of discussion about the quality of economic competition is to be expected as well. So, people will be evidently concentrated more towards these practical issues than to the priorities the Czech Presidency is trying to promote..
The third issue we have inherited for the Czech Presidency relates to the Lisbon Treaty. It might be finally ratified during the first quarter of the year. Then substantive discussion on its implementation would be necessary. The Lisbon Treaty does for extent introduce new rules for performance of the Presidency of the EU- the function of permanent (for two and half years) chairman of the European Council is introduced A new important post for the permanent representative of the European Union in Foreign Affairs is foreseen. Countries might be interested about appointment of the “Minister of Foreign Affairs “of the EU and how its office is organized, what will be his staff. We have to be prepared that all these discussions will appear immediately if not before the “last ratification” of the Lisbon Treaty. It is up to the particular country to decide whether the Lisbon Treaty is ratified by the Parliament or through referendum. So, there are the three issues with which we have to cope and for which it must be the room in the Presidency agenda regardless the Czech Presidency priorities.
Let me say a few words on Eastern Dimension of the European policy. I believe that the Eastern Dimension in the framework of the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) is becoming to be a more and more important not only because it is a Czech priority but for its nature as a such. Among the EU member states there exists a group of countries promoting this policy. And we have now good chance to shift it a little bit further. The Eastern dimension was partially already on the agenda of the Presidency of France, and it will be also one of the Swedish priorities. There is at least a common sense that the Eastern Dimension of the ENP deserves more attention. Three likeminded countries consecutively holding the EU Presidency, it means - one and half year of disposable time should be enough to start together with our eastern partners something valuable. We very much believe that the important part of our cooperation in the framework of the Eastern Dimension - the Eastern Partnership will be launched during our Presidency.
The importance and usefulness of the new Eastern Partnership format could be demonstrated on the energy security. The “gas crises” which had place at the beginning of the year proved and tested the vulnerability of each single country in the region. EU intends to prepare with potential Eastern Partnership members a quite a large and impressive action plan benefiting from all the synergies stemmed from European Neighborhood Policy as a such and from experience gained in the framework of other regional groups like Black Sea or cooperation in the Northern Dimension.
I think, I could say that everything what now seems to be positive in the EU policy towards Eastern neighborhood countries has appeared on the EU agenda mostly thanks to the newcomers from the last enlargements of the EU. Actually, we do not feel anymore as a newcomer. We are already pretty settled to see what is going on. But we, more than others recognized that the last enlargements of the EU brought a new neighborhood for the European Union mostly in the eastern direction. Up to enlargements the European Union in its convergence and coherent policies was logically oriented more to the South of the EU and the southern neighborhood countries. The main assistance time-proven programs and mechanisms were applied for that region. Now, the EU has a new dimension and the new neighbors with the different issues to be resolved. However, it would not be rational to develop a new mechanism and structures once the well proven already exists not only because it takes time, needs money and people. The European approved approach to cooperation with new partners rests in the modification of the already used mechanisms for the new situation. This is why we do shape the ENP – European Neighborhood Policy, to the more concrete and practical situation in the Eastern Partnership countries. We see them as the group of countries with whom we would like develop mutual cooperation which will be successful and works so smoothly as it is working, for instance the Mediterranean group of countries. Of course, the growing mutual cooperation among the members of the group will be indispensable part of the program.
How important is for the Czech Republic the implementation of the Eastern Partnership? What are the most important priorities and actions in the framework of the afore-mentioned Partnership?
I would a little bit correct the question. As we see it, the Eastern Partnership initiative is a reply of the EU to the aspirations and challenges of the eastern partners who are in the process of the political, social and economic reforms and declared their desire to develop themselves further in close cooperation with EU. Some of them, like Moldova and Ukraine, have expressed their wish to become in the future a member of the EU. The Eastern Partnership is to be perceived as an additional offer from the EU to the relatively new Eastern neighbors for cooperation. So the importance for the Czech Presidency in this period of time is turned to work on the two fronts: inside the EU, trying to convince some of not quit supportive member states that the initiative is strategic one and extremely useful for the EU from the point of view of expanding the zone of stability and prosperity beyond the Eastern boarder of the EU; from the other side - to outstretch the substance of the initiative for the potential eastern partners, supplying them by additional information to give them chance to take their own decision for participation and to communicate back to Commission their remarks and attitudes which should be considered when shaping the final version of the initiative. As you know, the Eastern Partnership initiative was announced on 3 December 2008. The European Commission communicated the text for internal discussion to the Council. The text of the Communication is available on the Commission’s website. So I hope that now the discussion in the different bodies of the EU is going on. We would like to submit the next version of the initiative for confirmation to the March meeting of the European Council. While it will be politically very important document, the final version of it should be signed, perhaps on the Summit meeting, which I believe will take place sometimes in the beginning of May. I am not saying precise the date. Why? - Because this “timetable” was not confirmed by each of every European country yet. In the context of the EU it will be quite impolite to say, or even to impose the dates. We have to respect each and every country wish. So it is difficult sometimes to work in family of 27, but it is necessary. However, the big advantage of such complicated, multilateral preparation of the decisions is that when it is decided, that all 27 Member States do respect the decisions, do implement it. And there is the power in it.
As you may know, we, together with Poland, Sweden, Hungary, Slovakia, The Baltic States and Slovenia are pushing it very hard through the EU structure. Preparing the Eastern Partnership we would like to take lessons from the number of similar initiatives undertaken in the past in which we have taken part. We would like to shape the Eastern Partnership as a concentration of that experience with previous successful initiatives like Vishegrad group of the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary. To put us together at that time needed a lot of efforts and only the further, frank practical cooperation brought the fruits. The situation with the Eastern Partnership might be similar. But one should have in mind that the Summit in May will give us just the political framework for close, concretely oriented cooperation, not exactly what people might thing: “OK, in two years you will get visa free regime and in three years you will be in the European Union”. It is not the style how thinks operate. The correct understanding should be that the Association agreement, the Enhanced agreement, as well as the Eastern Partnership are only providing framework for the opportunity and help to own effort of Moldova and other partners to join the European Union.
Asking me about the main Czech priorities in connection with Eastern Partnership I would say generally –that the main problem would be to improve standards in the partners countries. This is why we are supporting the reforms, development programs of the partner’s countries and cooperation with them and among them on a daily basis and on the horizontal level, not only as a political handshaking but in the form of very practical cooperation. We are convinced that it will help you on your way to the European Union. One must be “ready” to enter. This is not just the cliché! The level of readiness is tested by Members of the EU through number of accession procedures and in the daily practical cooperation. Just one reason why the EU has to avoid the situation, when the newcomer would be not prepared for standing the strong economic competition among economic agents. If they will enter unprepared into the EU and go bankrupt, it will be seen in the new Member Country as a fault of the EU and the EU´s image could suffer.
So, “to be ready,“ means be able to operate according the EU standards in the strong European economic environment and to share the other common values. So, if you are find by the EU that “you are ready” – you will be allowed to enter the club. If you are not ready, no political decision on any level, no intensive lobbying will help you. As I said it can be disastrous if the country is not prepared and joint the EU, then the impact of all those rules and practices is huge. It would be really very difficult for such a newcomer to survive the shock from accession if you have no standards in order. From the Czech experience I became convinced that this tough requirements of the European Union to each and every country is necessary. It is a guaranty for safety of our businesses, and even the guaranty for safety of our human rights. Saying that, I believe it is clear that you can not allow destroying standards by making compromises – this is the main problem which everybody should understand and its activities should be aimed at helping to be in line with this requirement.
The feeling is that Moldova is not completely satisfied with the Eastern Partnership Initiative as it was announced. Can the EU give more to Moldova and Ukraine in the current context?
Really, such a feeling could have been observed at the very beginning of the discussion about the European Partnership initiative. Perhaps it was based on the self-assessment of the progress that Moldova has showed during the realization of the EU-MD Action Plan. Moldavian colleagues have asked us why the country is suggested to be a part of such a group of different countries with different ambitions towards the cooperation with EU, etc. Yes, the progress achieved in Moldova is remarkable, but the distance was also huge; I believe that this is a common understanding now that not all standards I mentioned above are on the level which will allow Moldova already now jump into the EU in one stroke. So, it was jointly found that the Eastern Partnership, being based on the European Neighborhood Policy with bilateral and multilateral measures for enhanced cooperation might be useful. More over, the partners are expecting to become closer to the EU depending on their individual capabilities and timeframe. Eastern partners will together cooperate more on issues related to the EU.
I would like to return to the second part of your question on weather the EU can give more to Moldova and Ukraine in the current context. Let us examine what EU is giving to the Moldova now in the light of Kennedy’s saying: “Don’t ask what the country can do for you, but ask yourself what you can do for the country.” And this is appropriate towards the European Union as well. EU is supporting Moldova politically, but also financially in development aid and cooperation. As concerns financial support it would be worth to mention that Moldova receives resources on the same level like EU candidate countries do. So, you see the treatment of Moldova is not at all discriminatory. I am not speaking about the impact of Autonomous Trade Preferences; they are only a part of all supportive atmosphere the EU is trying to create for Moldova. Just to understand, the financial support EU for development is provided on the principle of solidarity and money comes from the budget of the EU i.e. from our pockets. It is mostly up to the Moldova Government how country is using it, and whether it is used in an appropriate manner.
Turning to the legal framework of the cooperation with which Moldova is also not quit satisfied when saying for example that PCA agreement signet ten years ago is now old fashioned and deserve to be refurbished, I would like to mention that for Czech Republic, the text of Czech Association Agreement was almost identical to the text of Moldova’s PCA Agreements. There were very minor differences that do not make sense for their implementation. At that time we took the agreements it was and have used it along our way into the European Union. We simply took this suggested opportunity. It seemed to as that for Moldova with the above-mentioned support, it should be even easier to proceed forward. I am convinced that the legal framework does not hinder the progress towards the EU, the progress depends more on the consistent implementation and developments which is in the competence of the country itself.
Going back to the European Partnership, I believe that those fears come from a lack of experience and information about how the European Union works. If they are oriented only on the relations Moldova and EU, they got only limited picture. We should have in mind that the EU has relatively broad cooperation with a lot of other development partners in the world be it in Asia, Pacific, South America, Africa, with Palestine, with Arabic States. To manage this effectively, the European Union has to operate in the certain frameworks. Eastern Partnership is one of such frameworks - it provides for a tailor-make proposal for cooperation with each and every country. But synergy consisting in the cooperation among the partners when solving common problems is essential even if individual approach is needed.. Take for example a corruption, undeveloped local administration. Why not to use the same mechanism for those countries and apply it individually, in particular country? So, I believe there is nothing common in the Eastern Partnership with putting you into one basket with those who for you seems to be undeveloped, in the sense of the European integration. But these countries that have even not expressed they wish to be a member of the European Union need anyway to improve the standards.
Would the relations with Russia be a priority for the EU Czech Presidency? What would be the main objectives of the EU Czech Presidency vis-à-vis Russia, especially in the context of the recent Georgian War, continuing tensions over US plans to install some elements of its anti-missile shield in Czech Republic and in Poland, as well as taking in account the upcoming new Administration in Washington?
For Europe is Russia a strategic partner for number of reasons and not only because of the gas. It is a country, a capable country with a lot of nice people and we have to cooperate no doubt about that, as concerns business, as concerns energy security. In this crisis it was more and more visible, that Russia needs a reliable partner for selling the energy. The Europe can guarantee the demand at appropriate price, so I hope that the partnership will tend to be more and more responsible and reliable from the both sides. However, I do not think that crises with Georgia have changing our feelings towards Russia so much. The Georgia crises has changed more the perception of Russia within other countries. We knew from our analysis what development could be expected. What has happened was one of the worst possible scenarios. Of course a better scenario exists as well. However, it has happened and now everybody knows with whom we are to do the business. I am afraid the cost for Russia will be high. It was their decision, we are not happy of that, and we still as the European Union and as the Czech Republic will insist on the integrity of the Georgian territory.
I believe that to perform the Presidency in relations to the Russia will be not so difficult. The only problem would be that Russia is seeking only the equal partners for discussion as they can understand. So, for them, in some circumstances, a little bit smaller Czech Republic might be even as a Presidency of the EU not perceived as relevant partner. But let’s see, may be the situation will change. The talks during the gas crises showed that they could accept even small country as a speaker of the EU.
As far as missile defense developments are concern, the Russian’s rhetoric is exaggerated and oriented on the negative “PR” only. The missile defense is not turned against them at all. It becomes clear if we look on the practical side of the project. The missile defense should consists of one radar situated in the Czech Republic plus some ten or may be twelve missiles located in one silos in Poland. Today there is no a missile in the hands of some rogue state of such a range which can hit Europe or United States, but in few years the situation could change. However we have to be prepared. These missiles in Poland are expected to be without any warheads (“boegolovka” in Russian), they will not be equipped by any biological or nuclear ammunition. We are speaking about ten or twelve missiles compared with hundreds of Russian missiles. It is clear that it is incomparable and that it can not be oriented against Russia. Russian side knows that when saying: “We have much better missiles and they cannot be hit by that system”. So, why there is so much rumor about that. Perhaps this is for domestic political reasons. I would expect that Russians should understand that they are in the same danger. And it is better to cooperate with us instead of misuse this issue.
I believe we are now with Russians moving to better understanding what the partnership means. Partnership does not mean the identical opinion on each issues, but respect for another view towards more or less common issues and work towards the common interest. So, I believe that even during the Czech Presidency problems will be approached without main difficulties.
So far, the official Chisinau has not reacted in any way with regard to the European Commission Communication on Eastern Partnership. The silence could be interpreted as a sign of frustration related to the fact that the Moldovan authorities have wanted more than a Partnership with the EU, hoping to be given a clear perspective of integration into the EU. Can Brussels offer, at this time, more to Chisinau, as well as to Kiev?
As I already mention when answering your question on substance of the EaP, the Partnership does not include the perspective of the membership. It is oriented on deepening of the cooperation through which the partners could prepare themselves even for the membership in the EU. In the framework of the EaP the negotiation of the new contractual relations is foreseen and association agreements will be negotiated with those partners that are willing and able (I do emphasize the last word) to take on the far-reaching commitments resulting from the association to the EU. So, the perspective of the membership might be fixed in the Enhanced (or association) agreement, mandate for negotiation of which is currently discussed among the EU member states. I could only promise that the Czech Presidency will really push the discussion about both agreements with Moldova forward. But I frankly do not believe that the agreements of the second type with all partners will be named as”Association Agreement”. It could be on the request of the partner country that after analyzing the level of the commitments required might recognized that additional time for close cooperation with EU is still needed. Or, the country will be not offered by such a demanding agreement from the EU side (for the reason why, please see one of my previous answer).
In addition I would like to mention, that the Enhanced (association) agreement’s essential elements will be constituted of the common values like respect for democratic principles, human rights and fundamental freedoms. Possibility of unilateral suspension of the agreement will be provided to react on the events of infringement of these principles. Such a clause was present in the pre-accession agreements of all previous candidate countries. It should be remembered that all these elements are perfectly concentrated in the life of the society during the election time. This is why Europeans keep repeating to the Moldovan authorities the importance to pass the election period demonstrating how all this values are respected in your country. As it is known, the European ambassadors were received by Mr. President V. Voronin just before the New Year to point out, among other discussed issues, on some of the pre-elections observations which should not happen if the elections should be declared as free and fair according the European standards. And we (please understand Europeans and Moldovan) need to have them free and fair. I will pave the shortest way to the mandate and agreements on the best possible level. It is good for the sake of Moldova for the future, if Moldova will keep working to have a European future.
Could you tell us more about the future substance of the next agreement between the EU and Moldova?
The mandate for the European Commission, who will be responsible for the negotiation from the EU side, is in preparation, but it is clear that the new agreement will take care about all aspects of the cooperation between EU and Moldova. Substantive part will be devoted to the establishing between the EU and Moldova of the deep free trade area which will stimulate Moldova to reach the parameters of the economy and its product necessary for the common European market, and so on. While the Eastern Partnership will be more concrete, the enhanced (association) agreement will provide also for policy framework of the cooperation. The room for the clause on ultimate goal of the Moldova – the EU membership will also be in this agreement.
There are some unofficial signals that the COEST, at the level of political directors, has recommended to postpone mandating the European Commission to start the negotiations with the Moldova on the next Cooperation Agreement, as long as the PROTV case is not satisfactory resolved. Could you please comment on that issue?
I do not know anything about such a decision of COEST. So, I am not able to confirm it, or to deny it. According to my opinion the working group COEST as such will never take decision like that. But your question evokes me for deliberation. I could imagine that well informed delegate of some member state could come, in connection with discussion on the mandate for negotiation of the new agreement, with general questions regarding the country’s in question ability to obey rules, to react on neglect different indications from the Council of Europe, from European Commissioners and from representatives of the EU states accredited in the country. The EU is a body that has the common feeling based on the observations, not only on the official declarations, a body who’s attitude is formed through discussions with NGO´s as well as on the basis of official briefings of number of people. In case of Moldova we are speaking about at least ten ambassadors of EU member states. Of course, one opinion could be based on incorrect information. But working in teem and having in disposal also analyses of specialized organizations whose task is to evaluate for example the freedom of press or level of democracy in different countries, you can’t be so mistaken and you got a quite good picture about the like-mindness of the country. Such a delegate could easily ask about compatibility such a country with association agreement with EU.
I should not declare it too frequently, but we would like really to be viewed as friends of Moldova who are step by step pushing Moldova to the European Union even if some member states might be of the different opinion. Truth, there are steps, which are not helpful in that, usually they are used by politicians for their pre-election campaign, but according to our opinion they are very irrational. And in this effort we need mutual understanding and visible assistance from the other side. The case of license of PRO TV channel and others just three months before elections was very unfortunate and viewed in the context of other “events” like” discussion about the double citizenship, discussion about electoral blocks, adoption of 6% threshold indicated that some adjustment of the political environment is going on which casts the shadow on the democratic development in the country. Even if the authorities were acting “according to the law” one must ask himself whether it really was in favor of democracy. It might be rather characterized like “classical use of administrative assets”.
Why the free and fair parliamentarian elections in Moldova are so important for the EU?
Free and fair elections are indispensable part of the democracy. As I already mentioned, during the pre-election campaign and during the Election Day itself all fairness of the political fight, all democratic or undemocratic elements of the political environment in the country become visible in its concentrated form. One could easily observe whether the country, aspiring on the EU membership tends to be “likeminded” or not. And “likemindness”, acceptance of common democratic values together with acceptance of the market principles in economic life are the two main criterions (sometimes called as Copenhagen criteria) which has EU specified in the middle of the ninetieths when process of enlargement of the EU has started. Saying that I believe it became more understandable why the free and fair elections are so important for the quality of the further process of cooperation of the EU with Moldova. So, should not your question be put in the inverse way? Free and fair elections are much more important for Moldova because this is the very moment to demonstrate that Moldova is coping with Europeans standards. I would like to turn your attention to a list of requirements (for free and fair elections) that you can see on the OSCE web site.
Free and fair elections in Moldova are equally important for Europe because we need a stable partner. And you cannot have a good economy, good foreign investment, and good local investment without democracy, without respecting the standards. It is incompatible. The link between the two is sometimes not visible but freedom facilitates to make standards tougher, according clear rules. In democratic environment it is the basis for cooperation, for respecting each and every people, for social life, for business, as well as for security.
Moldovan authorities always declare that the development of good relations with neighbour countries is a major priority for Moldova’s foreign policy. How would you assess the present stage of Moldova’s relations with Ukraine and Romania? What are the advantages and opportunities Moldova should exploit in this context? How do you explain the tensions between Moldova and Romania which is a member of the EU?
You know I am not here as a political analyst, I am speaking as ambassador. So, I am rather limited in my possibilities to say “why”. But what I have to say is that it is a duty for each establishment of each country to make relationships with neighbors as best as possible. It is not sometimes easy. For instance, we had decades lasting problem with Germans, historical burden which had happened during the World War II and was even enforced after the World War II.
We felt that it was a latent problem, which would appear as a real one in the moment of joining the European structures. After the break of “iron curtain” the Czech and German elites knew that it must be settled as soon as possible, because we are neighbors and the open or latent problem in relations could block the potential of possible cooperation. For a long period of time the sensitive issues were hidden or swept under the carpet. But it was a general feeling and desire for making relations with Germany as clean as possible. After three years lasting discussions in groups on different topics and levels (scientists, historians, governments) a very good “German-Czech Declaration on mutual relations and their future development” was signed in January 1997. It covers the all complicated issues in mutually acceptable language admitting that the wrongs and injuries had taken place in the past but this is the time to work for the future.
Similarly the dispute with Austria about their tough position to nuclear energy was, at least for certain period of time, resolved through discussions and negotiations. We built two nuclear power plants near their boarders (best location from the point of seismicity). Mutually acceptable exit has been found and resulted in “the Melk agreement” (signed in town of Melk in Austria). Of course, some issues about the supervision on the security remained, but we are trying not to hide them, to keep them transparent and to discuss them openly.
As best as possible relations with neighbors is the duty of each Government, and not only for bilateral relations, but because at least the standard relations with neighbors are precondition for exploiting the potential of the regional cooperation on which the European Union is build. Through the regional cooperation additional synergy is developed in practice and problems, solution of which needs participation of two or more partners, up to now divided by the border of states, become easily overcame. We have some regions where even three countries interests are overlapping (CZ, DE, PL; CZ, DE, AT). On the level of the governments of the regions the environmental issues are discussed, small traffic across the boarder helps to develop a small business, people to people contacts make the life more interesting and bring money, mutual confidence among the concrete people growth to the confidence between the states, and so on. This approach keeps in itself very positive capacity and helped a lot in overcoming consequences of decades lasting iron curtain. By the way, the same situation has developed with Slovakia. You know that relationship of the CR with Slovakia is excellent, people do evaluate it as the best in history at all. We have no problems with Poland. I am happy to mention that generally our relations with all neighbor states are of the very high standards. One should have in mind that big number of the problems is resolvable on the (lower) technical level. On the upper – political level should be discussed only issues, which can’t be resolve on the practical level (this is the EU´s principle of subsidiarity – very effective one generating the initiative from down to top). If the governments can’t for some reason make regime around the boarder liberal, it could be made regulated for extent by some kind of agreement on small boarder traffic and look how it will work.
I would allow myself to comment only one practical case which needs according to my view the urgent cooperation of Moldova with its neighbors. As the floods in summer of the 2008 showed, the regulations on both rivers Prut and Dnester is not prepared for such a masses of water, which had to pass through. Moreover it took a few days until the appropriate authorities from both banks of the rivers started to communicate (I am leaving aside the communication with Transniestrien administration). I think this is excellent case from which practical cooperation in the framework of the regional policy might start.
Do you think Moldova really needs a Convention on small border traffic with the Romania?
I have mentioned that as a part of good relationship, you know that from European side there is no hesitation and from the side of Romania as well. They are eager to do it so. And it is in the interest of Moldovans.
Do you see in the near future any premises for reaching a lasting political settlement for the Transnistrian conflict that would be equitable to Moldova? What should be the main prerequisites for attaining a future settlement?
Actually, what I can see now even after some revitalization of the work in the negotiating formats is, frankly speaking, not so optimistic, as it had been a year and half ago, when something like new round of negotiations or discussions started. The conflict is artificial, and is kept frozen. Facilitators and observers are trying to play their role.
Nevertheless, I don’t believe, in a foreseeable future, in some big breakthrough. Not only Transnistria and Moldova could prepare it. There are some other players from outside whose influence is even stronger that that of negotiating parties. Some analysis of the issue show that there is a reason (of somebody) for keeping the situation as it is for as long as possible. So, under such circumstances it is difficult to predict any positive developments.
Neither internal development in Transnistria can help. First such an issue is extreme lack of democracy. Natural mechanisms are not working there. Secondly, in such a type of regime, where the brain-washing is prevailing, it is really difficult to discuss things and the reasons which are behind them. As I know opposition almost does not exist there and it is really difficult to expect development of the possibilities for democratic decision making. So called referendum and actions like they were democratic cannot be accepted.
I think, we should concentrate on issues which right-bank part of Moldova could realize alone and which might change the life even if the conflict settlement will be discussed further and which could influence the situation at the negotiating table. We are discussing those things in a very frank and open manner with Moldova.
Another issue which would influence the atmosphere for settlement of the conflict is the stage of Moldovan European integration. If the “right-bank Moldova” were prepared for close cooperation with EU or even ready to enter it, then you will be more attractive for Transnistria. People from there will probably have more interest on having Moldovan passports and will show more interest for reintegration. Moldova should give more information to Transnistrians, to help them to understand better the situation here.
I believe, that there is no democracy in Transnistria now. But isn’t it our duty to help people, to educate them how they can, for example, establish NGOs, how they can run the NGOs (I am not speaking about any politically oriented NGO). But it can be NGO which is taking care about elderly people, about invalids, about mentally ill people or former prisoners; it can be strictly social nonpolitical effort. But it is what makes democracy growing from the grassroots. It will help Transnistrians in their rights, so it is nothing to do in this any war, it is only positive.
On the other hand, if democracy appears sometimes, then these people will be ready. At least they will know how to negotiate, how to discuss things. It is the main problem here in this post-soviet territory. The people are not able to discuss things; they are not able to communicate. There is only the style of “zero sum game”, it means – or you are a winner and I will be killed, or I will win and I will kill you.
But democracies do not work this way and, especially, the European Union is a question mostly of consensus. We are trying to find the best common solution. So, it is a win-win solution. And I believe that it will come, not soon, but it works at least it is visible that there is difference between those countries who support this power position and power behavior even in discussion. It means “I am stronger and you have to listen”, but it is not the way to follow. I believe that it is the future for those countries as well to understand that even one person is not lost and even one person should be respected and can have a good argument and a good position. It is about the individuality and respect to each and every person.
What kind of instruments does the EU have for reducing its energy dependency on Russia, as well as to increase the energy security of our region?
It is difficult to make some new structures which can make these regions safer. What is necessary – is a good partnership between both sides, to establish as transparent as possible relationship, where both sides are interested to use it. For one side it could be “okay, I will get the gas I need”, the other side “okay, I am satisfied with the price you are paying to me.” If the price is much lower, there must be some political advantage for those who are giving those lower prices. Yes, they can pay for something through that, it is up to them. But then the relationship is not so much about normal business and market economy not about energy security, but it is about something else. And those political things are usually difficult to evaluate and they are not so reliable.
I believe that Russia will understand that reasonable partnership is the best way for them, as well as for us, to guarantee both sides good survival. Otherwise, you can see the effects of this crisis, you can evaluate the effects of previous oil and gas crises. Yes, there are some advantages to have high price of oil and gas. But immediately, there is a feed-back and it will come in mid term that new technologies are building, new cars and then the demand is changing. I believe that normal behavior, the most stable behavior in the sense is the best for both sides. And the reality we can improve in a near future for instance via construction of an independent electricity power plant in Ungheni (private Czech investment), which is going to be built exactly for the energy safety of Moldova, using coal and coal you have from Ukraine, from Russia or from Malaysia etc. It is easier and it is a guarantee at least for some energy independence, not relying on the one source. So, it is a good point.