By Daniel Stroe – Bucharest
The Romanian President Traian Basescu today said he would ask EU leaders gathering at an extraordinary summit on Ukraine that Romania will be part of a possible negotiation format over settling the crisis in its neighboring country and later confirmed Romania is sending observers to the former Soviet republic as part of an OSCE mission.
Addressing the media before departing for the meeting in Brussels, the Romanian president urged EU leaders to include Romania in a possible negotiation format over the situation in Ukraine. „We have the following arguments: there are over 400,000 Romanian ethnics, which makes the Romanian community second to the Russian one. The second argument is that Romania is the closest EU member state to Crimea (…) only 160 nautical miles away” Basescu said.
He also pointed out that, at the same time, only 100 km away from the Romanian borders is one of the frozen conflicts of the former Soviet Union, namely Transnistria. At the same time, Romania has the longest border with Ukraine of all the EU member states, he argued. „Last, but not least, Romania is not dependent on the Russian gas imports (…) so we can be a participant in these negotiations without raising questions” Basescu further said.
Romania is particularly sensitive about the situation in southern Ukraine since its former territory, the Republic of Moldova, now a sovereign state, hosts a breakaway republic, the so-called Transnistria, where Russia deployed troops. Many analysts warned that Moldova may be Moscow’s next target since the small country is months away from signing the association agreement with the EU. Two weeks ago, the European Parliament voted in favor of lifting visas for the Moldovan citizens, dealing another blow to Russia’s efforts to keep Moldova in its sphere of influence.
But Basescu raised eyebrows in the West when he pleaded in favor of a union with Moldova, prompting politicians in Chisinau to warn that such statements only serve Russia’s interests. “Romania’s next country project is the union with Moldova” Basescu said late last year.
“During the council, I approved our participation in the OSCE mission (…) I approved our participation with intelligence experts and we will see later what we can contribute with later. We will certainly have a role (in Ukraine) because we have proven we are well acquainted with the situation in Ukraine, we have a common border” Basescu said.
He added Romania will be economically involved in Ukraine only in strong correlation with the European partners. Basescu also said he asked interim Ukrainian PM Yatseniuk, today present in Brussels, to scrap a law stipulating Ukrainian as the only language to be used in administration. Romania has a 400,000-strong community living in Ukraine, mostly concentrated in the Cernauti region, former Romanian territory by the second World War, and Bucharest frowned when the new administration sought to pass the law on languages to be used in the country. But the European Parliament asked the interim government in Kyiv to observe the minorities’ rights.