The former Soviet republic of Moldova has been actively pursuing deeper integration with the European Union. But the ongoing dispute over the breakaway region of Transdniester and the deadlock in Chisinau over electing a president has hindered progress. RFE/RL Moldovan Service correspondent Valentina Ursu spoke with Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski about Moldova's prospects.
RFE/RL: What would you say about Moldova’s progress toward EU integration?
Radoslaw Sikorski: As far as I'm concerned, Moldova is already a success story because you are unequivocal in your desires to get closer to the EU and you're doing what you can to bring it about. You're more advanced than some other countries in creating institutional instruments to take advantage of what Europe has on offer. And I admire your leaders for making a difficult judgment that the best course for Moldova is not to get involved in territorial disputes -- although I know how important the issue is to you -- but to make a success of your country. And don't be discouraged, there is a lot of talk about enlargement fatigue; but if you look at the facts, in the last three months we have admitted one country into the EU -- Croatia -- and another major country -- Serbia -- has become a candidate member.
RFE/RL: Moldova has been without a president for more than two years as no group in parliament has been able to gather the required amounts of votes. Another round is set for March 16. Would the election of a president provide Moldova with more credibility in the eyes of its European partners?
Sikorski: Absolutely, including on vital issues such as [the breakaway Moldovan territory of] Transdniester. For example, when I [ask] our Russian partners -- you know -- 'Why don't we speed up the negotiations?' they say: 'Well, we would like to do that but we don't know who the president will be.' And that gives a reason or an excuse for delaying. So I think it is very important to finally elect the president.
RFE/RL: Formal talks on Moldova's two-decade conflict with the pro-Moscow region of Transdniester took place late last year -- the first such meeting since 2006. A new round of negotiation took place in Dublin in February with an agreement for more meetings. What role could the European Union play to make the Kremlin more cooperative on the Transdniester issue?
Sikorski: We are glad that the talks have resumed and we will continue to raise it with the Russian side. [For us, this is] a test case of the Russian Federation's goodwill in resolving frozen conflicts. And we want to have a strategic dialogue with Russia on vital strategic issues, but we would like to see some progress on Transdniester before that happens.
RFE/RL: This could take a long time…
Sikorski: These frozen conflicts are usually very difficult. The Transniester one, of the ones that we have in Europe -- if you compare it with, say, [the breakaway Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh] or [the breakaway Georgian regions of] Ossetia-Abkhazia between Georgia and Russia -- seems a little less impossible to deal with. But I think you’re right in keeping the issue alive and using the time to make Moldova an attractive country. Because that should in the long term entice the people of Transdniester to want to be a part of your success.