Interview with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine to the Republic of Moldova
– This spring marks 20 years since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Moldova and Ukraine. On October 23, we will celebrate the 20th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Good Neighborliness, Friendship and Cooperation between our countries. How have these relations changed over the course of 20 years, from the moment when the union republics became independent states?
– What is positive in the achievements of our countries. First, we have strengthened our statehood. We started by signing the Treaty on the State Border and set about arranging our borders, which are the main sign of the independence and sovereignty of Moldova and Ukraine.
Secondly, we are developing cooperation within the framework of a common foreign policy strategy. European integration and accession to the European Union is a common goal for Ukraine and Moldova, and in this respect we are following parallel courses. And although Moldova is ahead in some aspects, and Ukraine is ahead in some respects, the main thing is that both countries are recognized leaders of the EU Eastern Partnership initiative.
In addition, there have traditionally been very close historical and cultural ties between our peoples. For example, Petru Movila founded the Kiev-Mohyla Academy, one of the first educational institutions in Eastern Europe, where Mikhail Lomonosov also studied. The son of the Ukrainian hetman Bogdan Khmelnitsky was married to the daughter of the Sovereign of Moldova, Vasily Lupu. Thus, historical roots have traditionally linked our peoples.
– Therefore, it is not surprising that Ukrainians in Moldova are the second ethnic group, and we believe that Ukrainians, like Russians, are not emigrants in Moldova, but an autochthonous ethnic group that formed the statehood of the Republic of Moldova together with the Moldovans.
An important aspect in our relations is the Transnistrian settlement. If we recall the 1992 hot phase of the Transnistrian conflict, Ukraine was the first to feel the consequences of these events. A significant part of the inhabitants of Transnistria crossed the border with Ukraine, and we realized that we were not ready for such a massive influx of citizens from a neighboring state. Given that the total length of the border between Ukraine and Moldova is 1,222 kilometers, and 452 kilometers fall on the Left Bank, the Transnistrian settlement is a very sensitive factor for Ukraine.
In addition, Ukraine and Moldova are developing transit links with the EU through road, rail, pipeline transport and high-voltage power lines. I think that there are many more issues that are the subject of our interaction. But the main thing is that over these 20 years we have always tried to treat each other with respect and understanding of the partner’s interests, to resolve all issues peacefully at the negotiating table.
– You mentioned the parallel European integration process of Moldova and Ukraine. But now there is a lot of talk about the direction in which our states will move. On the one hand, we are talking about the European vector, on the other hand, the Customs Union is being mentioned more and more often. But even more often one can hear the opinion that Moldova has nothing to do in the Customs Union if Ukraine is not there. What are Ukraine’s intentions in this direction, how consolidated are they?
– Indeed, the issue of European integration and interaction with the CIS countries are two basic issues that determine the foreign policy vector of Moldova and Ukraine. Our countries adhere to the strategic line of integration into the EU. And Ukraine has not departed from it since the first years of gaining independence. The issues of interaction with the Customs Union have been repeatedly raised, primarily by the Russian Federation, which is interested in joining the Customs Union, and in the future the Eurasian Union, Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova in order to create an integral system of states in the economic and political Eurasian space . Both Ukraine and Moldova are not ready, and are not currently considering the issue of joining the Customs Union. And this repeatedly emphasized both the leadership of Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova. The only thing that supports Ukraine is the recently ratified Agreement on a free trade zone with the CIS countries, which was also signed by the Republic of Moldova, but it has not yet ratified it. Why do we think that we need to interact with the CIS countries? Because the trade turnover with the CIS countries is approximately 30% of the total trade turnover of Ukraine. I think that trade with the CIS countries is also of no small importance for Moldova. Therefore, both Ukraine and Moldova interact economically with the CIS countries. Ukraine, in fact, has already completed negotiations on a comprehensive free trade area with the EU. We hope that in the near future we will sign this agreement, which has actually already been initialed and is being translated into the languages of the EU countries. Moldova is also in the active phase of negotiations on this agreement and the association agreement with the EU, and we hope to complete them successfully in the near future. Therefore, the foreign policy vector for Ukraine and Moldova has been determined, and I think no major changes are expected in the near future. Therefore, the desire of some political forces to change the situation and say that the EU is not waiting for us, and our future in the Eurasian space is only the position of some – politicians.
– One of the difficult issues in relations between Ukraine and Moldova is the problem of demarcation of the state border. Which
-Problematic aspects of this issue have not yet been resolved?
– 740 out of 1222 kilometers of our common border have already been demarcated. Of the territory remaining 452 km – this is the central section of the Ukrainian-Moldovan border. I can say that over the past two years we have almost completed the demarcation of this section, which we could not start over the previous 10 years. I consider this a great achievement. In addition, in fact, we removed all the problematic issues that existed in the process of border demarcation in the Giurgiulesti, Palanca and Dniester HPP-2 regions.
– But the issue of the Dniester hydroelectric power station has not yet been resolved. As far as we know, a special Moldovan-Ukrainian working group is still working on solving this problem. In Moldova, the attitude to the activities of this station is ambiguous, its construction began in Soviet times, it is located both on the Ukrainian and Moldovan banks of the Dniester, and there are controversial issues, both about ownership, border demarcation, and ecology. For example, environmentalists believe that this station should be closed altogether, because it harms the environment.
– These issues in this interpretation were discussed several years ago. Today we have made significant progress in solving them. First, we formulated the principles of border demarcation in the area of the Dniester hydroelectric power station, and in the Giurgiulesti area. These are two problem areas that at one time remained inconsistent. On June 12-14 of this year, a meeting of the Joint Ukrainian-Moldovan Demarcation Commission took place in Chisinau, at which the basic principles for determining demarcation in these problem areas of our common border were formulated. And I think that at the next meeting, which is expected in September, we will complete the preparation of all documents on the demarcation of these sections.
– What is the essence of this decision? There is practically no official data on this, and the information vacuum on such issues gives rise to rumors.
There is little information, because the process of negotiations is still going on, it is close to 46 rounds and they last 10 years. And the meaning of our approaches and principles of demarcation of these problem areas is that the interests of each side, both Moldovan and Ukrainian, are taken into account. Moldova transfers its territory to Ukraine not unilaterally, but on the principle of mutual consent within the framework of international law. In the area of the Dniester hydroelectric power station, the border runs along the fairway and it has already been demarcated. And the property remains with Ukraine. Because in Soviet times it was an object of union-republican subordination, which was built and financed by Ukraine through the union budget. And when this station was being built, no one thought that in 1991 the USSR would collapse, and the state border would pass through this structure. Today, intensive negotiations are also underway to prepare an agreement on the operation of the Dniester HPP-2. This is a buffer hydroelectric complex with a dam, and the contract will determine the mechanism and procedure for servicing this structure.
In general, when we talk about the Dniester hydroelectric power station, we are talking about three stations. This is, firstly, HPP-1, secondly, a pumped storage power plant (PSPP) is being built, which will operate the reservoir, and, thirdly, HPP-2 is a buffer hydroelectric complex, partially extending to the Moldovan territory. The complex of stations does not work independently, they are included in a single energy system. Ecological issues also began to be actively discussed. Ukraine and Moldova have already agreed on a draft Agreement between the governments of Ukraine and Moldova on cooperation in the field of protection and development of the Dniester river basin, which provides for measures to ensure environmental safety, including in the area of the Dniester hydroelectric power station. On July 26 this year, a joint protocol was signed, within the framework of which the final text of the treaty was agreed upon.
– When, in your opinion, will the issue of Moldova’s ownership in Ukraine be finally resolved?
– The issue of recognizing the ownership of Moldovan objects on the territory of Ukraine and Ukrainian ones on the territory of Moldova has been the subject of discussion for two decades. First, the Moldovan side presented a list of 137 objects. This list contains objects of different levels: for example, a crushed stone quarry in Chernivtsi and a gravel-granite quarry in the Nikolaev region. These are large facilities, the property of Moldova, which Ukraine does not claim. But there are recreation centers that have been sold and resold dozens of times in 20 years. They are located in Odessa, in Odessa, Nikolaev regions, in Truskavets… And finding the owner is not so easy. We need supporting documents. Thus, RM has recognized the ownership of 47 out of 137 objects of Ukraine. Regarding other objects, there were not enough documents submitted. Ukraine asks to recognize only one object – the buffer hydroelectric complex HPP-2. The Moldovan side agrees in principle, but wants this to be decided simultaneously with the recognition of ownership and the signing of documents for Moldovan facilities. To date, the Moldovan side has additionally submitted a list of 25 more objects, of which six have all the necessary documents. Others still need to submit documents. This week, representatives of the Public Property Agency of the Republic of Moldova are negotiating in Kyiv with the State Property Fund of Ukraine on this list of objects.
– Moldova and Ukraine have begun to actively work towards cross-border cooperation. And at the beginning of this year, an agreement was signed on the creation of the Dniester Euroregion, which includes six northern regions of Moldova and the Vinnitsa region of Ukraine. It is assumed that the Transnistrian regions will also participate in the implementation of common projects. To what extent will such border cooperation contribute to the Transnistrian settlement?
– Indeed, Ukraine, or rather the Vinnitsa region, initiated the creation of the Dniester Euroregion. The Moldovan side supported this initiative, and in February of this year, during the official visit of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Moldova Vlad Filat to Kyiv, an agreement was signed between the administration of the Vinnitsa region and the heads of six districts of Moldova. Today, this deal is being registered with the Council of Europe and in October the official presentation of the project is expected in Brussels. From the very beginning of its creation, the idea of joining two regions of Pridnestrovie, Kamensky and Rybnitsky, was proposed to this project. For political reasons, we could immediately sign statutory documents with them, because the question arose – what to call these areas? The Moldovan side insisted: Kamensky district of the Republic of Moldova, the Administration of Pridnestrovie Kamensky district of Pridnestrovie. Therefore, the statutory documents were signed only by six regions of Moldova and the Vinnitsa region of Ukraine. Today we have the fundamental consent of Pridnestrovie and we hope that such consent will be received from the side of the Republic of Moldova in order to attract these regions as economic partners of the Dniester Euroregion. That is, they sign a protocol on interaction with Euroregions and act as full-fledged participants to discuss specific projects. We are talking about separating the political component from the economic and investing additional funds in the development of the infrastructure of these areas.
– Can you give a budget for this large frontier project?
– The budget has not yet been determined. So far, we are talking about a statutory fund in which each project participant must make an initial contribution. Vinnitsa region allocates 300 thousand hryvnia. The total amount of Moldovan regions has not yet been determined. And the overall budget will depend on the financing of those projects that will be formulated and identified as priorities within the Euroregion. Part of the budget will be submitted by the European Commission. This year, the EU is allocating about 12 million euros to strengthen confidence building measures between the left and right banks of the Dniester. I think that part of this amount can be used within the framework of Euroregion projects.
– The tourist season is in full swing. What is being done to simplify the process of crossing the border for our citizens who go on holiday to the Black Sea?
– The issue of border crossing in the summer season is always a sensitive topic in our relations. Unfortunately, this problem exists, although our border and customs services are taking concrete measures to increase the capacity of the flow of citizens crossing the border, especially on weekends. At present, an experiment is being carried out at the Rososhany-Brichen border crossing point, where citizens immediately undergo double control. Now we are thinking about how to create a joint control point in the Palanka area. There is another problem: providing opportunities for residents of border areas to freely sell their crops on the territory of Ukraine. I traveled all the border checkpoints, talked with the locals. They say: it is easier for us to send the harvest to the Odessa region for sale, especially since in Soviet times this was not a problem. Our challenge now is to remove more obstacles to the free movement of citizens and goods across the border. The topic of creating a wholesale trading warehouse in the Palanka region is also being discussed.
– This year Ukraine is preparing for parliamentary elections. Polling stations will also be opened on the territory of Moldova. How is the embassy preparing for this event? Can you name the number of Ukrainian citizens residing on the territory of Moldova?
– According to the data recorded in the electronic register of voters of Ukraine, about 70,000 voters with the right to vote are officially registered on the territory of Moldova. The problem is that 90% of these voters are in the territory of Transnistria. According to Ukrainian legislation, we can open polling stations only on the territory of diplomatic missions, consulates, in places where military units are densely deployed. On the territory of Pridnestrovie, Ukraine does not have an official diplomatic mission or military unit, so holding elections is a serious problem for us. The Central Electoral Commission of Ukraine decided to open two polling stations in the Republic of Moldova – in Chisinau, on the territory of the Embassy, and in Balti, on the territory of the Consulate. The greatest difficulty is to ensure the delivery of the maximum number of voters who have Ukrainian citizenship and live in the territory of Transnistria to the polling stations in Chisinau. We started with consultations that we recently held at the level of heads of consular departments of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Ukraine and the MFAEI of the Republic of Moldova. And we are satisfied with the approach of the Moldovan side, because we were assured that the residents of Pridnestrovie, who have Ukrainian passports, will freely cross the administrative border between Moldova and Pridnestrovie. The problem is that, according to changes in the Moldovan legislation, foreign citizens residing in the territory of Transnistria must have a residence permit. And the citizens of Ukraine living in the territory of Pridnestrovie, unfortunately, do not go to the territorial bodies of Moldova to obtain this document. And this can become an obstacle to crossing the administrative boundary. It is important for us that we receive full support and consent from the leadership of the Republic of Moldova, so that on October 28, 2012, during the elections, the requirements for presenting a residence permit for citizens of Ukraine will be lifted. I hope that this will facilitate the process of holding elections, although, of course, this will be a serious test for both the Embassy and the election commissions that will be formed at the Embassy and Consulate in Balti.
In conclusion, I would like to congratulate all citizens of Ukraine, Ukrainians, on Independence Day, which we celebrate on August 24. 21st anniversary
Our Embassy will celebrate independence this year with traditional measures – we are holding an art exhibition in the Cultural and Information Center at the Embassy, we are laying flowers at the Shevchenko monument in Chisinau, we are holding a press conference and an official reception. We will also hold festive events on the territory of Pridnestrovie, in Tiraspol. And I hope that the Independence Day of Ukraine will be adequately celebrated in Moldova.