Moldova's foreign minister discusses Transnistria, relations with Russia and the EU

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Moldova's foreign minister discusses Transnistria, relations with Russia and the EU

Moldova's foreign minister discusses Transnistria, relations with Russia and the EU
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Andrei Stratan is the foreign minister of Moldova, one of Europe’s smallest countries, located between Romania and Ukraine. The former Soviet republic became independent in 1991. In the early 1990s, when the Moldovan region of Transnistria tried to declare independence, over 1,500 people died in fighting. Transnistria remains a source of tension for Moldova and in its relations with Russia. Also a source of instability as the European Union prepares to expand again admitting Romania and Bulgaria.

Moldova has about 4.5 million inhabitants. The official language is Moldovan, but in reality it is Romanian as during the Middle Ages the country formed part of what is today Romania and 65% of the population are ethnic Romanians. Transnistria is populated by a larger proportion of ethnic Russians and Ukrainians and is more heavily industrialised. There are fears in Transnistria that Moldova might look for unification with Romania. EuroNews asked Andrei Stratan about possible solutions to the Transnistria conflict.

EuroNews: “In a referendum some weeks ago the inhabitants of Transnistria voted for the independence of the region, which is considered by authorities there as a prelude to possible unification with Russia. Can this conflict be solved and how?”

Stratan: “There is no question that the conflict can be solved; it has to be solved. This is not only in the interest of the Republic of Moldova but also in the interest of the international community. The international community should help us to solve this problem, to identify the possibilities for the solution of the Transnistrian problem.”

EuroNews: “To what extent are international organisations and the European Union able to help to solve this conflict?”

Stratan: “We are deeply grateful for the constructive position of the European Union concerning this subject and I’d like to emphasise a lot of very important things which have been successfully realized with the assistance of the member states of the EU. I’m referring to the appointed representative of the EU in Moldova responsible for the Transnistrian problem.”

EuroNews: “What kind of role is Russia playing in this conflict?”

Stratan: “Russia’s role is important, as important as the role of the others involved in the negotiation process. And there are a lot of bargaining rounds, different proceedings on a bilateral level, on a trilateral level and on a multilateral level. I’m sorry to say that neither the Republic of Moldova nor our friends have found a way to get swiftly to the territorial reintegration of the Republic of Moldova.”

EuroNews: “How would you describe your country’s actual relations with Russia?”

Stratan: “We are faced with a problem in the economic and commercial field. Since 2005, the Russian Federation has blocked the import of agricultural products and industrial goods produced in the Republic of Moldova. And in March 2006 Russia imposed an embargo on wine products.”

EuroNews: “What is behind this economic dispute?”

Stratan: “There is a similar situation concerning another country. I’m referring to Georgia. The same decisions, the same approach, stopping the import of Georgian goods. At the same time I’d like to mention that we haven’t found a final solution for the import of natural gas from the Russian Federation. The agreement we have signed expires at the end of this year. We are still negotiating on this important matter. It’s a permanent worry for us.”

EuroNews: “On 1st January, Romania will become a member of the European Union. What does this mean for your country, for the Republic of Moldova? Are there risks of a growing gap between Romania and the Republic of Moldova?”

Stratan: “We have a strong conviction that there will not be a big gap between the member states of the European Union and the countries who will become neighbours of the European Union. We will continue collaboration on a multilateral level with the European Union and bilateral collaboration with Romania.”

EuroNews: “In terms of your country’s foreign policies, what direction is the Republic of Moldova going to choose?”

Stratan: “The Republic of Moldova is heading towards the European Union. The main focus of our internal and foreign policies is integration in the European Union. We are creating all the institutions we need, at government level and at state level, to deal with this issue which is very important for Moldova.”

EuroNews: “What are the prospects for integration?”

Stratan: “Our prospects of becoming a member of the European Union do not depend only on the Republic of Moldova. They also depend on the attitude and the constructive position of the European Union, of their member states.”