Over the last week, my email and twitter have been absolutely carpet bombed by press statements and tweets from various official press centres and the enlightened in equal measure far in excess of the usual information overload.
The reason of course was the gathering at the UN. Everybody who is a political anybody has to be on record saying something whether people stay to listen or walk out is irrelevant. Those words are transmitted globally by the Internet in real time via live webcast or with the absolute minimum of delay via press statements.
You start to feel some pity for those in GCHQ, MI6, MI5 and Whitehall who have to trawl through huge amounts of data on a minute by minute basis and decide what is of interest and what is not, what requires and immediate response, what may require a response later and what can be completely ignored. Who has said what and is there any actual or potential changes in their position which may also mean blowing the dust off some contingency plan written for that eventuality some time ago or creating one.
Multiply this by the many channels of communication of government and other actors, which may be spook to spook, minister to minister, gov to gov, department to department, non-state actor to any of the aforementioned plus many others and in any possible combination from these multitude of information emitting nodes and the carpet bombing of my email and twitter looks like an easy day at the office for some unfortunate mandarin working on a particular desk.
The UN was obviously going to be dominated by the Palestinian UN application and various other Arab and African events. Ukraine seemed to be most noticed relating to all things atomic during the meeting and whilst that is an important and global issue, that is not what caught my eye.
My attention was drawn to the on-going issue of Transnistria and the 5+2 negotiations to which Ukraine is party. New commitments to restarting meaningful negotiations were not made at the UN, but in Moscow during the UN gathering in New York, however it did get a mention.
Regionally this is particularly important for both Moldova, Ukraine and the EU. Transnistria is no more than a 30 minute drive from my home and a place I have been several times.
Transnistria is (classed as) a frozen conflict that happens to sit on the borders of Ukraine (and Odessa) and presents a major obstacle to both Moldovan and Ukrainian European aspirations. Although this very recent European Commission Report on Moldovan and Ukrainian Visa-free progression does not make it clear, should Ukraine become Visa-free with the EU long before Moldova reaches that stage, it may very well land-lock (by Visa necessity) a very small and rather poor nation on all sides which would be a particularly bad result over a long period of time.
Quite obviously if Ukraine were to become Visa-free with the EU, both the EU and Moldova would hope that Moldova follows swiftly in the wake of Ukraine. That is rather difficult when there is a frozen conflict involving an officially unrecognised region that seeks autonomy from Moldova and alignment with Russia. To give credit where it is due, Germany has been particularly active with engaging with the Kremlin over a resolution in the past year to allow Moldova a route towards Europe.
As Stefan Fule stated, sadly almost as a footnote, in this speech a few days ago, “If Ukraine’s role is to be enhanced as we hope, I think it is important to end with a strong reminder of the importance of the human element. At last year’s Summit I was pleased that we were able to announce a concrete Action Plan towards Visa Liberalization. I think the prospects are positive.” Unfortunately there is no mention of the intangible link with Moldova that certainly exists.
Thus, despite the fine words and matters of great global interest discussed at the UN over tha past week, possibly the biggest and most advantageous event of last week involving Ukraine and its foreign policy took place in Moscow and hardly got a mention.