Wikileaks - CCCLVII

Saturday, 03 September, Year 3 d.Tr. | Author: Mircea Popescu







Classified By: Acting Political Counselor Michael Uyehara for reasons 1 .4(b,d)

1. (SBU) Summary: Ukraine and Romania have enjoyed markedly warmer relations post-Orange Revolution, according to Romanian Embassy counselor Stanciu, with Romanian President Basescu visiting Kiev three times. MFA Romania desk officer Popyk told us three areas continued to be irritants in the bilateral relationship: demarcation of the continental shelf and the associated issue of Zmeiny Island's status, Ukraine's construction of a Danube-Black Sea Canal, and the status of each countries' ethnic minorities in the other country. Both officials, however, downplayed the seriousness of the three issues. While Romania takes an active interest in negotiations to settle the separatist Transnistria region of Moldova, according to Stanciu, Romania was not pushing to have a seat at the negotiating table. Popyk considered Ukraine's participation in the June 5 Black Sea Forum to be an unqualified success. End summary.

2. (U) We met with Romanian Embassy Counselor Romeo Stanciu June 2 and MFA Romania desk officer Serhiy Popyk June 9 to obtain an overview of Ukraine-Romania relations.

Neighbors and Friends
3. (U) Although Ukraine shares a relatively short 375-mile border with Romania, the changing tides and shifting boundary lines of 19th and 20th century European history have created a definite historic link between the two countries. About 150,000 ethnic Romanians are estimated to live in Ukraine, with 114,000 located in Chernivtsi region (oblast), 32,000 resident in Zakarpattiya oblast (both statistics according to the 2001 Ukrainian census) and another significant community located in the southwestern part of Odesa oblast near the Romanian border. Chernivtsi oblast is the northern part of the historic area of Bukovina, which during the period between World Wars One and Two was part of Romania. The Ukrainian Embassy in Bucharest website states that, according to the 2002 national census, 61,400 ethnic Ukrainians live in Romania, although alternative sources claim the Ukrainian community in Romania numbers as much as 200,000. The majority of Ukrainians and Romanian also share the Orthodox Christian faith.

4. (U) In 2005, total trade volume between Ukraine and Romania was U.S. $702 million (representing 3.5 percent of Ukraine's total trade), which was down 97 percent form the $1.38 billion of 2004 (or 3.8 percent of Ukraine's total trade). This strong decline was on the export side. At the same time, Ukraine's imports from Romania increased from a very small base. Ukraine had a $280 million trade surplus with Romania in 2005, down from a $648 million surplus in 2004. In the first three months of 2006, Ukraine's exports to Romania showed a further decline (down 20 percent from the same period a year earlier), while Ukraine's imports from Romania continued to increase steadily. Ukraine's main exports to Romania were principally metal ores and metallic products, such as ferrous alloys, rolled steel, unalloyed steel products, etc., as well as chemical products, coal, coke and semi-coke, and wood. Romania's exports to Ukraine included more manufactured products -- cars, furniture, synthetic threads, machinery and spare parts, paper and cardboard, and chemicals and drugs. According to Romanian statistics, Ukrainians invested almost U.S. $1.5 million into the Romanian economy, placing Ukraine 74th among foreign investors into Romania.

Warm Bilateral Relations
5. (SBU) Stanciu told us that Ukraine-Romania relations had warmed considerably after the 2004 Orange Revolution events brought President Yushchenko to power. Yushchenko wanted to follow a path toward EU and NATO membership already trod successfully by Romania, so Ukraine looked to Romania for advice and support for its European and Euro-Atlantic aspirations. As evidence of the close relationship, Stanciu noted Romanian President Traian Basescu had visited Kiev three times, first to attend Yushchenko's inauguration, a second time to attend the December 1-2, 2005, Community of Democratic Choice Summit, and the last and most recent on an

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official visit February 2-3. President Yushchenko also visited Bucharest April 21-22, 2005 and most recently to attend the June 5-6 Black Sea Forum. During Basescu's official visit, the two presidents signed a protocol formally establishing an interstate commission (the Yushchenko-Basescu commission) to discuss matters of mutual interest. The commission has three committee s: one for regional, European, and Euro-Atlantic security, a second for cooperation in the fields of culture, education, and minorities, and a third for environmental protection and sustainable economic development.

6. (U) Popyk agreed the two countries enjoyed good relations overall, but noted problems still remained over three issues: delimitation of the continental shelf, status of ethnic minorities, and the Danube Delta canal.

Boundary Issues
7. (U) After then-Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma and then-Romanian President Ilion Iliescu signed a treaty June 17, 2003, confirming the land boundaries set by a 1961 treaty between the Soviet Union and Romania, Ukraine and Romania only had demarcation of their respective exclusive economic zones (EEZ) to be settled. The remaining disagreement in calculating the EEZs centers around the status of Zmeiny ("snake" or "serpent" in Russian) Island, with an area of just under a square mile, which Romania however agrees is Ukrainian territory. Romanians argue that Zmeiny Island is not a true island, which would allow it to act as a reference point to set the EEZ, while Ukraine argues the reverse since Zmeiny Island is capable of supporting a population and economic infrastructure. Zmeiny Island, which lies 30 miles offshore from Ukraine and 80 miles from Odesa, reportedly has unproven reserves of 10 million tons of oil and ten billion cubic meters of natural gas offshore.

8. (U) In September 2004, Romania referred the dispute to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) at the Hague for resolution, in accordance with a 1998 agreement with Ukraine that stipulated either country could refer the case to the ICJ if a mutually acceptable solution was not reached in two years. Ukraine lodged a counter-claim against Romania with the ICJ in May 2006. An oral hearing on the case is likely to take place in 2008, with a final judgment sometime in 2009. In the meantime, the two countries resumed bilateral negotiations on the maritime border demarcation in April 2005 that paralleled the court case. Both Stanciu and Popyk took the view that the issue was a technical one to be resolved by experts and one that did not impact on the overall relationship. Both sides appeared willing to accept the results of whichever process ended first. In the meantime, however, Popyk complained Ukraine was prevented from developing Zmeiny Island until the case was settled.

Danube Canal
9. (U) On May 16, 2004, a Ukrainian government contractor began the dredging and related work of the pre-existing Bystroe canal to allow ocean-going vessels access to the Danube river. The shipping through the new Danube-Black Sea shipping canal was intended to allow the Ukrainian government to collect millions of dollars of annual fees currently paid by shipping companies for the use of the Sulina canal located in Romania and to resuscitate Ukrainian Black Sea ports that were closed due to lack of traffic. The canal was ceremonially opened August 26, 2004, after the first stage of work was completed, and traffic began to flow through it.

10. (U) The Ukrainian government started Phase two in October 2004, but then suspended activity within a few weeks. Failure to conduct proper maintenance, winter storms, and spring floods undid much of the earlier dredging by April 2005. The Minister of Transportation state enterprise, Delta Pilot, which is responsible for canal development and maintenance, resumed work on the canal in April-May 2005, then again suspended the work in mid-May. Additional flooding in July and August brought more sediment and returned the Bystroe canal's depth to its measurement before the start of construction, 10.4 feet.

11. (U) The canal project, located in the middle of the Ukrainian part of the ecologically sensitive Danube Delta, which it shares with Romania, ignited stiff opposition from environmental groups. The European Commission and the Romanian, U.S., and other governments joined the protests. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) notes that the Danube Delta, a

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UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1991, is home to 70 percent of the world's white pelicans and half of its pygmy cormorants. Supported by other expert opinion, WWF argues the deepened canal will adversely affect water flow through the Danube Delta, construction activity that disturbs the water will kill fish fry, and removal of sand banks will destroy sensitive habitats.

12. (SBU) Ukraine, however, accuses Romania of mounting its protest for economic reasons and not out of genuine concern for the ecological health of the Danube Delta. The Ukrainian government has resisted considering various alternative approaches raised by the environmental and international communities. In a positive development, the Ministry of Transportation reported in April 2006 that it had begun considering options other than the Bystroe canal to meet Ukrainian transportation needs in the Danube Delta. Since the project is in abeyance, neither Stanciu nor Popyk had much to say on the topic, although Stanciu offered that the Romanian government had the court of world opinion on its side.

Ethnic Communities
13. (U) Although friction over the status of ethnic communities in each country is regularly cited as a constant bilateral irritant, Stanciu and Popyk also did not have much to say on this topic. Popyk argued that, when the Romanian government raised the topic, it was merely trying to protect its flanks against the revanchist claims of the Party of Greater Romania. Stanciu complained mildly about the Romanian government and Romanian ethnic organizations' difficulties in providing Romanian language texts for use in Ukrainian state schools. He said, by law, the Ministry of Education had to review and approve all texts, and sometimes disapproved texts for flimsy reasons. Stanciu noted the requirement was a general one and not on directed only at the ethnic Romanian community. On the other hand, the Romanian government did not impose such a procedure for Ukrainian language texts donated to Romanian schools.

14. (U) Stanciu noted the EU's designation of special cultural zones that straddled both Ukraine and Romania had promoted a wide range of official contacts at the local government level as well as non-governmental interaction. The three regions were the Lower Danube, the Upper Prut, and Carpathians.

15. (SBU) Although provided an opportunity, Stanciu did not push for a greater Romanian role in negotiations over Moldova's separatist Transnistria region. He noted, however, that the Romanian government continued to take a keen interest in Moldova/Transnistria developments and appeared to appreciate our update on the situation. Popyk said Romania had been a negotiating party in the early 1990s in talks to settle the Transnistria issue, but did not figure in the "Yushchenko plan" on Transnistria settlement. He had seen in the media Romania intended to propose its own initiative and would be interested in learning the details, once it was finalized.

Black Sea Forum
16. (U) Popyk said his reading of the Romanian press suggested the Romanian public was divided over whether the Black Sea Forum, held June 5 in Bucharest (ref A), had been a success, with some questioning the U.S. $700,000 cost of the meeting. From Ukraine's perspective, he noted complacently, the Black Sea Forum had been a complete success. President Yushchenko had attended and bolstered Ukraine's status as a regional leader by proposing to initiate "the energy dialogue of three seas" (i.e., Baltic, Black, and Caspian), a new consultative mechanism within the framework of the Community of Democratic Choice. The proposal envisioned bringing together supplier, transporter, and consumer countries in the development of a coordinated regional energy policy, including consideration of energy projects and other aspects of such cooperation. Yushchenko had also made suggestions toward resolution of the so-called "frozen conflicts."

17. (C) Popyk said, in the end, the Black Sea Forum declaration failed to make any reference to the Ukrainian and Georgian Community of Democratic Choice (CDC) initiative, although, at Romanian government insistence, the CDC

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declaration had been modified to refer to the Black Sea Forum. He said the Romanian government had decided not to include the CDC reference in order not to ruffle Russian feathers with the hope that Russian president Putin might be induced to attend. In the end, however, Putin had not attended and, instead of participating, Russia had sent the Russian ambassador to Romania as an observer. (Note: Popyk's description contradicts MFA's earlier claim to us, ref B, that Greek government objections had kept out the CDC reference.)

18. (U) Visit Embassy Kiev's classified website: Taylor

Category: Breaking News
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