Ukrainian president Leonid Kuchma told western leaders at the Davos World Economic Forum that NATO should not admit Romania so long as Bucharest makes territorial claims on Ukraine. In a statement yesterday, Kuchma added that Romanian president Emil Constantinescu offered assurances that Bucharest will in the next few months sign the interstate treaty with Ukraine, which entails mutual recognition of existing borders. (Interfax-Ukraine, February 2) Other Romanian leaders have made similar statements to senior western officials over the last few days, with Foreign Minister Adrian Severin expressing concern that protracted negotiations risk opening a "Pandora’s box" of additional issues in dispute. (Reuter, January 28; Flux, January 29-31)
The treaty negotiations have been frustrated since 1992 mainly by Bucharest’s insistence on inclusion of a treaty clause that would implicitly describe Ukraine’s possession of parts of Bessarabia and Bukovina as an unjust consequence of the 1939 Molotov-Ribbentrop pact. More directly, Bucharest has challenged Ukraine’s title to Serpents’ Island in the Black Sea, a former Romanian possession where oil and gas deposits are at stake. The Romanian democratic leaders who came to power last November announced that they would drop "historic" territorial claims and speed up the signing of the treaty with Ukraine in order to boost Romania’s chances of admission to the European Union and NATO.
The latest negotiating round, held in Bucharest last month, seemed nevertheless to open up precisely that Pandora’s box of additional disputes. Romania asserted that Ukraine "holds illegally" some islands in the Danube Delta, and proposed adjusting the mutual border on the Danube’s Kilia arm in Romania’s favor. Bucharest also asked that the ethnic Moldovan minority in Ukraine be redefined as Romanian. The sides agreed to hold another round of talks in Kiev but have not yet set a date. (Flux, January 14-15; Interfax-Ukraine, January 21-22)
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