The Turkish Minister of Foreign Affair Mevlut Cavusoglu has recently been on a working visit to Moldova where he met with the Moldovan President Maia Sandu to mainly discuss issues of bilateral economic cooperation, trade, and investments [Moldpres.md, 2021]. The sides keenly agreed to increase the amount of bilateral trade to $1billion taking advantage of the free trade agreement launched between the two countries in 2016 and enhancing business ties [Timeturk.com, 2021]. Following the meeting, Minister Cavusoglu held a joint press conference with his Moldovan counterpart Nicu Popescu, in which he stated that Turkey fully supported Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. He also spoke in favor of the peaceful resolution of the Transnistria conflict within the framework of the territorial integrity of Moldova. The Turkish Minister also emphasized that the Gagauz Autonomous Region, which is an inseparable part of Moldova, is a bridge of friendship that strengthens relations between Turkey and Moldova [Yenisafak.com, 2021].
Although it is was a short visit, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusogluc could outline the totality of Turkish-Moldovan relations, clarifying the most sensitive points for Moldova within the current geopolitical situation. Firstly, Turkey reaffirmed its position regarding the territorial integrity of Moldova, which inspires confidence and serves as a platform for friendly relations. Another important point is that Turkey’s stance does not interfere with the current priority political objective of European integration. Secondly, the intensification of cooperation between Moldova and Turkey could be considered as an important balancing element in the foreign policy of Moldova, which is putting all efforts to comply with the recommendations and requirements imposed by the EU. Strong ties with an influential partner outside of the EU in this context would be a great asset for Moldova.
Thirdly, since recently there has been a slight deceleration in the progress of the Trio format, in which Moldova has engaged itself along with two other of its partners (Georgia and Moldova) actively promoting the policy of European integration. One of the reasons for this was the recent detentions of the former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on October 1, 2021, following his first arrival to Georgia since 2013. Although the case of Mikheil Saakashvili, who also held Ukrainian citizenship, did not really deteriorate the Georgia-Ukrainian relations, it made certain obstructing elements in the functioning of the Trio. Moreover, concerns over security risks on its eastern borders became a major issue for Ukraine recently, which also somewhat decelerated the coordinated work of the Trio format. Within this context, the timing for strengthening ties with Turkey could not be more appropriate for Moldova.
Turkey is also highly interested in improving its cooperation and partnership with Moldova, which is very consistent with what Turkey has been implementing since long ago. In spite of geographic proximity and a free trade agreement presently in force between the two countries since 2016 [Ministry of Trade of Turkey, 2016], the potential economic cooperation between Turkey and Moldova is very much untapped. In 2020, the bilateral trade was only at $560 million, which is 7.1% of Moldova’s total foreign trade [Comtrade, 2020]. The sides have therefore set a target to reach a mutual trade volume of $1 billion [Aa.com.tr, 2021].
Moldova is a country that lies in the Black Sea basin and can be viewed as part of a larger Black Sea region from the standpoint of Turkey. Over the last 2-3 decades the strategic importance of the Black Sea has changed and it became a nodal region connecting the Middle East with Southeastern Europe, the Caucasus with the Balkans, and the Caspian Sea with the Mediterranean. Being located at this strategic spot and having the longest coastal front with the Black Sea, Turkey is active in taking initiatives to propose a regional cooperative arrangement that would ensure peace, stability, and cooperation in the region [Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, 2011]. The change of geopolitical interests in the Black Sea region has been extremely dynamic over the last several years. The accession of Romania and Bulgaria to NATO and EU, the rise of European aspiration of Georgia, Moldova, and Ukraine, and other geopolitical processes were the ones that Turkey had to consider in adjusting to when implementing its policy arrangements in the Black Sea region. As a major NATO member-state in the region, Turkey also implicitly acknowledges its important role in mainlining the regional security as well, which became a rather delicate issue since lately. Hence, there is vast space for cooperation and partnership between Turkey and Moldova and no cause for discrepancies nor any contradictions. Moreover, Turkey’s status of being a non-EU NATO member-state is actually a good point for Moldova because it allows it not to be too reliant on the EU at least in issues related to defense and security. Turkey’s recent achievements in the defense industry’s fruitful cooperation with Azerbaijan and Ukraine in this field are definitely motivating Moldova to consider Turkey as a key partner in security and defense.
The Autonomous Region of Gagauzia is a very important element that can potentially open prospects for deeper cooperation between Moldova and Turkey as well as other Turkic states. This small autonomous region mainly populated by Orthodox Christian Turkic people is fully recognized as an inseparable part of Moldova and viewed as part of the larger Turkic world by Turkey. Gagauzia has been receiving quite a lot of assistance from Turkey and Turkic organizations in many spheres, including economic, humanitarian, medical and other areas. Turkey’s contribution to the ethno-cultural revival of Gagauzia is particularly significant. In 2020, Turkey even inaugurated a new consulate general in Comrat, the capital of Gagauzia [Dailysabah.com, 2020]. For Moldova, Gagauzia is an important factor in the delicate internal political balance because the political views of the Gagauz people are in many ways contrary to that of the rest of Moldova [Makhanov, 2020]. It is also one of the poorest regions of Moldova. Therefore, different types of assistance from Turkey to Gagauzia with a friendly and respectful attitude are very much appreciated by Chisinau, which contributes to the formation of a positive image of Turkey amongst Moldovans.
Moldova and Turkey are both mutually interested in deep cooperation and partnership in a very wide range of areas. With the new election of the current Moldovan President Maia Sandu, which marked a new turn of the Moldovan policy towards European integration, we can expect an intensification of bilateral ties. Turkey has all chances to become the most important ally and partner of Moldova outside the EU, which would also perfectly fit into the general foreign policy framework of Turkey regarding the countries around the Black Sea.
Aa.com.tr (2021). Moldova is a valuable friend, partner of Turkey: Turkish envoy. Retrieved from https://www.aa.com.tr/en/world/moldova-valuable-friend-partner-of-turkey-turkish-envoy/2424276. Accessed on 28.11.2021.
Comtrade.un.gov (2020). UN Comtrade Database. Retrieved from https://comtrade.un.org/data/. Accessed on 28.11.2021.
Makhanov, Kanat (2020). Reconciling western aspirations and eastern sympathies: The case of Moldova and Gagauzia. Retrieved from https://www.eurasian-research.org/publication/reconciling-western-aspirations-and-eastern-sympathies-the-case-of-moldova-and-gagauzia/. Accessed on 28.11.2021.
Dailysabah.com (2020). Turkey inaugurates a new consulate general in Moldova’s Gagauzia. Retrieved from https://www.dailysabah.com/politics/diplomacy/turkey-inaugurates-new-consulate-general-in-moldovasgagauzia. Accessed on 28.11.2021.
Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey (2011). Turkey´s approach to the Black Sea Region and to the Organization of The Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC). Retrieved from https://www.mfa.gov.tr/turkey_s-approach-to-the-black-sea-region-and-to-the-organization-of-the-black-sea-economic-cooperation-_bsec_-.tr.mfa. Accessed on 27.11.2021.
Ministry of Trade of the Republic of Turkey (2016). Free Trade Agreements. Moldova. Retrieved from https://www.trade.gov.tr/free-trade-agreements/moldova. Accessed on 27.11.2021.
Moldpres.md (2021). Moldovan president meets the Turkish foreign affairs minister. Retrieved from https://www.moldpres.md/en/news/2021/11/19/21008879. Accessed on 26.11.2021.
Timeturk.com (2021). Moldova is a valuable friend, partner of Turkey: Turkish envoy. Retrieved from https://www.timeturk.com/en/moldova-valuable-friend-partner-of-turkey-turkish-envoy/news-48288. Accessed on 26.11.2021.
Yenisafak.com (2021). Turkey stresses its support for Moldova’s territorial integrity, sovereignty. Retrieved from https://www.yenisafak.com/en/news/turkey-stresses-its-support-for-moldovas-territorial-integrity-sovereignty-3584458. Accessed on 26.11.2021.
Note: The views expressed in this blog are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the Institute’s editorial policy.
Kanat Makhanov is a research fellow at the Eurasian Institute of the International H.A Yassawi Kazakh-Turkish University. He holds a BA in Business Economics from the KIMEP University from 2012. In 2014 he earned his Masters degree in Economics from the University of Vigo (Spain), completing his thesis on “Industrial Specialization in autonomous regions of Spain and Kazakhstan”. His main research interests are Spatial Economics, Economic Geography, Regional Economics, Human and Economic Geography.