Luxembourg hosted the 9th Meeting of the European Union-Moldova Cooperation Council on June 19, 2007. President Voronin headed the group of Moldovan officials who attended the meeting. Taking part in the event on behalf of E.U. institutions was E.U. Council President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German foreign minister; the High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), Javier Solana, E.U. Council Secretary-General; Benita Ferrero-Waldner, European commissioner for External Relations and European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP); Kalman Mizsei, E.U. special representative for Moldova.
The talks between the sides have generally focussed on two key topics: the implementation of the E.U.-Moldova Action Plan (EUMAP) by Moldova and the Transnistria settlement process. The Transnistrian issue was particularly discussed during a working breakfast that preceded the meeting of the E.U.-Moldova Cooperation Council.
It was earlier speculated in connection with the first topic that the E.U. would criticise much at the Luxembourg meeting how Moldova honours its commitments from EUMAP. However, this hypothesis did not become true. The tonality of talks on implementation of EUMAP was generally moderate.
The presence of Moldovan president at the Luxembourg meeting was reportedly a factor that temperated the critical message of European officials regarding the implementation of EUMAP. In addition, another clear political factor linked to the second topic made the Europeans change the emphases: “the secret deal” between Moldova and Russia regarding the Transnistrian conflict was not confirmed before the meeting of the Cooperation Council and President Voronin persuaded the European side that no agreement can be reached with Russia outside of the Five-Plus-Two negotiation format to make Moldova go another way but towards the E.U.
Although statements by European officials regarding the way Moldova has honoured its commitments from EUMAP were moderate and balanced, the meeting of the E.U.-Moldova Cooperation Council this year was essentially unlike the April 2006 Cooperation Council sitting. The assessment of the EUMAP implementation process was generally positive then, with Moldova being commended repeatedly for its progresses. Neutral and moderate formulations were used, however, this year, and there was no room for praises, with small exceptions.
The E.U. Council official press communique released after the June 2007 E.U.-Moldova Cooperation Council, uses a dry wording: “The EU took the opportunity to stress the need for Moldova to redouble efforts to implement democratic reforms in crucial areas such as respect for human rights, freedom of the media, and respect for the rule of law, including independence of the judiciary. The importance of a transparent business environment and fighting corruption was also underlined” (bold-typed — S.B.). According to the protocol diplomatic language, the “redoubling of efforts” indicates the quite slow pace of reforms and shortcomings in the mentioned areas. The “excellent work” of EUBAM is the only positive aspect mentioned in the press release.
On the other hand, the Moldovan Presidency press releaseRO lays different emphases than the E.U. Council press communique. The former is more positive; it gives an impression that Moldova follows the right way while achieving the EUMAP goals and neglects some problems that the E.U. Council has clearly signalled.
One more detail — comparing the communique by the E.U Council with the ENP Progress Report on Moldova published on December 4, 2006, it may be said that the E.U. did not improve its perceptions concerning the EUMAP implementation process after half a year. This should raise the concern and alert Chisinau, which hopes much to improve its relations with Brussels after February 2008.
The E.U.-Moldova Cooperation Council did not say many things about prospects of relations between Chisinau and Brussels. Simply, Brussels does not know yet how to formulate them. However, it was hinted that everything depends on Moldova. In euphemistical terms, the ball is still in the field of Chisinau.
Moldova needs now the following in relations with Brussels until February 2008: it must be Rapid and Rigorous in accomplishing the EUMAP goals and strictly Respect the rules of the game agreed with the E.U., including on the Transnistrian conflict. There is no room for less “Rs”.