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Challenges at EU's New Eastern frontier twenty years after USSR's fall.

I. Russia and the European Union--parallel evolutions in the last two decades

The fall of USSR has been accompanied and followed by a series of processes: from independence movements and declarations to breakaway attempts--some of them successful--inside the newly independent states. The end of 1991--twenty years ago--brought with it the disintegration of the large soviet empire. The end of the 1980s and the beginning of the 1990s was a period of change, which brought liberalisation and eventually democratization in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Countries that were previously part of the soviet bloc--the satellites during the cold war--went through a reorientation process in their foreign policy. The need for security, both political and economic, drew them closer to their western neighbouring community, the European Community, in a period of neo-liberalism rise. The European Union--or the Common Market as it was best known during that time--started to be wooed by the newly liberated states which broke free from their soviet satellite status and acquired independence from the decayed soviet empire. The centripetal force of EU as well as the looming prospect of integration into a promising political entity named European Union after Maastricht made the former satellites to be active in their westwards orientation and seek concrete steps to get closer.

Meanwhile, Russia, who inherited most of the assets of the former USSR--for good and for worse--attempted to reorganize its neighbours and keep them close to the centre. The Community of Independent States was formed in December 1991--the same period of time when the European Council was drafting the Maastricht Treaty, to be signed in February 1992. The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) was founded in 1992 at the initiative of Russia, but gathered much fewer former republics than CSI--certainly not Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova. If we follow the evolution in parallel of the two main power centres in Eurasia we may notice that while the Copenhagen Council was defining criteria to be followed and achieved by countries aspiring to become EU members (1993), Russia's top advisors were coining the ,near abroad' concept. In the same year Yeltsin succeeded in having the Duma deputies vote a new Constitution that enhanced considerably the powers of the president, thus creating the premises for a rather de-balanced share of powers and for the reversal of democratisation. And he succeeded that after a bloody episode in Moscow in which hundreds of people were killed or injured. The time of liberalisation and attempted democratisation of the Russian Federation--spanning roughly between 1985--1993--was longer than the one in the beginning of the XXth century, when the first Duma was set up, but lasted less than a decade. Nevertheless, the freedom of Russians increased in comparison with soviet times. Meanwhile, the liberal democratic character of the Russian regime slid from a burgeoning democracy during Yeltsin's first years to a pseudo-democracy in the late Putin's years and Medvedev--to use Larry Diamond's concepts (1996).

While EU strengthened itself in the mid 1990s with the richest wave of enlargement with three neutral countries: Sweden, Austria and Finland, Russia got heavily caught in the first Chechen war. Two years later, the economic crisis that started in South East Asia severely hit Russia and all the countries strongly linked economically with her, including the "near abroad" countries in the western part of CSI, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. The end of the 1990s brought to power Vladimir Putin and the rise of United Russia, a second mandate for Kuchma in Ukraine and the rise of the Communist Party in the Republic of Moldova. In the same period, the Treaty of Amsterdam was signed and ratified, and preparations for enlargement--a 'big bang' enlargement to the east of the EU--were on their way. The Councils of Luxembourg (end of 1997) and the Council of Helsinki (end of 1999) paved the way to the accession of twelve new countries--most of them either former soviet republics or former soviet satellites. Year 2000 brought with it yet another event: the beginning of rethinking the bases of the European Union and the project of a convention meant to debate a Constitution for the EU. The large wave of enlargement actually occurred in 2004, and 2007 respectively. Most of these countries became NATO members first, and only afterwards EU members. The proximity of NATO and the seemingly closer and closer Alliance generated concerns in Moscow. Meanwhile, EU developed its second pillar, the Common Foreign and Security Policy, however, without progressing much beyond the intergovernmental level in the following years.

II. A Developing Relationship, Distinct Profiles: EU and Russia

The legal basis of the relationship between the EU and Russia was set up in 1994 and entered into effect in 1997. The legal document signed by the EU and Russia took the shape of a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), and it was based on the promotion of international peace and security and on the support of democratic norms and freedoms. It involved a mutual partnership in key fields like economy, culture, education, science and technology and other areas. The PCA was accompanied by an array of institutionalized meetings scheduled at various levels.

The Common Strategy of the EU on Russia (1999), like the PCA, set the goals of integrating Russia into a common economic space and of strengthening the stability and security through cooperation. One year before the first eastward EU enlargement, the EU and Russia agreed to enhance the existing PCA by creating four "common spaces" (St. Petersburg Summit, May 2003) covering 1) economic issues, 2) freedom, security and justice, 3) external security, 4) research and education. The subsequent consistence of the cooperation of the two sides was rather poor. However, the relationship grew at least formally if not substantially. There are many reasons why the substance of the relationship suffered: the rather closed business environment of Russia towards the business interests of Europeans and the development of a state controlled economy to a large extent, the enhanced rigours of the common European market, including the common policies regarding the admission of citizens outside the EU, which are generating frustrations for Russian citizens, among others. The list could continue. The eastward EU enlargement process, started in mid 1990s, continued with the de facto admission of East Central European (ECE) countries in 2004 (ten countries, including the Baltic states) and in 2007 (Bulgaria and Romania). For EU the two stages of enlargement represented a risk as well as an achievement. The previously acquired NATO membership by these countries was regarded with concern by Russia. However, it is debatable what upset more the Russian leadership: the enlargement of NATO or the enlargement of the EU. Samokhvalov believes that Moscow is more concerned with the EU enlargement (2007). Russian leaders know the value of economic ties between neighbours and how they are transformed in influence and political power in time.

Russia gradually placed herself in a superior position, in the second part of the years 2000s, cultivating an 'asymmetric interdependence' with the EU, using various means but especially energy means (Leonard & Popescu 2007). In contrast, EU leaders are looking for peace and stability in a rather mutual and balanced interdependence. Nonethelsess, different member states display different positions towards Russia. In the Power Audit of EU-Russia Relations, Leonard and Popescu identify the following categories: 'Trojan Horses' (Cyprus and Greece), 'Strategic Partners' (France, Germany, Italy and Spain), 'Friendly Pragmatists' (Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Finland, Hungary, Luxembourg, Malta, Portugal, Slovakia and Slovenia), 'Frosty Pragmatists' (Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Latvia, the Netherlands, Romania, Sweden and the United Kingdom), 'New Cold Warriors' (Lithuania and Poland). Meanwhile, some of these countries changed their positions. Thus, Poland might have migrated from the cold warrior category towards 'friendly pragmatist' one, whilst Romania probably migrated from the 'frosty pragmatists' category towards the 'new cold warrior' side. The main idea of the audit is that there are remarkable differences between EU member states with regard to Russia. One of the consequences is that Russia may play on these differences, may make use of the roman "divide et impera" principle, in order to achieve her purposes. This is what actually happened with the bilateral relation between Russia and Germany with respect to providing gas, for instance; also, with the countries involved in the South Stream project later on.

In contrast to the beginning of the 1990s, during Yeltsin's first years as president of Russia, when Russia's foreign policy was dominated by liberals, looking westward and displaying eagerness in emulating European democratic values, the situation changed dramatically in the following decade. A liberal approach in foreign policy has been replaced by realist perspectives and even an aggressive geopolitical civilizationism (Secrieru 2008). Klitsounova (2009, p. 103) remarks that "in the course of the 2000s Western political influence within Russia was severely reduced, both in rhetoric and in practice". Moreover, the perceptions over major events happened in Russia's "near abroad", which gradually became EU's eastern neighbourhood in the same decade, became gradually very different. While in EU, the 2003-2005 wave of uprisings (the .colour revolutions' in Georgia, Ukraine, Kyrgyzstan) were seen as revolutions and as democratic breakthrough, the Kremlin did not see them the same way. On the contrary, they were seen "as regime change sponsored by the West in order to advance geopolitically into the post-Soviet space --and Russia's immediate neighbourhood" (Klitsounova 2009, p. 105).

The difference of perspective between the EU and Russia became significant in less than ten years after the adoption of the PCA. Better said, the two parties evolved differently so that the gap in perspective grew wider. Nonetheless, the two parties and neighbours have needs and interests that can be satisfied through mutual understanding and cooperation only. Russia's interest in modernizing its economy and the country as a whole and this interest perceived as such by its less and less democratic leadership represents a good basis for the development of the relationship between the two giants on the Eurasian continent. The EU has a stringent interest in energy being supplied regularly and without arbitrary stops as well as an interest in a stable eastern neighbourhood.

The mutual perceptions of the two parties are important in view of the direction and quality of their relationship. Sergei Karaganov, Dmitri Suslov and Timofei Bordachev from the Russian Council on Foreign and Defence Policy perceive EU as a foreign affairs actor this way: "The European Union (EU) is growing weaker as an actor in foreign politics...the EU cannot be viewed as a significant player in the world's political and especially military-political arena" (Popescu, N 2009). This attitude could be noticed in the middle of 2009--about one year after the Russian-Georgian conflict. Russia tends to minimize the power of the EU in world affairs, given her leaders' Realpolitik worldview, while the EU takes pride in exerting soft power, in supporting a great deal of development aid throughout the world. The present economic and eurozone crisis in EU is certainly strengthening the view of a weak EU in the eyes of geopolitical strategists in Kremlin these days.

Various authors agree that there is a large gap between the EU and Russia not only in mutual perceptions, but also in levels of development and in economic management. Russian leadership, under Putin and Medvedev preferred a state controlled economy, particularly in strategic sectors like gas and oil. When it comes to modernization and the stated objective of modernization, Russia is seen as suffering from clientelism, corruption and lack of transparency in business dealings. "Russia will only become a modern European country when it institutes the rule of law" (Trenin 2010, p.2). This means, that Russia's modernization depends foremost on the decisions of its leaders rather than on the access to western technology. Technology will come to Russia if and when the business environment will be welcoming and clean. Technology is brought by businesses and not through state channels, as western economy's substance lies in private businesses and corporations.

Russia is very pragmatic in its relationships with partner countries, is looking for profit. "The EU's Russia policy is now mostly about pragmatic co-operation" (Barysch 2011a, p. 6). Russia is looking for technology, high-tech and "therefore needs to build good relations with USA and EU--it needs technology as a means to build its power and reassert herself" (Trenin 2010). Being closer geographically and historically, EU is Russia's most strategic partner, writes Trenin (2010). While writing this paper, a Russian Soyuz rocket is prepared to lift-off from a Western European basis (French Guyana) in the framework of the Galileo project. So, a pragmatic cooperation between EU and Russia is under way, "a marriage of cosmic convenience" writes Der Spiegel (2011). It is convenient for Russia, since it feeds her need to strengthen itself technologically and modernize. The forecast for Putin's next presidential mandate is that he is going to consider closer relations with the EU and the US, given the relative decline of both Russia and the West and the simultaneous rise of Asia and China in particular (Saradzhyan & Abdullaev 2011, p.36).

The profile of EU differs significantly, in political and economic terms, from the profile of Russia. While EU is a union of states, each independently deciding a great deal of their economic policies, Russia is a federation of republics, with governors appointed by the president, in which the federal state controls a large part of the strategic resources and economy. Russia is a" hands-on state" in which a pseudo-democratic regime developed over the last decade. EU is a conglomerate, in which many views are manifested, with problems of coordination between states in those areas outside of the first pillar (the common policies)--particularly in the area of foreign policy. It is a Union with leaders democratically-minded. The norms within EU states and within the EU as a whole are liberal democratic: procedures, laws, legality, human rights etc, all based on the values of individual freedom and equality of opportunities. The difference in terms of values and the hierarchy of values between EU and Russia may be noticed in some of Russia's international actions. Emerson (2010a) found that the fact that she was the last country member of the Council of Europe to ratify Protocol 14 of the Convention on the European Court of Human Rights, in Spring 2010 is relevant in this sense.

The security aspects of the relationship between EU and Russia are also relevant for the present discussion. A parallel evolution of Russia and EU in the security area took place. While both EU countries and former soviet republics signed the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty (CFE) in 1992, the fate of this treaty was rather sinuous over time. After agreeing on an Adapted CFE in Istanbul in 1999, the situation of Russian troops in Georgia and Moldova represented motives for its non-ratification by NATO members (many European members included). The US missile defence plans in Europe caused Russian upset and accusations of CFE breach. Thus, Russia withdrew from CFE in 2007. The Georgian-Russian war in 2008 added concerns about the situation of conventional forces in Europe. This is the root of efforts made by EU representatives in the last years to resume talks about security in Europe with Russians.

Russia initiated the creation of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) in 1992, which now numbers seven former soviet republics, including Russia. However, it does not include Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. It includes Belarus--if we want to name a country in the European proximity. EU's progress in the area of an independent security has been slow. Most EU members' security is covered by the transatlantic link, NATO. Independently, the EU developed in the direction of a Common Defence and Security Policy (CDSP, as it is named in the Treaty of Lisbon) but which is specialized in civilian missions and in Petersberg type of military missions. The military troops and battle groups mobilized are episodical and gathered for specific missions--mainly out of Europe missions, even though there are a few of them in its vicinity--Western Balkans (6) and eastern borders (3). It is interesting to note in this context that the number of CDSP missions in Eastern Europe is much smaller than missions throughout the world--which is significant for the present discussion. It may indicate that the EU is shying away from intervening for security reasons in the tectonic plate area of Russian near abroad.

A reset of the EU--Russia relationship was attempted in the beginning of 2010, as a ,spill over' effect of the US efforts to revive talks on CFE (Secrieru 2011). The German-Russian Summit of Meseberg in June 2010 resulted in the signing of a memorandum that sets way for the creation of an EU-Russia Political and Security Committee (ERPSC) to be chaired by EUHR for Foreign Affairs (Ms Ashton for now) and the Russian Foreign Minister. The initiative of creating this Committee would offer Russia a stake in European decisions on conflict resolutions, with a concrete application on Transnistria. However, the memorandum was later criticized by a series of European partners whose views differ from the German one. So far, the memorandum did not produce palpable results, but may represent a starting point in further talks. In a cynical note, Vladimir Socor (2011a) writes "[q]uite likely, Moscow would try to offer process, rather than substance, on its side of the Meseberg tradeoff".

Geographically, but also politically and economically, the two parties are separated by a ,tectonic plate', situated in the area in between Russia and the EU. But perhaps the actual borders are less important than other kind of frontiers created in this area due to its very position in between Russia and the EU. In this paper I focus on the longest frontier between EU and Russia--having in between Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova.

III. EU's relations with the Eastern neighbourhood and its impact on R Moldova and Ukraine

The EU--Russia relations involve, among other issues, the "New Eastern Europe": Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldova. All three of them are common neighbours of both Russia and the EU. The "New Eastern Europe" region evolved in important ways over the last twenty years, ever since the breakaway of the former soviet republics from the desintegrated USSR in 1991. As the frontiers of the EU gradually moved eastwards in three successive waves over the last two decades, at least three major processes took place in this region: 1) a process of learning self-government, 2) a process of democratization, 3) a process of Europeanization. This paper is focusing on the second and third above-mentioned processes, as they involve to a larger extent the dynamic of the EU and Russia relationship. To a certain extent, the processes of democratization and Europeanization overlap and they also have an impact on the development of learning self-governing skills and capabilities.

The evolution of Belarus, excludes her from a discussion on democratization and Europeanization. Also, it is a country that pertains strategically to the northern flank, and therefore it is not going to be the focus of this paper. The processes of democratization of both Moldova and Ukraine, as of all other former soviet republics, started with Gorbatchev's liberalization, which gradually gave way to the process of contestation--the distinctive mark of democratization. USSR imploded and the regime-initiated democratization process was an important part of the implosion's ignition. The political culture inherited by the New Eastern Europe countries from the former empire--attitudes, behaviour, values, actions--got perpetuated by the political elite for quite a long time--until and including Kuchma's second mandate in Ukraine (2004) and until the Alliance for European Integration in Moldova (2009). Taking Linz and Stepan's (1996) benchmarks for a successful transition to democracy, we may note that with regard to Moldova, the elections started to function formally as an institution soon after the declaration of independence, but their freedom and fairness indicate deficiencies even today. The Freedom House scores vary between 3,50-4 in the last decade (Crowther 2011). It is less obvious to what extent the Moldovan governments have the de facto freedom and capacity to create independent public policies, given certain constraints coming from outside, like the dependence on the Russian gas or the import interdictions (wine and other agricultural products) issued by Russia in the past. Looking at Ukraine, we may note that the situation of democratization there is not much different, except that there is a slight improvement from 4,5 to 3,5 on the free elections dimension, and from 4,92 to 4, 61 on the overall democracy score, according to Freedom House (Sushko & Prystayko 2011).

Beyond the electoral conditions and the condition of legitimate representatives' decision power and freedom, a democratic state needs more solid institutions to function in order to protect its citizens. Civil liberties and rights, political rights, accountability of the elected representatives--both vertical and horizontal--require time and determination. European Union played an increasing role in the process of Moldova's and Ukraine's democratisation, though in different ways and intensity. According to Bogomolov and Lytvynenko (2009) the EU's role vis-a-vis Ukraine's democratic advancement is controversial. By contrast, some authors single out Moldova as the CIS country most exposed to EU's influence on democratisation, displaying the highest interest in becoming EU member. External pressures, coming primarily from the EU, rendered Moldova less vulnerable to authoritarian slides than other post-soviet states. Meanwhile, Russia was less successful in exporting the ideology of .sovereign democracy' (Popescu & Wilson 2009).

EU's relationship with its present eastern neighbours, Republic of Moldova and Ukraine goes back to the 1990s when each signed a Partnership Cooperation Agreement with the EU (Moldova in 1994 and Ukraine in 1998). Both countries have been co-opted in EU's Neighbourhood Policy in the 2000s and each signed, accordingly, a separate Action Plan with the EU, having customized objectives, means and deadlines to accomplish. Both have been included in the Eastern Partnership (EaP), the Polish-Swedish initiative of 2009, by means of which EU's eastern neighbours enter a special relationship with the EU, analogous to the Mediterranean Union in the southern neighbourhood. Both Moldova and Ukraine aspire (and asserted their interest publicly) to become EU members, even though there are differences in the attitudes of citizens in this respect. Ukraine, succeeded earlier than Moldova to draw the attention of the EU and develop negotiations for a New Enhanced Agreement, in 2007--2008, and then for an Association Agreement starting in 2009. Kiev hopes to have the Association Agreement signed by the end of this year. Moldova is on her way to negotiating a similar Agreement.

It becomes clear, looking at the brief evolution of the relationship of Moldova and Ukraine with the EU, that the bulk of progress has been made in the second part of the years 2000s. EU's involvement with Moldova and Ukraine increased in the second part of years 2000s--by appointing special envoys--like Mr Adriaan Jakobovitz de Szeged, to deal with the Transnistrian issue--and with appointing delegations and EU heads of mission in these countries. In the Fall of 2005, it was established the opening of an EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) at the eastern border of Moldova (the Transnistrian segment) with Ukraine. This is a civilian mission, still working and it has produced certain results in terms of contribution to decreasing the smuggling in that area and increasing the capacity of Moldovan customs to deal with smugglers.

The successive trade facilities offered by the EU also contributed to the dialogue and cooperation between the two pairs of parties. The common engagement of the two eastern neighbours with EU representatives in negotiations, in planning together and working together contributed to the process of Europeanization of both Ukraine and Moldova. In the literature on Europeanization, this phenomenon is defined through four main features: the adaptation of national policies to EU policies, the projection of national interests in EU policies, elite socialization and bureaucratic reorganization (Popescu, L 2010). The Europeanization process is generally discussed with reference to the EU member states. However, it is more and more discussed in relation to the neighbours, to countries outside the EU exposed to EU norms, values and practices. Some studies reveal that the intensified cooperation of the neighbours with the EU produced results in terms bureaucratic reorganization, of institution building if not in patterns of governance. Osoian assesses that both Ukraine and Moldova ..established systems for coordination of European affairs similar to those of candidate countries: a national coordination structure, interministerial working groups, European integration units within ministries...[they] strengthened this framework without being exposed to membership conditionality" (Osoian 2008, p.10). Meanwhile, the lack of a membership perspective for the two neighbours is demotivating. In the case of Ukraine, the 'uncoordinated implementation of EU conditionally' has been conceptualised by Wolczuk (2007, p. 23) as 'sporadic Europeanization'--that is enactment of the EU defined reform agenda which is localised, unsystematic and often shallow'" (Osoian 2008, p.37)

There are success stories in the relationship between Moldova, Ukraine on the one hand and the EU, on the other, but one can identify difficult and challenging aspects as well. The impact of the diplomatic intervention of EU envoys during the Orange Revolution in the Fall of 2004, the beneficial consequences of the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) granted by the EU to Ukraine since 1993, the European support for Ukraine's WTO membership (acquired in May 2008), the reorientation of Ukraine's trade towards the EU (the trade between Ukraine on the one hand and Russia and EU on the other hand are now at about the same level) are benchmarks for the EU-Ukraine success. With regard to Moldova, which is a much smaller trade partner than Ukraine, EU's successful impact include: the beneficial consequences of the GSP, GSP+ and Autonomous Trade Preferences (ATP), the diplomatic interventions of European representative besides the American ones in persuading president Voronin not to sign the Kozak Memorandum (which would have federalized Moldova in the sense of "Transnistrisation" as some authors put it (Serebrian 2004)), the EUBAM civilian mission, the recent attempts by the German chancellor to raise the issue of a solution for the breakaway region as a condition for setting up a EU-Russia Political and Security Committee (ERPSC) and so on.

As to the difficulties in the relationships between the two post-soviet countries on the one hand, and the EU on the other hand, the gas transit issue may be mentioned in the case of Ukraine, even though there is a trilateral relation there, Ukraine being involved as an intermediary between Russia and EU countries. In the case of Moldova, the most conspicuous and intricate matter is the rather shallow involvement of the EU in finding a solution to the separatist, so called "Moldovan Nistrian Republic" or better known as "Transnistria", despite the presence of this objective in the ENP Action Plan signed between the two parties in 2005. However, the common difficult and challenging situation of both post-soviet republics is the fact that they both target becoming EU members but there is no promise on the part o the EU in this sense. This is an issue to be discussed later on.

III. 1. The Transnistrian issue

The Transnistrian separatism is a very sensitive issue for Moldovans, to the extent that the Republic of Moldova, declared independence after decades of being a soviet republic, which comprehended both the historical Moldovan territory and the Stalinist creation of "The Autonomous Socialist Soviet Moldovan Republic" (in 1924) out of a western strip of Ukraine, later known as "Transnistria". So, the Moldovan citizens link their identity with the whole territory of the former republic, including Transnistria, and this is a main reason why no political figure in Moldova is talking about accepting the separation of Moldova between Prut and Nistru and the land strip beyond Nistru, Transnistria. Also, the largest part of the industry producing GDP has been placed in soviet times in Transnistria--including the industry that generates power for the whole country. Thus, the reintegration of this territory in the main Republic is a major issue for Moldova.

Whereas the Transnistria subject was of OSCE competence and preoccupation in the 1990s, EU gradually got involved--first adopting a series of declarations without precedent during 2003 (Gheorghiu 2007). The creation of the European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) in 2004, brought with it the cooption of all of EU's neighbours, including Moldova. Thus, Moldova signed a common EU--Republic of Moldova Action Plan, in which the Transnistrian question featured as a top priority. According to Gheorghiu (2007,pp. 65-66), but also to other Moldovan analysts (Nantoi, Funtasu, Munteanu) Russia is fuelling the Transnistrian separatism and thus is acting against the interests of Moldova and contrary to the ENP. The conflict is not an ethnically based conflict, but rather an inter-state one.

There are implications of this situation for the democratisation and Europeanization of Moldova; first of all, because the presence inside Moldova of a political force leading a breakaway region amounts to the erosion of the political legitimacy of the elected government in Chisinau. Second, because the leadership of the Transnistrian region refuses to take part in the process of Europeanization which includes, besides the institutional infrastructure, concrete steps to integrate Moldova into specific trade regimes connecting her to the EU. Natalia Gherman, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, declared that a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA) is more difficult to be reached than a simple FTA, therefore requiring the inclusion of representatives of economic interests and enterprises from Transnistria. But the regime in Tiraspol is refusing to participate in these talks with EU representatives, thus undermining the negotiations of Moldova for DCFTA, which would bring the country closer to the EU (Preasca 2011).

It looks like it is impossible for the Republic of Moldova, at least in short and medium horizon, to be able to ,put into brackets' Transnistria and simply go ahead and behave as if the breakaway region was not there, as some solutions were suggested in the past--for instance, the solution put forward by Societatea Academica Romana (SAR) (Mungiu Pippidi 2005). In the absence of any external intervention in Transnistria, to press and precipitate a solution for the situation is not a good idea; second, taking the model of Cyprus and Greece's tactics with regard to Cyprus, Moldova should try to evolve and get closer to the EU, leaving Transnistria somehow blocked out. Thus, in a future situation, Transnistria might be put in the situation to be the one to have an interest to get closer to Moldova (Mungiu Pippidi 2005). If we look back at what actually happened in the last six years, we realize that Moldova did exactly what the SAR project proposed. Secrieru links the Europeanization of Moldova to progress in finding a solution to the Transnistrian conflict. The importance of Europeanization "If Moldova will be able to accelerate the pace of reforms in the coming years, the palpable benefits of European integration might open up Transnistria and empower various local constituencies to push more vigorously for changes. Only the gradual Europeanization of Transnistria will foster a local environment in which a viable solution to the conflict could emerge" (Secrieru 2011, pp. 258-259).

In any case, these matters seem to be circular: Transnistria will feel attracted by Moldova's progress with EU, but Moldovan central authorities in Chisinau need to exert persuasion power to include representatives from Transnistria in the DCFTA negotiations with the EU. Meanwhile, preparations for ,presidential elections' are under way in Transnistria, on the 11th of December. Russian sources lean towards finding an alternative to Igor Smirnov, who is preparing to bid for the fifth time in a row to become president, after 20 years in power. Dmitry Soin, deputy of the Supreme Council of Transnistria said in an interview with the Voice of Russia believes that many Transnistrian residents say their leader's long term in office jeopardizes the entire democratic system (Voice of Russia 14 October 2011). Russia seems to be prepared to say good bye to Smirnov. However, Smirnov does not seem to be prepared to depart from his power position in Tiraspol, thus indicating he may have some political support in Kremlin.

III. 2. Moldova and Ukraine between two worlds

Integrated by now in the World Trade Organization, being "globalized" tradewise, both eastern neighbours of EU are situated in between two regional blocks. The EU is much more developed than the Russian centred Eurasian Economic Community (EurAsEC, Treaty founded in 2000 and signed between Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan), to the extent that EU is a full common market (despite a series of aspects that flaw it) and is highly institutionalized as such. The present crisis might benefit EU in the sense that it is going to strengthen it as a common market. The alternative would be the demise of the eurozone and a drastic drawback from European integration. On the other hand, Russia has been trying alternatives to regionalize around it--first by the weak CIS, later on by founding the EurAsEC and progressing with two post-soviet states towards a Customs Union (Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan), that came into existence in January 2010. Allegedly, this Customs Union will transform into a Single Economic Space in January 2012. Recently, Vladimir Putin announced the intention of developing a Eurasian Union, similar to the EU, which would include more post-soviet republics, to be built on the basis of the existing Customs Union. This initiative might prove to be either a viable solution of regionalization for many post-soviet countries, but it might also prove to be a reiteration of a non-viable CIS. Putin continues to anchor former soviet republics to Moscow through integration projects such as the Collective Security Treaty Organisation, the Eurasian Economic Community and the Commonwealth of Independent States (Saradzhyan & Abdullaev 2011, p.29).

The temptation of moving eastwards for the two EU eastern neighbours is still present, even more so under the condition of fresh offers of trade regimes, less demanding than DCFTA and less demanding in terms of technical standards like the ones required by the EU. There are advantages to reaching a DCFTA with the EU, but also disadvantages. The Ukrainian oligarchs were not happy with the harsh conditions imposed by the DCFTA, whereas the Georgians calculated a possible increase in prices of 90% (Grant 2011, p. 5). For Moldova, the trade increase with the EU would be slowing down given the fact that these countries benefited from other trade facilities before. In Chivriga and Tornea's opinion (2011), Moldova's major benefit from adopting a DCFTA would be the commercial closeness to the EU rather than CIS and Russia. In other words, the main gain for Moldova would be the political one. It is debatable whether the same kind of gain is at stake in the Ukraine case, which is in a stronger economical and trade position, and has more ties with Russia.

There is yet another element to be taken into consideration as a possible stimulus for Moldova and Ukraine to move eastwards: even though Europeanization made inroads in both Moldova and Ukraine, still "there are certain elements emerging from the communist past, which are against the EU norms and principles, such as over-centralisation, lack of transparency, reactive approaches to 'ways of doing things'" (Osoian 2008, p. 37). The high levels of corruption in both countries place them in a far away position from EU's legalistic approach, values and ways of acting. It could be easier and more natural to connect to a world that functions non-transparent, illegal and clientelistic.

Yet, there is another element that contributed to the two countries positioning in between two worlds: EUs evasiveness in relationship with Moldova and Ukraine. Neither of these two countries is offered the prospect of EU membership. Emerson put it bluntly, in this respect: there is no unanimity on enlargement now, and "since this is a unanimity matter, the question is closed, at least for the time being" (Emerson 2011). On the other hand, president Yanukovich is trying to condition the signing of the Association Agreement with EU in December 2011, on the invitation to become EU member, to receive the candidate status from the EU. While for the EU the purpose of Europeanization is to have a stable neighbourhood, for both Ukraine and Moldova, this is not a satisfactory approach and purpose (Osoian 2011, p. 38). Certainly, the two countries cannot be compared. One can guess that one of Ukraine's main targets by knocking on EU's door is to get a stake in the political process decision-making, given her magnitude both demographical and economical. Moldova's targets cannot be that high in this respect due to its size and capacity.

The EU is not getting too much involved in security issues in the post-soviet space either. In one of the criticisms with respect to EU's security approach, Huff remarks that "[f]rom refusing to replace the OSCE in Georgia in 2005 to avoiding peacekeeping in Transnistria a year later, the EU has consistently shied away from 'politicised' engagements to help resolve the region's conflicts" (Huff 2011: 8). Despite the number of frozen conflicts in the post-soviet space, EU preferred to contribute to various peacekeeping and conflict management missions outside Europe. The present economic and financial crises, the euro zone problems, stall for sure further changes in this sense. However, the Meseberg initiative last year attempted to make new inroads in asserting a European position towards EU's eastern neighbours.

The EU is not a coherent entity in foreign affairs in many ways. This is one reason why the German initiative in 2010 has not been endorsed. Looking at the EU foreign policy in terms of results, and disregarding the process of creating EU foreign policy, one may infer that EU's interest is to keep the status quo in the area of its eastern neighbourhood which includes Moldova and Ukraine. Russia, on the other hand, has the same interest, including the preservation of the status quo in the frozen conflicts of the area--particularly so after her success in Georgia in 2008. EU's eastern neighbourhood, which coincides with the western part of Russia's near abroad, might be seen by both sides as a buffer zone, the status quo of which might be of mutual profitability for both parties, so far. This does not preclude attempts on each side of capturing more from the other side, commercially, economically, energetically, politically. From this viewpoint the weight of Ukraine and Moldova are different. Ukraine is a big stake, but also more difficult to integrate in a region or another. Moldova is much lighter economically and politically, therefore easier to catch and integrate. Moldovans are the most pro-Europeans of all post-soviet states and also waiting for more European activism towards her. Moldova tried to position herself intelligently on the side of other SE European country (she sought and acquired Pact of Stability, SEECP, BSEC memberships) and be assimilated to the countries of Centre and Eastern Europe (its CEFTA and ICE memberships) in order to be separated from her more heavy-weight neighbour to the north, east and south, Ukraine.

IV. Challenges for the EU and its neighbours at the new frontier created in 2007

The European Union was set up in the period of USSR's disintegration. It has been born, by coincidence or not, precisely in the period of USSR's burial, in December 1991. The draft Treaty of Maastricht was agreed upon at the European Council of Maastricht, Netherlands, between 9-10 December 1991, when USSR was declared dead. A weak CIS and, later, a CSTO replaced USSR. Meanwhile, the post-soviet states developed as independent entities; some of them--western ones, but not all went through a process of democratization, in the liberal sense, and Europeanization. The most successful in these areas were Moldova and Ukraine, probably partly due to their proximity to the EU. The European Union moved in the direction of strengthening her common policies and including more areas under its "first pillar", the communitarian one. However, foreign policy does not feature under this pillar, despite some progress in the direction of common action (the set up of European External Action Service, for instance) or in the direction of a common defence (CSDP in the Treaty of Lisbon). Under these circumstances, the new frontier of the EU created in 2007 gives rise to a series of challenges for the parties that have a stake in the region.

One main challenge to be identified at the new frontier of the EU is the challenge for post-soviet republics to calibrate their balance between EU and Russia, as both of these two parties offer different kinds of regionalisation. The latest elections in Moldova and Ukraine, brought to power distinct orientations of leadership in Kiev and Chisinau. The presidential elections in 2010 brought to power Viktor Yanukovich as pro-Russian president of Ukraine. The latest general elections in Moldova brought to power the pro-EU .Alliance for European Integration'. This might result, in short to medium term, in differentiations between the two countries with respect to their economic and political orientations. At the moment, both countries display a strong interest in becoming EU members. The refusal of the EU to promise membership acts as a challenge in itself for these countries (Popescu, L 2006), as they must make further efforts to reform and satisfy the conditions posed by the EU in order to enhance their status (from ACP to DCFTA, for instance) and Europeanize. The eagerness of Moldova to become EU candidate is clearly signalled by its governmental programme in 2011 which identifies seven priorities, among which the first one is "European integration", second "the reintegration of the country", and only fourth "the rule of law" or fifth "fighting poverty" (Ciobanu 2011, p. 7). The EU membership for Moldova seems to be seen rather as a political warrant from any arbitrary intervention from Moscow, as well as an economic shelter for a country with a quarter of the population working abroad.

Various authors are critical towards the ways in which the EU approaches its eastern neighbours. One kind of critics target the absence of perspectives. Another kind addresses the relationship with Russia. "Eastern Partnership, still projects no clear vision of the region's future and carefully avoids addressing the target countries' current major concerns, such as the complexity of their relations with the former metropolis" (Bogomolov & Lytvinenko 2009, p. 82). Another kind of critics looks at how conditionality is applied by EU. Conditions not well applied, or excessive conditionality, may result in wrong outcomes. Grant comments that the Action Plans signed under the ENP were implicitly conditional, in the sense that countries that do not reform should not expect to receive all the benefits. Nonetheless, between 2004 --2009, the Commission put less and less emphasis on conditionality, the priority being the disbursement of money (Grant 2011)

The problems related to the use of conditionality in relation to the eastern neighbours indicate yet another challenge, to be faced by EU: the ability of EU to develop her relationships with Ukraine and Moldova in order to keep them interested in European integration, without them looking for alternatives eastwards and preserving stability in the area. Working on how to apply conditionality is one aspect. Grabbe has been talking of the better use of political conditionality as means of access to further stages of integration ever since 2001 (Osoian 2008). This might be even more relevant for the two post-soviet countries discussed here. A series of creative proposals were made public. Some of them coming from politicians: the Vice-President of the Christian-Democratic Union from the European Parliament, Ingo Friedrich, proposed the creation of an Eastern European Union in April 2008--a sort of mid way between full membership and non-member. The idea behind it was to ease the tensions created by the centripetal force of the EU and the subsequent wish of eastern neighbours to become members. It was issued in the same period of time when the Mediterranean Union was set up as an upgrade of the Barcelona Process in the south of Europe. Also, Elmar Brok, another Europarliamentarian proposed setting up a mid-way formula between full member and simple neighbour (Cristal 2009).

The promise of membership would be an important motivator for these countries in the east, as it was for Romania and other countries in Central and Eastern Europe. The impact of change was tremendous, even though not everything is solved. Mungiu-Pippidi is talking at length about Romania's trouble-ridden politics in the aftermath of her accession to the EU, about the conflicts over the rule of law, the clash between the directly elected President and Parliament, about the open defiance of Brussels and the forfeit of her promises, and not least about the corruption problems reflected in the presence of the Mechanism for Cooperation and Verification (MCV) (Mungiu-Pippidi 2009). But the promise of membership did wonders in Romania, despite the residual problems left behind. And one may suppose similar effects for Moldova or Ukraine. There are actually many studies that reflect the beneficial effects of these countries' building closer ties to the EU.

If the EU cannot promise membership, and if mid-way status is not an option either, then perhaps the EU could do more with other assets at its disposal. Grant is proposing a few solutions. One would be to redistribute the funds allocated to dealing with development in areas outside of EU--that is, to allocate more to ENPI than the present figure of 11 billion until 2013, given the fact that the funds meant to reach ACP countries, Latin America, Asia, and other parts of the world are higher. A second one would be to increase the budget share of the EEAS (EU's External Service) from 7% to 10%. Yet a third one would be to offer visa facilities but conditional upon changes in the countries interested. Some individual EU countries, Romania included, already offered mobility visas for Moldova and Georgia. EU would need to make much more use of positive conditionality, and needs to make much more use of incentives (Grant 2011). In the same vein, a proeminent opposition figure in Belarus, is suggesting that Brussels needs to change its procedures and adapt to the internal conditions of each country--and even more to an authoritarian one like in Belarus--in order to influence the situation there (Milinkevich 2011). The question that remains is: does EU have the will to do this? Thus, the challenge for the EU seems to be not so much whether it has the ability, but rather whether it has the will to change, and to influence things, processes and evolutions in the eastern neighbourhood.

The writing period of this article coincides with a major challenge for the EU: to maintain its integrity as a Union, to maintain its common currency and to protect the Eurozone. Therefore, the preoccupation with its eastern neighbourhood, under these conditions and after the high tide of revolutions and political uprisings in the south of Europe, might seem misplaced. However, when we look at evolutions in Russia, and at her international affiliations like Shanghai Cooperation Organization or G20, and if we pay attention to the restructuring of international relations worldwide, we realize that EU needs a strategy to deal with its eastern neighbourhood. At the moment it lacks one.

In this context, a main challenge for the EU is to find the optimal direction for the development of her relationship with Russia. The EU member states are pretty divided in terms of attitudes and positions toward Russia (Leonard & Popescu 2007) even though they have been evolving ever since the Audit was made, with Poland improving significantly her relationship with Russia. In this sense, one question is what will be the fate of the German--Russian proposal to set up a EU--Russia Political and Security Committee (ERPSC)? This is a security matter, but the challenge mentioned above has other two dimensions: security and EU eastwards economic expansion.

The security aspect of the EU--Russia is an important component of this challenge. At the moment, EU's security is fundamentally linked to NATO. The neutrality of a few EU members like Ireland, Sweden, Austria and Finland, is in turn counterbalanced by the NATO membership of all other western and eastern EU members. EU's Common Defence and Security Policy (CDSP) is in its infancy, and far away from a common defence force. Moreover, the military and civilian missions placed in the eastern enighbourhood are very few (3) in comparison with the large number of missions displayed worldwide (tens). Transnistria is about 100 km from the EU and NATO border (Romania's eastern frontier), and there is no EU involvement in that region, apart from the civilian EUBAM which has advisory tasks and apart from EU's Special Envoy. There are proposals to include EU forces besides the Russian as peacekeepers in Transnistria, but they are far from being implemented. An optimistic view notes the following "the incorporation of the CSDP structures (including the Crisis Management Planning Department [CMPD], the EU Military Staff [EUMS] and Civilian Planning and Conduct Capability [CPCC]) into the EEAS, along with the Eastern Partnership officers under the Managing Director for Europe and two ENP officers who coordinate with the Commission's DG ENP, offers a unique chance for the EEAS to consign inter-institutional rivalry to the past, by developing a set of clear EU policy goals for the Eastern neighbourhood and considering the use of all the instruments in the EU's broad toolkit"(Huff 2011 ,p. 14). It is not clear so far how powerful EEAS and the High Representative will be. The existing opinions on the matter is that so far EEAS is not evolving in this direction.

Russia's annoyance with an expanded NATO is on a par with her interest to protect the area which she believes it is her area of influence. EU's softness in defence matters posed EU in an inferiority position, in Moscow's eyes. One should not underestimate the difference in perceptions of the two political entities' leaders: zerosum game on the side of Russia and win-win game on the side of EU (Samokhvalov 2007). A solution to this difference of perspective ought to be sought by EU's responsible authorities in this area, including the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and the EEAS. It is preferable to happen at this level rather than at the member states levels, be it Germany or other powerful member. Russia tends to make use of the strategy involving bilateral relationships with member states. However, this bilateral approach is part of a larger zero-sum game and will keep the eastern neighbourhood of EU in a status-quo and not necessarily a stable one. In any case it would not sort out the need for a common policy towards the east--beyond the benign ENP and EaP. But reaching such an achievement would require consensus among all 27 in foreign affairs matters, and very soon 28.

The eastward expansion of the EU (technically called .enlargement') is another facet of the challenge EU is facing in its attempt to strike a balance in her relationship with Russia. The danger of the inclusion of Ukraine and Moldova in the EU felt in Moscow explains certain political moves. Recently, at the CIS Summit in St Petersburg, eight of the CIS members signed a free trade agreement, including Moldova and Ukraine. Certainly, this agreement must be placed in the context. Ever since CIS's inception, there have been signed hundreds of agreements within its framework, and only a small percentage of them have been implemented. However, this initiative, comes right before the would-be signing of an Association Agreement between Brussels and Kiev, in December 2011. The visit of President Yahukovich to Brussels has been postponed--fact linked with EU officials' tough criticism of the treatment applied to the his main opponent, Ms Yulia Tymoshenko. Viktor Yanukovych (2011) declared that if the EU is not ready to provide for Ukraine's the prospect of membership, then signing of this association agreement may be postponed.

The positive effects of EU membership for the countries of the 2004-2007 enlargement wave had an important impact upon the would be candidates like Moldova and Ukraine, and particularly for the former, whose citizens are more prone to travel to their immediate western neighbouring country, Romania. Being left outside creates the so-called trade diversion effect, the specialists in International (or Global) Political Economy are talking about. In the case of Moldova this effect was not very important, due to various facilities offered by EU over time, from GSP to Autonomous Preferences. However, there are aspects other than trade which may create the centripetal force that were triggered by the border proximity created in 2007.

The EU's eastward enlargement has an important economic dimension--the EU is expanding its trade and economic relations with her eastern neighbours--but it also has a geopolitical value, to the extent that it encroaches upon what Russia perceives as being her legitimate sphere of influence. The region discussed in this paper is considered by Russia to be her "near abroad". And, according to the zero sum logic, if it is her "near abroad" it is difficult to accept that it is also another entity's "near abroad". Neither in the case of Moldova, where the stake is more political, nor in the case of the much more economically endowed Ukraine is Russia ready to make concessions. Ukraine seems to represent the highest stake. Ukraine was the second most developed and important economically former soviet republic, after Russia way ahead of all other soviet republics, and it is symbolically loaded, being the craddle of the Russian civilization. One of the first moves of the present Ukranian president was to offer an extension of the Russian fleet stationed in the Black Sea until 2042. In the Fall of 2011, Putin announced the forthcoming Eurasian Union, and thus succeeded in creating a diversion and stimulating a conflict between EU and Ukraine in relation to the forthcoming signing of the Association Agreement between Kiev and Brussels.

Despite their continental neighbourhood, EU and Russia developed distinct political cultures at the level of their respective political elites. EU leaders tend to share a liberal view of international affairs, focused on trade development, on building economic relations and regimes, on focusing on sharing profitable busnisses. Russian leaders display confort with realist views of world affairs, focusing on the importance of states and power politics in international affairs. It is enough to think of the energy cards played by Russia in the last few years. There is a "growing discrepancy between the normative approach of the EU and the Russian power politics approach" (Samokhvalov 2007). Paraphrasing a well known author, Robert Kagan, on the same continent there are living two neighbours: EU Venus and Russia Mars. Russia is trying to use her relationship with the EU to boost her technological level and modernize her economy in order to rise again as a big world power. The EU is trying to protect her achievements and create favourable conditions for her business circles to invest and profit. "Russia negotiates only from force positions, any kind of compromise being interpreted as weakness" (Gosu 2009).

This paper's purpose was not to focus on Russia, but to identify main challenges created by the presence of a new EU border starting in 2007. But the analysis would not be complete without mentioning at least the challenge Russia is facing when dealing with the EU and with their common neighbourhood. It is clear by now that there are two centripetal forces at work on the Eurasian Continent. One is almost entirely focused on trade and economy, and is accompanied by a legalistic approach --that is, the EU. The centripetal force generated by EU is coherent tradewise but not coherent politically. The other centripetal force center, Russia, is fairly coherent politically and achieved this coherence at the expense of her internal politics, becoming a pseudodemocracy over the last decade and a half. Russia's centripetal force is based on her energy resources, on her assertiveness and notoriety, including her outstanding performances in the international arena in terms of occupying strong political positions (UN Security Council Permanent Seat, G8, G20, SCO etc). Russia is also very inventive in keeping her .courtyard' untouched. The latest maneuvers to seed intrigue between EU and Ukraine deserve a Machiavellian praise. However, they do not amount to solid and long term economic benefits for the .near abroad' countries. They .do not keep warm' as one popular saying goes. Nonetheless, the promissed Eurasian Union may get contour and is a potential attraction for the post-soviet republics, as the WTO's negotiations seem to be stuck and regionalisation represents a solution for countries non-aligned to the world trade regimes, like Russia. Russia is avoiding becoming a WTO member, because the rules governing this organization is not in agreement with the rules Russia wants to apply to her trade. WTO is a product of the states that developed market economies over the last 60 years, after the second world war. It is very likely that Russia will strive hard to make a regional organization work to compensate for other losses.

V. Conclusions

The issue of EU's eastern neighbourhood proves to be very complex, to the extent that it is a zone of overlapping worlds, with different sets of rules, institutions, values, practices, worldviews. The substance of the differences remains still to be explored. The present paper focused mainly on the clash of EU's eastwards enlargement and Russia's assertion of her sphere of influence in their common neighbourhood represented by Moldova and Ukraine. Both these countries are undergoing a process of democratisation and Europeanization. Despite their mutual differences, they are trapped in the .buffer zone' in between EU and Russia. They are also subject of two centripetal forces--one more coherent economically (EU) and the other more coherent politically (Russia). EU is under the fire of the eurozone crisis, Russia is desperately trying to catch up technologically with the west. The people living in the countries and societies in between bear the social, economic, political consequences of both centripetal currents, coming from the east and from the west. A series of challenges developed in the last few years. The burdens of these challenges are to be shared by the EU and her eastern neighbours, but some of them are to be also share by Russia.

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Liliana Popescu, Liliana Popescu is an associate professor National School of Political and Administrative Studies Bucharest, Faculty of Political Science. Her research interests are focused on the the process of European integration, on theories of European integration and europeanization.
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