On May 28, IDIS Viitorul hosted the International Conference "Interdependencies of the Eastern Partnership: The Impact of Trade, Energy, Migration, and Security on the Welfare of the PaE States". The conference was honored by several researchers from Poland, Lithuania, Ukraine, France and the Republic of Moldova, representing a number of universities, research centers and think tanks involved in the EU STRAT project "The EU countries and partner countries - a strategic analysis and evaluation ", funded by the European Union, the Horizon 2020 Program (Grant N.693382).
The conference was inaugurated in the presence of Daniela Morari, State Secretary of MFAEI and Fabien Schaeffer, Education, Culture, Research, Youth, Employment, Migration and Trustworthy Officer of the EU Delegation in Moldova. Both noted the commitment of the RM within the framework of the EaP and the results achieved in the implementation of the Association Agreement. Reforms are crucial for the Republic of Moldova in meeting its performance indicators and getting closer to the EU. Fabien Schaeffer noted that the interdependencies of the PaE countries are influenced by the East-West option. EU-STRAT studies also demonstrate the use of a broad spectrum of critical connections and policies as pressure tools from the Russian Federation on sovereign policy options for Eastern Partnership countries. The tactics used by the Russian Federation contrasts with the EU approach that seeks to assist partners through sectoral conditionality policies. EU-Strat experts noted that most of the time Russia's pressures have led to opposite effects, particularly if we are talking about the energy sector and migration.
In the first panel, the participants discussed the vulnerabilities of the PaE states on the energy and trade sector by mapping the overall picture. Experts explained the peculiarities and similarities in the PaE countries. Thus, Moldova is more vulnerable to energy and security than Ukraine. The main shortcomings of the Republic of Moldova attested by the roundtable experts were: the absence of alternative interconnection solutions, the need for an independent regulatory institution, maladministration, the settlement of the gas debt problem, customer and energy mechanisms in the energy sector, cartel arrangements and informing citizens about existing energy issues. By contrast, trade interdependence has advanced significantly in recent years, so Russia's pressures in 2006 and 2014 have not led to the expected outcome. In the absence of alternative policies, Russian pressures have an impact on the Republic of Moldova. One example is the suspension of the implementation of the Energy Package III, aimed at liberalizing the energy markets. In this context, Chisinau became the victim of the natural gas monopoly supplier, but also a victim of the non-transparent arrangements on Kuciurgan's electricity acquisitions.
The moderator of Panel I, Igor Munteanu, IDIS Director, said that "Moscow is fully exploiting political and economic pressures (migration, the oligopolies it controls in trade and energy to secure its traditional levers of influence in the states of the region" According to other experts, the threats related to the deportation of Moldovan migrants in 2013-2015 did not work because Moldova has policy alternatives to the EU (Visa Liberalization Agreement).
"The Republic of Moldova is strictly dependent on the energy resources of the Russian Federation without evidence of any changes in the last two decades. Regarding migration, politicians in the Russian Federation are using the phenomenon against European path supporters. We have the example of President Igor Dodon when Moscow has amnestied Moldovans with violations in order to increase the popularity of the candidate, Dodon, "said Laure Delcour, Researcher, Foundation of the Sciences of the Homes (FMSH).
Several experts from the Republic of Moldova (Ion Muntean, Sergiu Tofilat, Veaceslav Ioniţă) presented the interdependence factor from the point of view of the regulatory agencies (ANRE, Competition Council) and the market access of the alternative actors. In particular, the role of elites to address certain vulnerabilities has been discussed as a result of cost-benefit assessments, often very different from the one serving the public interest. Sergiu Tofilat, president of the Watch Dog community, talked about the vulnerabilities of the Moldovan energy sector, but also about the way the Moldovan authorities benefit from the existing situation. He also mentioned the gas debt of the Republic of Moldova as the main tool for promoting the foreign policy of the Russian Federation in relation to our country. Talking about solutions, the following were mentioned: the need to diversify the sources of gas and energy supply, but also the creation of a competitive energy market and the strengthening of ANRE independence. The economist Veaceslav Ionita said that after the signing of the Association Agreement, the national economy had only benefits. Goods exported by the RM became so much wanted on the EU market, with exports being boosted by Moscow's pressures. Trade has intensified and new companies entered the market that have created new jobs. Statistics show that over the past 5 years, jobs in Moldova are created by foreign companies, "Veaceslav Ionita said.
Ildar Gazizulin (UIPP) presented the case of Ukraine, and Klaudijus Maniokas (ESTEP) of Lithuania and emphasized that the perception of national elites is creating support for alternatives or can block the investigation of the role of some clientele networks. Networks are bad for their states and serve the interests of foreign actors. They also referred to positive examples of reducing external pressures by creating alternatives, highlighting the impact of energy on state security.
Participants acknowledged the existence of mechanisms that can reduce or eliminate the vulnerability of the EaP countries to Russia's immediate neighborhood policies. Some transformations are amplified by the results of the Russian Federation's military intervention in Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea. This creates formal interactions between Ukraine and the RM, the RM and Romania, which include a more severe control over the Transnistrian border of the Moldovan-Ukrainian border. However, some of the pressure parts remain extremely strong in the relationship of the RM with Russia, and refer to the multiple support and promotion policies Moscow has in relation to the separatist enclave. The experts have demonstrated the techniques of artificial debt creation by Moldova-gas and discussed the policies that the RM should follow to weaken the impact of vulnerabilities.
Panel II focused on migration and security where national and international experts (Valeriu Sainsus, Munteanu Igor, Marta Jaroszewicz, Laure Delcour) reflected on how regional arrangements affect migration. Experts carried out a migration mapping (destination countries, peaks and peoples' profiles), but they also reflected the main causes, effects, and migration impact on PaE countries. Mrs. Marta Jaroszewicz, a researcher at the Center for Eastern Studies (OSW), talked about the case of Poland in the field of migration as well as about the vulnerabilities of Belarus.
Ms. Natalia Albu talked about "The geopolitics of democratization" and its "transforming power", the EU - the transition from politics to security policies, the conceptualization of security through two hegemonic models (the EU and the Russian Federation.) The participants mentioned that external actors use clientele networks and governmental inertia to cosign to some loyal actors sensitive topics in regards to the type of integration they want (EU vs. UEA). The EU-Moldova relationship needs a new impulse, but will only receive it when national authorities will prove real and impossible to deny progress on reforms implementation. There are no fully independent or fully dependent states. Thus, we must admit that interdependence is an accepted measure of integration and permanent interaction, which makes the authorities of a state and its active research environment to seek alternatives and dissolve the barriers that are in the way. This is also one of the last conclusions of the conference "Interdependencies: The Impact of Energy, Trade, Migration, and Security on the Eastern Partnership States".
The event is part of the specific work of the extensive academic research project "EU Countries and Partner Countries - A Strategic Analysis and Assessment (EU-STRAT)" funded under the EU's Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. The project is being implemented by a group of major universities and thinks tanks in the EU to analyze the complex dynamics of the Eastern Partnership, the EU, Russian policies and the impact of internal actors and strategies in shaping the region's priorities.
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