Staunton, September 30 – Moscow may hope to block Moldova and Ukraine from joining the European Union, but some there and among pro-Moscow groups in both countries are considering what options they might take for regions like Gagauzia and the Donbas if either or both of those countries should eventually join the EU.
One idea now circulating is that they might follow the precedent of Greenland and the Faroe Islands who as autonomous territories within Denmark, an EU member country, nonetheless did not enter the European Union. Such a strategy, if adopted, could complicate the lives of these countries and leave them open to far greater Russian influence than otherwise.
This provocative idea has been floated most prominently in a recent speech by Fedor Gagauz, the leader of United Gagauzia and a deputy in the Moldovan parliament at a Chisinau conference devoted to the entry into force of Moldova’s association agreement with the EU (regnum.ru/news/polit/1981325.html).
“One of the declared goals of the Association Agreement,” the deputy says, “is cooperation in all spheres on the basis of bringing Moldova closer to the legal foundations of the European Union,” and consequently, he argues, Moldovans and Gagauz should consider some of the things EU countries offer their minorities.
Among them are many things that Moldova has not offered the Gagauz, including “a quota for political representation in parliament, an independent court for resolving disputes between the autonomy and the Center, regional political parties, just access to financial means, [and] the conduct of an adequate cadres policy.”
So far, however, “any efforts even to begin a discussion on these themes invite accusations of separatism and anti-state extremist,” Gagauz says. But they should be discussed and so should another feature of the EU: the possibility for a country to join the EU while allowing some of its regions to remain outside the EU.
The most instructive case of this is Denmark and two of its autonomous territories, Greenland and the Faroe Islands. Although they are part of a EU member country, neither of these autonomies are part of the EU, although both maintain “close relations with Europe” and have separate agreements with the EU.
It may even be that the relations of Greenland and the Faroes with the EU are closer than they would be if these regions were treated regions just like any other regions of Denmark, Gagauz says. This example, he suggests, should be kept in mind by both Gagauz and Moldovan politicians.
What Gagauz does not say is that Greenland and the Faroe Islands are separated from Denmark by hundreds of miles of ocean rather than embedded within it while Gagauzia is located entirely within the borders of Moldova or that the two Danish autonomies are not pursuing relations with countries or blocs antithetical to the EU, unlike Gagauzia or other breakaway regions in Moldova or Ukraine.
But his remarks and the fact that Russia’s Regnum news agency chose to highlight them suggest that Moscow may be preparing to push this idea in the future, something against which the leaders of the countries involved and the EU must be prepared for given the certainty that any rejection of equal treatment for unequal situations will spark cries of “double standards.”