Must we choose between gas and the EU?

Published on 17 September 2012 at 13:36

Caught between a desire to join the EU and the need to maintain good relations with Russia, on which it is totally energy-dependent, Moldova faces a cruel dilemma. Moscow is putting increasing pressure on the former Soviet Republic to withdraw from an energy cooperation agreement signed in 2011 with the EU. In exchange, it is proposing a 30% rebate on Russian-supplied gas.

Temptation or coercion? wonders a leader writer in Moldavian daily Jurnal de Chișinău, adding that —

... the crude proposal made by the Russian Federation's Energy Minister Alexander Novak suggests the Russians were in a position of force. [...] Thus the impression that Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat was blackmailed.

In making the proposal, Moscow appears to be pushing Chisinau to turn towards the Eurasian Union promoted by Russian President Vladimir Putin rather than towards the EU. "What is the best way for a country like Moldova to hold talks with a powerful country such as Russia?" questions the Jurnal de Chișinău. Accepting Russia's proposal would lead the country to failure, the paper argues, pointing out that the Ukrainians —

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... have already got caught by ceding Sebastopol, by allowing the Russian military presence in the Crimea. And? They are still desperately moaning that the price of gas is unbearable. [...] On the political scene, a man hanging his head does not inspire pity [...] on the contrary, he inspires aggression because he seems impotent and thus accessible. The same holds true for a state.

It is in this context that 1,000 to 7,000 people demonstrated in Chisinau in favour of a union with Romania, of which Moldavia was a province until 1945. This "myth of the ancient birthright" is competing with two new myths. One concerns a union with Transnistria, a secessionist Russian-speaking territory, and the Eurasian Union dear to Putin. But union with Romania is already a dead issue, says Moldovan daily Timpul, because —

... the perspective of union with Romania is already included in the context of including Moldova in the EU. The union with other Romanians will be thereby accomplished through a unique European dimension.

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