137573 1/16/2008 16:07 08BUCHAREST35 Embassy Bucharest CONFIDENTIAL VZCZCXRO3978 RR RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHROV RUEHSR DE RUEHBM #0035/01 0161607 ZNY CCCCC ZZH R 161607Z JAN 08 FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 7779 INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 BUCHAREST 000035
STATE FOR NCE JENSEN
E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/06/2018 TAGS: PREL, RO, MO SUBJECT: A VIEW FROM BUCHAREST: ROMANIA AND MOLDOVA
REF: 07 CHISINAU 1505
Classified By: Deputy Chief of Mission Mark A. Taplin; Reasons 1.4(b) a nd (d).
1. (C) Summary: Calling Moldova a "geopolitical riddle," MFA Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia Amb. Gheorghe Magheru told Emboffs on January 10 that Romania is taking the long view in its relationship with its Moldovan neighbors. Despite a partly successful effort in 2007 by Romania's foreign policy professionals not to respond to provocative statements by President Voronin and other Moldovan officials, the year ended in a series of tit-for-tat diplomatic nastiness. Magheru described the various complications of dealing with Chisinau, ascribing many of the complications in the bilateral relationship to Russian interference. He predicted that President Voronin would continue to use Romania as a political punching bag, and noted the stylistic difficulties in trying to reach agreement on the bilateral arrangement between the two states. With the dialogue between Bucharest and Moldova focused on questions of national identity, and electoral contests looming in both countries, we should not expect any major breakthroughs in the Romanian-Moldovan relationship in 2008. End Summary.
2. (C) Romania's complicated relations with Moldova were typified by a year-end fiasco that left Moldovan Foreign Minister Stratan fuming that his Romanian counterpart failed to request a bilateral meeting on when he visited Chisinau December 21 to open a new Romanian consulate (reftel). One local headline read: "Bucharest Again Irritates Chisinau." Although Foreign Minister Cioroianu told the press that he was "open to any meeting" with his Moldovan counterpart, the degree of mistrust demonstrated by both sides in the days before Cioroianu's hastily organized trip was palpable. Just before leaving Bucharest, Cioroianu met with two staff members from the Romanian Embassy in Moldova who had been declared "persona non grata" earlier last month. The official Romanian line was that the Moldovan government's actions would not change Romania's policy, and that there would be no retaliation from the Romanian side. But experienced diplomats within the Foreign Ministry and in the two palaces questioned whether the Foreign Minister's trip was handled appropriately or in the best interest of calming the waters between the two capitals.
3. (C) In some respects, Romania's approach to managing its relationship with Moldova in 2007 had demonstrated new maturity on the part of Bucharest, especially following President Basescu's public ruminations in 2006 about the prospect of Romania and Moldova uniting, at some point in the future, as fellow members of the European Union. Officials at the Foreign Ministry and at the Presidency were intent on turning the other cheek to a series of provocative statements and moves from President Voronin and other senior Moldovan officials; despite their evident frustration, they said they were determined not to respond, and to work for a better bilateral relationship once Voronin moved off the political scene. But by the end of the year, following the expulsion of two Romanian Embassy officials in Chisinau for "inappropriate conduct," tempers were beginning to fray. At a December 18 meeting of the Supreme Council for National Defense (CSAT), both President Basescu and Prime Minister Tariceanu expressed their disappointment in moderate enough terms, noting that Romania would continue to maintain an "open" policy intended "to help Moldova qualify someday for EU accession." The MFA response was that the expulsion would be addressed in a "responsible, transparent, and European manner, in the interest of the citizens of both states. Romania will continue to promote the European destiny of the citizens of the Republic of Moldova." Yet shortly thereafter, Basescu announced he would seek a joint session of Parliament to condemn the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and to launch a special commission -- comparable to the Tismaneanu commission on Romania's communist past -- which would examine the Treaty's "impact." Clearly, such an exercise would only serve to set Bucharest's insecure neighbor even more on edge about Romania's commitment to Moldova's statehood and territorial integrity.
4. (C) In a January 10 discussion with Charge and Polcons, incoming MFA Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia Gheorghe Magheru called Moldova one of the remaining post-Cold War "geopolitical riddles," which required Romania to take the long view in dealing with its neighbor. Ambassador Magheru noted that--depending on one's perspective--the common cultural background between Romania and Moldova either "simplified or immensely complicated" the issue. Despite what he described as a decades-long effort by the Russians to eradicate Romanian culture in Moldova, the common cultural characteristics persisted as evidenced by the
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Moldovans' overnight switch from the Cyrillic to the Roman alphabet in 1991. Magheru opined that the persistence of a fundamentally Romanian culture and the gravitational attraction of the European Union over the long run would drive a process where Moldova eventually became the "eastern shore" of the West, especially if the Moldovans were given the chance to create a political system that allowed them full play of their democratic options.
5. (C) Magheru blamed Russian interference for the bad state of relations between Moldova and Romania, calling it a "strange coincidence" that the deterioration in cross-border relations started at the moment when Romania moved to join NATO. Promoting Moldovan nationalism was a Russian game that went back to the Bolsheviks, he insisted. However, there were hopeful trends underneath the surface ripples, including growing evidence of "permeability" across the border on educational, cultural, and trade issues. Romania was Moldova's third-largest trade partner, and would soon reach the number-two position. In that sense, he said, the turmoil in the political dimension was far disproportionate to the breadth of the relationship as a whole.
6. (C) Magheru also provided his account of the recent flap over the opening of upgraded Romanian Consular facilities in Chisinau, noting that this had come about after President Basescu's earlier visit, where he had witnessed "spectacular" lines of Moldovans waiting for visas to enter Romania and the EU, and demanded that the Foreign Ministry fix the problem. Magheru noted that the period leading up to the opening of the Consulate had seen the expulsion of the cultural attache and a political officer from the Romanian mission in Moldova, as well incidents in which Romanian mayors and priests were turned away at the border. He called these events symbolic of Moldova's rejection of Romania "culturally, politically, and spiritually". Magheru disputed the Moldovan claim that Foreign Minister Cioroianu had deliberately snubbed his Moldovan counterpart by refusing to see him during the visit; to the contrary, Moldovan Foreign Minister Stratan was invited to the ribbon-cutting at the new Consular facility. Magheru also cited ongoing efforts by the Moldovan side to demonize the Romanians in international fora, as exemplified by Voronin's New Year's letter to the EU blaming the Romanians for not concluding a border treaty and a basic treaty, and even holding Romania responsible for the absence of a settlement in Transnistria.
7. (C) Charge took note of the MFA's previously-stated Moldova strategy, including showing restraint and strengthening civil society and commercial links. He also observed that there had unfortunately seemed to be growing "noise" over the past year and lack of progress in concluding the border treaty and basic treaty, along with mounting signs of Romanian frustration over the relationship with Moldova, as evidenced by President Basescu's call for the creation of a special commission to examine the impact of the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty and other issues.
8. (C) Magheru admitted that it was not a "rosy picture" as Romania probably would continue to be a "punching bag" for Moldova. He added that the "real source" of the disease (e.g., Russia) was not likely to be cured, and this combined badly with an "inbred genetic insecurity" on the part of the Moldovans. On the prospects for concluding the bilateral treaties, Magheru said that the Border Treaty was "no problem," that while the Moldovan side has insisted on including references to the 1946 Paris Treaty, though unpopular in Romania, it was still "legally in effect." Romania suggested that the way out of this impasse was for each side to make unilateral statements referring to past treaties, but Magheru added, there were more fundamental gaps in the Basic Treaty, with Romania pushing for a "modern" document in the form of a European partnership agreement, while Moldova desires a more "Soviet-style" document. He said that the Romanians tried to sidestep the language issue (e.g., whether there was a Moldovan language distinctly separate from Romanian) by proposing the signing of the treaty in two copies, both being equally valid. He added, however, that Moldova rejects Romania's desire to insert a reference to the common historical and cultural link between the two states.
9. (C) Magheru professed ignorance regarding President Basescu's motivation in calling for a presidential commission to examine Molotov-Ribbentrop, noting that while there was a shared view among Romanians that this was a "historical injustice," there was nothing beyond that. He argued, too, that both Presidents Gorbachev and Yeltsin had themselves acknowledged the "injustice" of the Molotov-Ribbentrop treaty to Russia's Baltic partners, but that Russia had failed to make the same acknowledgment to the Romanians. He argued,
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too, that there was no intent to denigrate Moldova's statehood, noting that Romania was in fact the first state to recognize Moldova statehood after the breakup of the Soviet Union.
10.(C) Comment: Relations are unlikely to improve in 2008, in large measure because neither side apparently feels comfortable in expending the political effort it would require to overcome some of the deep-seated mistrust which permeates the current relationship. For Romania, at least, the full electoral calendar this year and into 2009 will also militate against any bold, positive gestures in the direction of Chisinau. While most Romanians pay little attention to the cross-border dynamics and harbor no desire to pursue a nationalist agenda with their former Bessarabian province, there is still an undercurrent of anxiety about Russian influence next door that permeates thinking about Moldova. And for a limited number of political and intellectual figures, the blood ties also continue to matter, and these figures can be noisy and unhelpful. For the foreseeable future, Romania is playing a waiting game, hoping that new Moldovan political figures like the young mayor of Chisinau will come to the fore. There is a consensus, from Basescu on down, that Voronin is an unreconstructed Communist apparatchik, compromised by his past and his dependence on Moscow, who has kept Moldova back from a destiny more closely tied to Romania and the rest of Europe. In the meantime, Bucharest will continue to attempt to manage its relations with Moldova carefully and in a restrained manner, especially as long as we and the EU are watching. Relations will continue to be fraught with complications that will seem petty and insignificant to everyone outside this peculiar and uncomfortable historical and cultural nexus. Leaving aside Moldova's many home-grown goblins, it also suffers the misfortune of lying astride the intersection of two Romanian obsessions: history and Russia. Until either Voronin or the Russians have left the scene, any breakthroughs will be hard-won and contrary to the prevailing Balkanic logic of the bilateral relationship. End Comment. TAUBMAN