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Interview: Romanian President Says Moldova Should Decide Own Path


Romanian President Traian Basescu

Romanian President Traian Basescu

Romanian President Traian Basescu has reassured Moldova of Bucharest's support for Chisinau's efforts to seek closer ties with the European Union. Basescu made his comments while on a one-day visit to the Moldovan capital, where he also met with officials and discussed current efforts to reach a settlement in the long-running dispute between Moldova and its breakaway Transdniester region. On the eve of his visit to Chisinau, Basescu was interviewed in Bucharest by RFE/RL's Moldovan Service correspondent Sabina Fati.

RFE/RL: A new round of negotiations is currently underway in Vienna between Chisinau and Tiraspol under the 5+2 format [Editors' Note: Transdniester, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the United States and the European Union.] What do you think is the reason why these negotiations have yielded no results after so many years?

Traian Basescu: Because those on whom the result depends do not want to solve the problem or they have a solution which is different from what Chisinau wants -- and Chisinau is the protagonist who has to decide. Neither Russia, nor Ukraine, nor the United States, nor the European Union can decide about Moldova's territorial integrity. Or, Moldova's position has not yet been accepted by all sides.

RFE/RL: On the other hand, Transdniester isn't historically a part of Moldova...

Basescu: I wouldn't dwell on the historical aspect. When Moldova declared independence, Transdniester was a part of it. This is what we are talking about.

RFE/RL: Some experts suggest that Moldova's future would be easier without Transdniester...

Basescu: I am not making judgments about the territory of another state. All I am saying is that once Moldova's independence as a whole was recognized internationally, it should stay so.

RFE/RL: Even in its efforts toward EU integration, Transdniester appears to be a burden for Moldova...

Basescu: Not necessarily. Chisinau has the obligation to fight with diplomatic means for every inch of its land, regardless of the administrative arrangements within the former USSR.

RFE/RL: Transdniester retirees receive their pensions monthly from Moscow, Tiraspol's debts toward Russia have reached some 4 billion euros, and there are more than 20,000 tons of weaponry in this enclave. Why would Russia abandon Transdniester?

Basescu: Out of respect for international law. Whenever you ask a Russian official, regardless of his level, you will be told that Moscow supports Moldova's territorial integrity.

RFE/RL: That's a big difference between words and deeds...
I haven't seen Moldovans with slanted eyes, what business would they have in the Eurasian Union?

Basescu: A consistent one.

RFE/RL: Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin said recently that Moscow will keep troops in Transdniester until a solution is reached in the frozen conflict. Does Romania agree with this decision?

Basescu: Romania has been calling for a long time for the implementation of the decision reached at the OSCE summit in Istanbul in 1999, which provides for the withdrawal of Russia's troops and weapons from the region.

RFE/RL: Not only has this not happened, but Russia has threatened to modernize the military equipment in the region...

Basescu: That's exactly what I was talking about earlier; the difference between words and deeds.

RFE/RL: Could something change for the better?

Basescu: Yes. I believe that Moscow should be reasonable toward Moldova and agree that the decision on the future of this country has to be made in Chisinau. Not in Moscow, not in Brussels, not in Bucharest, and not in Washington.

RFE/RL: Do you have any indication that Moscow could become "reasonable?"

Basescu: No, I don't.

RFE/RL: There is frequent talk in Chisinau these days about a provocative scenario known as the "anti-Vilnius" plan, allegedly put together by Moscow and meant to try and block the signing of the Association Agreement between Moldova and the European Union. Could this plan be successful?

Basescu: Categorically no. The association and free trade agreements are going to be initialed. In Vilnius.

RFE/RL: But not the visa-liberalization agreement?

Basescu: Moldova is quite advanced in that respect, too. Moldova is the success story of the Eastern Partnership.

RFE/RL: Do you think Moldova could potentially integrate into the EU together with Transdniester and with the Russian troops present there?

Basescu: Categorically no. The EU will not repeat the error made with Cyprus [which was admitted into the EU in 2004 in spite of failing to resolve its split with the northern part of the island]. But there is hope that the Transdniester dispute will be resolved and I have no reason to be pessimistic. The integration process will be a long one. I hope that time will be working in Moldova's favor.

RFE/RL: Many Russian-language television channels in Chisinau are currently campaigning heavily for Moldova's becoming part of the Eurasian Union instead of the European Union. What is your opinion about this?

Basescu: I haven't seen Moldovans with slanted eyes, what business would they have in the Eurasian Union? Moldova's citizens are the same as Romania's citizens. They are [living in] two independent countries, but I think that their heart would tell them to return home, in Europe.

RFE/RL: Not in Romania?

Basescu: Europe is Romania's home, too.

RFE/RL: There has been extremely intense activity lately on the triangular route -- Bucharest-Chisinau-Moscow. Nikolai Patrushev, the head of Russia's Security Council, came to Bucharest at the same time as Moldova's Prime Minister Iurie Leanca. CIA director John Brennan flew in to Moscow straight from Bucharest, while Romania's Foreign Minister Titus Corlatean also visited Moscow recently. You are visiting Chisinau. What's behind this flurry of activity?

Basescu: I would talk about Patrushev's visit only. His visit was substantive and extremely important, because it established a channel of cooperation in security issues which pose a risk for both our countries. Asymmetrical threats are as serious for Russia as they are for Romania. I am talking about drug trafficking, human trafficking, terrorist threats, and illegal arms trafficking. Cooperation in this field between Romania and Russia is extremely important.

RFE/RL: Arms are often trafficked through Transdniester...

Basescu: And that's a reason, therefore, [to discuss this].

RFE/RL: Were these the only reasons for Patrushev's visit?

Basescu: These are not unimportant reasons, because cooperation is implemented through important institutions of the Romanian state: through security structures. We also discussed Moldova, of course, and we discussed our countries' interests in the Black Sea region, investment and commerce, and the latter were detailed during our foreign minister's meetings.

RFE/RL: Is there a possibility that Moldova's problems could be resolved through direct negotiations between Romania and Russia?

Basescu: No.

RFE/RL: Would you like to try?

Basescu: No. Romania is represented by the European Union.

RFE/RL: Do you think there is a possibility for Moldova to reunite with Romania in future?

Basescu: My priority is Moldova's becoming a member of the EU. Then, we'll see.

RFE/RL: How long do you foresee this process would take?

Basescu: Ten to twelve years.

RFE/RL: Why are you visiting Chisinau?

Basescu: To continue backing the relationship between the two states, as well as to give a clear message of support for Moldova before the signing of the Vilnius agreements. Moldova has a huge advantage because it has the acquis communautaire [Editors' Note: the body of common EU laws] already translated into Romanian. Therefore Moldova will gain all those years Romania spent translating the acquis.

Translated and edited by RFE/RL's Eugen Tomiuc
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