Moldova needs national reunification strategy

The Republic of Moldova reached the 22nd year of independence. The IPN Agency decided to present the accomplishments and failures in the country’s development in a number of articles. Representatives of the current government, experts, former and current politicians stated their views on the steps taken by Moldova after August 27, 1991.

Article No. 17 of the IPN series “Moldova-22. Steps forward and steps backward”, on the occasion of the Independence Day

The Transnistrian dispute is 21 years old and in this period the Moldovan authorities didn’t promote a national strategy for reunifying the country. Expert in the Transnistrian conflict Oazu Nantoi considers that until the administration does not include persons able to resolve the dispute, the conflict will remain at the same stage. Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration in 2009-2010 Victor Osipov said that such a complex problem requires a strategic approach, or, rather a national strategy. The current Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Eugen Carpov, in an interview for IPN, said the Moldovan authorities will insist further on the withdrawal of the Russian troops and munitions from the eastern districts of Moldova and on transforming the military peacekeeping mission into a civilian one.

Oazu Nantoi said that when we speak about the Transnistrian conflict, we refer to a conflict between the project to build Moldova’s statehood and the geopolitical interests of Russia. The Transnistrian conflict is not an internal one. It is not a conflict between the people living on the left bank of the Nistru and those living on the right bank. It is a geopolitical conflict that was started intentionally when they struggled to keep the USSR and, regretfully, remains frozen yet for two reasons: first – the weakness of the Moldovan democracy, corruption and irresponsibility of the Moldovan political class, and second – the interests of those who smuggle contraband through the uncontrolled region. A part of the money earned this way is used to corrupt decision makers.

Victor Osipov said the conflict has several stages of development at the level of international relations and at state level. At each stage, there were different negotiations and resolution proposals, all kinds of plans. There were oscillating developments in the relations between Chisinau and Tiraspol. We should follow how the lives of the ordinary people from both banks of the Nistru changed meanwhile. We can draw conclusions by tracking the development from the outset until now. The official negotiations interrupted in 2006 were restarted in 2011, but the political matter is not yet discussed. Russia and the Transnistrian side consider that there are no preconditions for this. The settlement process was rather stagnant, but the world changed a lot over the last two decades, with pan-European integrationist and Eurasian processes to which those from Transnistria tend.

Failed initiatives

Victor Osipov underlined that a number of projects for settling the Transnistrian conflict were proposed, but they were unsuccessful because there was no consensus. The settlement projects appeared mainly outside the negotiation process. Attempts were made to find a solution and to write a new Constitution concertedly, but they didn’t produce results. For the time being, the objectives followed by Chisinau and Tiraspol are different. It is very hard to find acceptable solutions for both of the sides as each of them has its own solutions. In Chisinau, the chosen development path is the European integration, while Tiraspol chose the Eurasian integration.

Victor Osipov says solutions weren’t found because the Moldovan authorities, during all the mandates, haven’t been sufficiently consistent. Moldova didn’t have enough financial, energy, economic, intellectual and administrative resources. Even the ideological fight is stiff in this confrontation. It is a competition for the people’s minds. Besides, there are multiple interests and there are persons who smuggled contraband and made money, benefiting from the lack of constitutional control over the Transnistrian region. In this period, they tried to settle the despite one way or another, with calmness and with pressure, somehow in a dilettante way and inconsistently, without having a plan that would cover all the areas. A strategy and a complex plan for resolving the conflict is needed, based on which the allocate money.

Eugen Carpov said that on a short-term, the Moldovan authorities aim to promote the necessity of initiating talks on the institutional, political and security aspects of the Transnistrian settlement. In this respect, they count on the support of all the foreign partners that can give an impetus to this process. It is also necessary to continue the process of building confidence between the two banks and of improving the situation in the Security Zone. There will be supported the actions aimed at ensuring the respect for the human rights in the Transnistrian region and effort will be made to eliminate the barriers to the free movement of persons and goods. They will continue to insist on the withdrawal of the foreign military forces from the country’s territory, in accordance with the provisions of the Constitution of Moldova, the commitments assumed by the Russian Federation and the international principles. The peacekeeping mission should be transformed into an internationally-mandated multinational civil mission.

Steps forward and steps backward

Oazu Nantoi said that steps forward were taken not owing to Moldovan authorities, but because the EU became involved, through the EU Border Assistance Mission. The Transnistrian economic entities registered in Chisinau and now profit from the regime with the EU and export more goods to the European market than those from the right bank. The Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the EU is also a positive challenge for the Transnistrian companies, and, if Russia does not oppose, what we call “Transnistria”, together with the right bank will become a component part of the EU market and conditions will be created for the peaceful settlement of the conflict maintained in the region.

Victor Osipov believes that the steps towards settling the conflict included the measures taken to identify solutions, the negotiations and certain accomplishments for the benefit of the Transnistrians. But then steps backward were taken, including the unsuccessful projects, the incidents in the Security Zone, the inconsistency of the Moldovan authorities and the destabilizing actions taken by the Transnistrian administration, such as the blocking of the development projects in the eastern districts. But the potential of the conflict is used to create problems in the settlement process and to cut the enthusiasm of those who want to resolve this conflict.

A step backward can be considered the year 2006, when the negotiations were interrupted. Steps forward were taken after 2009: the meetings in the 5+2 format and the communication between Chisinau and Tiraspol were resumed. In 2011, there were restarted the official negotiations. Another important aspect is the confidence-building measures and the joint sector groups consisting of experts from Tiraspol and Chisinau, which look for solutions in different spheres. The development partners play an important role in this respect.

One of the well-known objectives of the constitutional authorities is to ensure the free movement of the people from both banks of the Nistru in the Security Zone as well as to replace the military peacekeeping mission with a civil one. Victor Osipov considers that it would be an enormous step forward and a proof of the success for all those involved as well as a new atmosphere of freedom for the people from the region.

Eugen Carpov said the Transnistrian conflict settlement process has evolved significantly over the last few years. It is important that a number of initiatives were implemented in this short period of time, including the restoration of the dialogue, which is the most important. The Government of Moldova for the third year in a row has supported the infrastructure projects in the Security Zone, which are aimed at improving the living conditions for those who suffered as a result of the conflict. The international partners started to express increased interest in the process of reunifying the country. With their support, there are implemented a series of confidence-building projects, including social and economic development and infrastructure projects that support the overcoming of stereotypes and favor the dialogue and information exchange between different groups on both banks of the Nistru, contributing to the development of an open civil society on the left bank, etc.

As regards the steps backward, the Deputy Prime Minister mentioned the stagnation of the dialogue on the future status of the Transnistrian region within the Republic of Moldova. Currently, the discussions focus on the resolution of narrow problems, without a significant impact on the general process.

Settlement of the conflict

The Transnistrian conflict can and should be resolved by exclusively peaceful ways, avoiding the unilateral actions, only by dialogue and negotiations. The main instrument in this respect is the “5+2” format, said Eugen Carpov. The goal of the talks is to find a viable solution to the conflict, by identifying a special legal status for the Transnistrian region. The constitutional authorities aim to draw the people from the two banks closer and to intensify the interhuman contacts. Moldova’s population, regardless of the bank where they live, wants better living conditions, security and stability, and these desiderata can be achieved exclusively by dialogue and only in the people’s interests.

Oazu Nantoi believes that until that intellectual and political potential that can generate and implement a definite plan of action for resolving the conflict is not crystallized in Moldova, the dispute will not be resolved. Before speaking about geopolitics and plans of actions, we must ensure the observance of that document signed in 1992, which says that the people should communicate freely, without being kept under the control of the KGB. This free communication is the key condition for peacefully and irreversibly eroding the Transnistrian regime.

Oazu Nantoi considers that if a government with sufficient political will and competences is formed in Chisinau, we will be able to speak about the settlement of the dispute. Until only 2-3 of the 101 MPs understand what a conflict is, without proposing something constructive, we should not complain that the country is not reunified.

Victor Osipov said that we now benefit from consistent support from the development partners. Since 2010, 15% of the foreign financial assistance has been allocated for improving the welfare of the Transnistrians, for strengthening confidence between the two banks and for supporting the country’s reunification. Also in 2010, the authorities and the EU agreed a constructive approach to the conflict: its resolution must be a common objective, not a barrier to Moldova’s European integration.

The Transnistrian authorities’ negative attitude towards the European integration is rather a speculative one, aimed at justifying the foreign assistance without which the region would rapidly fall. We can witness new provocations before the Vilnius Summit. Victor Osipov considers that the Moldovan authorities’ openness in the talks with the EU is correct. According to him, the benefits of the integration should be widely propagated so as to prevent the appearance of tensions. The Transnistrian conflict will not be able to hamper Moldova’s entry into the EU.

The year 2013 is an important one for Moldova as the Association Agreement with the EU is expected to be initialed at the Vilnius EaP Summit on November 26. Eugen Carpov voiced hope that the Transnistrian officials will realize the importance of this agreement for all the citizens of Moldova, regardless of the bank of the Nistru on which they live.

Mariana Galben, IPN

August 2013

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