The recent years have seen positive developments in the relations between these two countries, despite the relapses of prejudices. Overall, the current relations can be assessed as constructive, aiming at finding solutions to sensitive problems, overcoming a certain state of idleness, and further building cooperation. Still, the potential of such bilateral cooperation is far from being exhausted, and the historical viewpoint of good neighborly relations remains high on the agenda.
This Analysis Paper aims to foster cooperation between Romanian and Ukraine by putting first on the table the issues of a sensitive nature. First and foremost, this Paper provides a set of useful information for all stakeholders of the relations between Romanian and Ukraine. It was collected in qualitative interviews conducted by an Ukrainian analyst Sergiy Gerasymchuk with Romanian experts, and by a Romanian analysts Viviana Anghel with experts in Ukraine, both applying the same set of tools. Our hope is that we will be able to add to the pool of information about relevant and important matters, and thus help strengthening the cooperation between experts, NGOs and governmental representatives concerned with this field, having one single ultimate goal in mind: enhancing cooperation in the Black Sea Region
The paper touches upon:
1. Historical and Cultural Issues
2. Political Attitudes Disputes on Historical Territories and Delineation of the Continental Shelf of the Black Sea
- The issue of minorities
- Ukrainian perspective on the issue of minorities
- Romanian perspective on the issue of minorities
- Cooperation on Euro-Atlantic topics
3. Civil Society Cooperation
4. Security and Economy
Conclusions and Recommendations
To conclude this study, we will try to estimate the odds that the two countries cooperate on much better and mutually beneficial terms in the future.
We have identified some windows of opportunity for cooperation:
- Strengthening the expert communities in both countries, and empowering them to start developing the relations between Ukraine and Romania into a strategic partnership within the Wider Black Sea Region.
- Cooperation on cyber security fundamental rights and security across the region are common problems, in particular given that Romania has assumed a leadership role in safeguarding the cyber security of Ukraine, and new security measures are being implemented under a Trust Fund to build Ukraine’s cyber defence capacity, in the aftermath of the events triggered by the tensed Russian-Ukrainian relations, and as a response to the needs of the North Atlantic Alliance to consolidate its eastern border.
- Cooperation in the energy sector
The lack of information, and thus the distorted perception of Ukrainians, remain problems for Romania to solve, despite the recent warm-up of the relations and the improved image of Ukrainians. People in Romania do not understand much of the situation in Ukraine. They need to be better informed on this issue. This applies to businesses, too. International studies on that could prove useful for both each of the countries, and Brussels. The independent bodies (e.g. trustworthy international institutions), supported by the private businesses, could be used as sources of such information.
More information is needed from Ukraine: on the current developments, the history of Ukraine, as well as the historical relations between Romania and Ukraine. That could help counterweighting the stereotype that Ukraine has never existed, and reversing the Russiaimposed myth that Ukraine never had statehood. The information about Ukraine can be conveyed also via the EU delegations. Still, direct contacts are equally more important and powerful.
New faces on TV and in the social media are desperately needed. Joint media initiatives, as well as investigative media projects can be of added value.
Thus, the interest for Kyiv could be enhanced, by shaping messages adequately, creating the possibility that true experts are invited to Ukraine to take part in TV shows, etc. The politicians that are currently very supportive towards Ukrainians need also to be brought in the spotlight. The relations could be further promoted via the Internet channels, and establishing personal contacts (for instance, at student level). Furthermore, Romanians could facilitate the access of Ukrainians to the labor market more than they are doing now, by lowering the requirements imposed to foreign workers employed in Romania (for instance, for high profile workers, the minimum three average salaries, while for unskilled workers, one average salary), and other barriers. This is something to be featured in the political discourse because Romania can pass a governmental ordinance to reduce the bureaucracy or the procedures for certain citizens for a certain period of time. The unemployment rate in Bucharest is 1.4%, which means that Bucharest and its surrounding areas are in demand for employees (if the Ministry of Labor does consider these opportunities, it would still have only a limited room for maneuver under the EU restrictive regulations concerning the third-country nationals, including the Eastern parties).
People and businesses usually follow the opportunities, and if there is a risk that your property can be bombed, you would probably choose another destination for your investments.
Therefore, the Ukrainian government needs to put in place a straightforward policy: providing reliable information to the interested businesses about both the areas where it is safe to invest, as well as those where the security situation remains unstable and beyond the control of the national government.
Businesses need to see stability.
People in the border areas feel much more comfortable with the Ukrainians, know them better and are eager to go forward with cooperation and promoting Ukraine as a partner country.
More students’ exchanges, more business connections and more contacts in general can bring the countries closer together. This can help promoting Romanian in Ukraine, and Ukraine in Romania, and provide genuine opportunities to learn more about our common values and the European identity.
Romania seems to be interested in cooperation with the Visegrad countries and Poland in particular, and the cooperation with them plus Ukraine can be very helpful for the development of this format.
Another instrument for the improvement of the relations is the cultural institute.Therefore, the opening of the cultural institute in Ukraine equals to an investment in developing the relations and, provided that the institute expands its activities not only to Romanians but also to Ukrainians, the barriers between the two countries could be taken down, and a new agenda for the bilateral relations could be put in place.
Cooperation in consultancy could prove of added value, provided that development of the economic relations really takes off. Ukraine can become the Romania’s gateway to the East, while Romania the Ukraine’s gateway to the Balkans.
IT is another area where Ukrainians and Romanians have good prospects of cooperation.
Another the promising direction is tourism. Ukraine is an increasingly more interesting travel destination for the affordable prices offered, and secure travel destinations; despite the war in the East, resorts such as Odessa could still be better perceived than Turkey. Provided that the infrastructure is further developed, including a road to connect Romania to Odessa, this dimension is likely to have a positive impact on development.
Today, cultural cooperation appears stuck in the 19th century, although there is a lot of things that can be done for the modern young artists, who do not feel connected. People on both sides of the border have to be anchored in the new realities. Interethnic cooperation and multicultural projects in the areas with Ukrainian minority from Romania, and Romanian minority in Ukraine. The communities of Romanians and Ukrainians could be equally involved in cultural projects. The fact that Romanian formally recognizes the Ukrainian minority could be an advantage for consolidating the cultural bilateral relations. Romania and Ukraine could use the Tatar minority, present in both countries, as cooperation liaison.
Romanian is only promoted in the board regions of Ukraine, and targets specifically the Romanian minority, and not the general population.
This could be in line with the provisions of art. 11 of the Treaty for Good Neighborly and Cooperation Relations that read “the contracting parties will support enhanced contacts between their citizens, as well as between the non-governmental civic organizations and associations in the two countries”. Kyiv proposed setting up “clubs” to foster academic cooperation and interaction, not only within the minority communities, but across the country.
Last but not least, a trilateral of interests could come into shape: Romania-Ukraine-Moldova. For Romania, Moldova is the most important country in the region. It is in Romania’s best interest that Ukraine is stable, as the developments in Ukraine are liable to have a material impact on Moldova, and vice-versa. Under such circumstances, Bucharest and Kyiv are following with the interest the developments on the political scene in Chișinău where the month of November sees the electoral debates in full progress. Ukraine and Moldova are now faced with separatist regions that threaten their integrity and sovereignty.
In the end, this Analysis Paper provides the Romanian and Ukrainian parties with additional resources that can be tapped in to increase the trust between experts and the civil society representatives, as well as the stakeholders in the field of democratic development and security, and to make a contribution to development of joint regional actions that target both Ukraine and Romania.