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Following Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin's interview with RFE/RL on 8 February --> /featuresarticle/2005/2/E806C5A9-F031-4688-9332-875806C4ABDD.html , RFE/RL's Romania-Moldova Service interviewed members of the Moldovan opposition for their response to the interview. Though Voronin primarily discussed Moldova's foreign policy, this is a major issue in Moldova's upcoming parliamentary elections set for 6 March.
[In response to question on relations with Romania:]
Oazu Nantoi of the Social Democratic Party of Moldova: In order to improve relations [with Romania], a treaty should be signed, which should make reference also to a strategic partnership between Romania and Moldova in the European integration process and relations between the two countries should be normalized in line with European standards. Cross-border cooperation should be encouraged in line with European politics and the situation should be created in which relations between the two states are similar to relations between those countries that already are members of the European Union -- that is to say, where borders exist on the map but where they do not disappear for people, where they are no hindrance to developing economic, cultural, and interpersonal relations. In this particular case, the ongoing positive changes can hardly be considered as being the merit of the Chisinau leadership, they are rather the result of a change of position imposed [on Moldova] and not one willed and consciously pursued.
RFE/RL's Vitalie Dogaru: In a situation where much is to be achieved in relations with the neighbor across the Prut River, what does the Social Democratic Party propose for relations with Ukraine?
Nantoi: Ukraine is a state that is extremely important for Moldova for several reasons: it may decisively influence the solution of the Transdniester conflict; one must also take into consideration the fact that Moldovan exports transit Ukrainian territory on their way to Russian markets; and one should not forget that a Moldovan-Romanian diaspora of some 400,000 citizens live on Ukraine's territory -- this is a group that under normal circumstances should benefit in Ukraine from the same rights from which Ukrainians benefit on Moldovan territory.
The Social Democratic Party believes relations between Moldova and Ukraine must be achieved first of all with the close participation of the European Union. To be more precise, this close relationship with the European Union should be the guarantee for the implementation of European standards in Moldovan-Ukrainian relations, above all for ensuring that Ukraine embrace a European position vis-a-vis the Transdniester conflict and towards the problem of securing those over 400 kilometer-long segments of the border with Ukraine that are in Transdniester.
RFE/RL: What is the role of the Russian Federation in the Moldovan Republic's foreign affairs?
Nantoi: The Russian role in Moldova's foreign affairs is determined by the weakness and the inconsistent position of the Moldovan Republic's leadership from the days...of independence to current times. The Russian Federation behaved as it did and behaves as it does because it was, and is, allowed to behave so. And yet there is an example that shows that things might be different -- relations between Russia and the Baltic states, which are mutually advantageous, but do not involve a situation of political protectorate [as is the case of Moldova].
RFE/RL: How might such a situation emerge?
Nantoi: This necessitates achieving a multidimensional scenario. First, it requires Moldova's active participation in international structures, such as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, the [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] OSCE, a clear and secure perspective for joining the European Union, while at the same time having a clear and firm policy in our relations with the Russian Federation and the obligations it has failed to meet in the past, the illegal presence of Russian troops, their attitude in the Transdniester conflict, as well as the five-sided format of the negotiations which needs to be radically changed, etc.
Stefan Secareanu, deputy chairman of the Popular Party Christian Democratic: Russia is a state just like any other, and we should have relations with it based on mutual benefit, without any Russian involvement in our internal affairs and above all in efforts to bring about a durable and equitable solution of the Transdniester conflict, because in this conflict Russia cannot be ignored, but...we shall never stop demanding [Russia] unconditionally withdraw its troops from the Moldovan Republic's territories and respect international agreements with regard to this problem.
RFE/RL's Radu Benea: But then, what should Moldova's relation with Ukraine be, since many things concerning the solution of that conflict depend on this country?
Secareanu: Ukraine is the partner with whom we can resolve this conflict first, because a few notable actions undertaken by its new leadership have already taken place; these actions should have been carried out by previous [Ukrainian] governments, but were not, because those governments acted hand-in-hand with [Transdniestrian leader Igor] Smirnov; and Ukraine is the partner with whom we can somehow lock the eastern border of the Moldovan Republic. I have in mind above all those joint [Ukrainian-Moldovan] customs points, which would enable us to stop the smuggling in that territory controlled by Smirnov; any smuggling -- of money, of wares, of weapons, drugs, and so on, so that we become able to implement in that territory the "three Ds" plan [Demilitarization, Decriminalization, and Democratization].
RFE/RL: What about economic relations with Russia and Ukraine?
Secareanu: Economic relations should be based on what economic relations among independent states are always based on -- mutually beneficial relations, as transparent as possible with every economic entity from these countries which is ready to respect Moldovan legislation, because economic relations with any state is above all beneficial for economic development and for the economic reforms that must happen in Moldova.
RFE/RL: And how does your party see relations with Romania?
Secareanu: Romania is the country with which we must build a strategic partnership...before Moldova's accession of the EU. We can walk into Europe only via Romania, therefore our relations should be brotherly and good-neighborly relations. And taking into consideration that Romania is one of the Moldovan Republic's advocates in Europe in our progress towards European structures, the leadership of the Moldovan Republic must be the one to radically restructure its attitude toward that country and to take jointly with it energetic and efficient measures in that direction. With Romania, we can walk into NATO, with Romania we can walk into the EU. We must be countries acknowledging that we have the same history, the same language, the same traditions, and that consequently we must walk hand in hand in the direction of the civilized world.
RFE/RL's Valeriu Catser: How does the Democratic Moldova bloc see relations with Russia, should it win the 6 March elections?
Serafim Urechean, Chisinau mayor and Democratic Moldova Bloc leader: Relations with Russia are relations of a bilateral partnership, it is very important to have Russia as an ally in solving the Transdniestrian dispute, because we cannot deny and we do not have the right to deny Russia's current influence over this region of the Moldovan Republic; it is also undeniable that the [only] real possibilities to resolve the Transdniester conflict are jointly with Russia, within that formula proposed by the Democratic Moldova Bloc that would include in the negotiations the European Union, the United States, and Romania. Just as later this formula, this proposal by the Democratic Moldova Bloc, was taken over by the Party of Communist.
RFE/RL: What place does Ukraine have in this formula and in general in the Democratic Moldova Bloc's foreign-policy strategy?
Urechean: Ukraine's place is at the front. Ukraine is our eastern neighbor, it is very important to have it as a partner and to have developed bilateral relations with it, because many of our problems are of a common nature, particularly at the Moldova-Ukraine border, and it goes without saying that solving the situation at the borders depends in great part on Moldovan-Ukrainian bilateral relations. In the last four years, these relations were badly deteriorated by the Communist government in Moldova and personally by [President Vladimir] Voronin, who has worsened relations with both Russia and Ukraine -- and not only with them, but also with our neighbors and brothers, the Romanians.
RFE/RL: Just in this context, how does the Democratic Moldova Bloc see the future of relations with Romania?
Urechean: We see these relations as good, brotherly, because Romania would become our chief advocate in the process of integration in the European Union. We have a lot in common with Romania, we stem from the same mother; although we are nowadays two different countries, states, our relations cannot be but brotherly, and Romania is a neighboring state with which we share the same culture and traditions. Relations should therefore be the best of the best.