Symbols of Independence in IPN’s view

The Republic of Moldova proclaimed its independence 26 years ago on August 27, 1991, in the context of the failed Moscow putsch by which the radical Communists tried to oust Mikhail Gorbachev from power, but this led to the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. Moldova was among the last republics that detached itself from the USSR, while the Baltic States did it much earlier. The National Liberation Movement of Moldova, which obtained a number of important victories by then, was the driving force of the radical change of the status of the former MSSR.

In August 1989, after the Great National Assembly, the Romanian language was proclaimed the official language and there was introduced the Latin script. Afterward, the tricolor was instituted as the national flag. There were adopted the national anthem and the coat of arms, the Declaration of Sovereignty of June 23, 1990, and the decision not to take part in the referendum on the maintaining of the USSR on March 17, 1991 despite the pressure exerted from outside. Only one step remained until the declaration of independence.

Great National Assembly and Declaration of Independence

The Great National Assembly of August 27, 1991 was the final point of the movement of resistance to the Moscow putsch, which mobilized the largest part of the population to defend democracy and the national values. Over 700,000 people of the population of 4.5 million gathered together in the Great National Assembly Square and imposed their will to be independent from the former Soviet metropolis, while Parliament that came together for a meeting practically implemented the Assembly’s decision.  

The Independence was proclaimed by a Declaration signed by 278 MPs of the 280 that attended the sitting. The original of the document was destroyed during the protests of April 7, 2009, but an identical document was restored in 2010. Also on August 27, 1991, Parliament decided that Moldova’s anthem will be “Wake up, Romanian!”, which was used until 1994, when a new anthem – “Our Language” – was adopted and the name of “Moldovan language” was introduced into the Constitution. Romania was the first state that recognized Moldova’s independence.

“It is solemnly proclaimed, in virtue of the right of peoples to self-determination, in the name of the whole population of the Republic of Moldova and the whole world: the Republic of Moldova is a sovereign, democratic and free state that can decide its present and future without any interference from outside, in accordance with the ideals and sacred aspirations of the people in the historical and ethnic area of its national development,” says the Declaration of Independence.

Presidents of the Republic of Moldova

The first presidential elections took place on December 8, 1991.Mircea Snegur was the only candidate in elections and he was chosen by an overwhelming majority of votes. In 1997, Petru Luchinski was invested as President after he won the runoff elections by 54.02% of the poll on December 1, 1996, beating Mircea Snegur. In 1991–2000, the President was elected by a universal, equal, direct, secret and freely expressed vote for a four-year term. In 2000, Parliament modified the procedure of electing the President of the Republic of Moldova so that this was elected by the legislative body. By the March 4, 2016 judgment passed by the Constitutional Court, the direct election of the President, by the people, was restored.

In 2001, Vladimir Voronin was elected President of the Republic of Moldova by Parliament. He held two consecutive terms of office, until 2009.

After the protests of April 7, 2009, Vladimir Voronin dissolved Parliament and Moldova remained without an elected President for a two-year period owing to the absence of the necessary votes in the legislature. In the period, the post was held on an interim basis by the leader of the Liberal Party Mihai Ghimpu, the then chairman of the Liberal Democratic Party of Moldova Vlad Filat and the then chairman of the Democratic Party Marian Lupu. In March 2012, Nicolae Timofti, who headed the Superior Council of Magistracy, was elected President. After the direct presidential election was restored, Igor Dodon was elected President by over 52% of the vote on December 13, 2016. He thus outstripped his opponent Maia Sandu.

Armed conflict on the Nistru

The active military phases of the armed conflict in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova started on March 2, 1992. It was a military conflict between the Republic of Moldova and the separatist regime, installed in the self-proclaimed “Nistrean Moldovan Republic” that enjoyed the direct support of the  Russian military deployed on the left side of the Nistru and of the Russian mercenaries who included the current Deputy Prime Minister of Russia Dmitry Rogozin, who is also the special representative of the Russian President Vladimir Putin for the Transnistrian region. The battle was for control over the districts of Camenca, Dubasari, Grigoriopol, Rybnitsa, Slobozia and Tiraspol town, which are situated on the left side of the Nistru, as well as over Tighina town, which is located on the right side of the river.

The political conflict started in 1990, immediately after the declaration of the so-called “Moldovan Nistrean Republic”, whose latent phase still continues. The formal motive of the Transnistrian conflict was the adoption of the legislation whereby the Romanian language was declared official language instead of the Russian language that was the official language in the whole Soviet area until then and the concerns about a possible union of Moldova and Romania. In essence, two views on the further development path of the Republic of Moldova and its society collided on this territory after the dismemberment of the Soviet Union. The battles on the Nistru claimed hundreds of lives among both of the belligerent sides.

The ceasefire agreement, called officially the Convention on the principles of the peaceful settlement of the armed conflict in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova, was signed by the then President of Russia Boris Yeltsin and the then President of Moldova Mircea Snegur in Moscow on July 21, 1992, in the presence of the Transnistrian leaders, who were all citizens of the Russian Federation.  The agreement envisioned the immediate cessation of hostilities, creation of a “security zone”, constitution of peacekeeping forces consisting of Russian, Moldovan and Transnistrian soldiers. A tripartite Joint Control Commission was set up to monitor the implementation of the agreement. After this was signed, de facto 12% of Moldova’s territory remained under the control of the Transnistrian regime, the dispute turning into one of the frozen conflicts existing on the territory of the former USSR. Afterward, a multipartite negotiation mechanism called “5+2” was created. This included the Russian Federation, Ukraine, OSCE, the U.S. and the EU as mediators and observers, plus the representatives of Chisinau and Tiraspol, which have the status of “parties”.

Republic of Moldova accepted into UN

On March 2, 1992, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution by which the Republic of Moldova was accepted into the United Nations Organization. Accidentally or not, it happened on the same day the Nistru armed conflict started. During 25 years, with the support of the UN agencies, multiple development programs were implemented in different sectors.

Entry into Community of Independent States

On December 21, 1991, there was adopted the Alma-Ata Protocol that defines the goals and principles of the Commonwealth of Independent States. In Alma-Ata, Chisinau was represented by President Mircea Snegur, who signed the document on Moldova’s entry into the CIS. The Parliament of Moldova ratified the document only on April 26, 1994.

Admission to Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly

The Republic of Moldova joined the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe on July 13, 1995, being the first post-Soviet state to do this and becoming the 36th member state. Moldova’s Parliament ratified the European Convention on Human Rights on July 24, 1997. A Council of Europe Information Office was opened in Chisinau on June 30, 1997, at the request of the Government of the Republic of Moldova. This was later turned into the Council of Europe Office in Chisinau.

National anthem

The song “Our language” is the national anthem of the Republic of Moldova. This was written by Alexei Mateevici, the music was composed by Alexandru Cristea and the song was arranged by Valentin Danga.

Official language

Under the Constitution,  the “Moldovan language” is the official language of the Republic of Moldova. The law of 1989 on the official language of the Soviet Moldova provided that the official language is “Moldovan”, stipulating the existence of common features between the Romanian language and the Moldovan one. The Declaration of Independence of the Republic of Moldova, adopted in 1991, provided that the official language is “Romanian”. In 1994, the country’s Constitution legalized the “Moldovan language written with the Latin script”. In 2013, the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Moldova ruled that the Declaration of Independence prevails over the Constitution. Consequently, the name of the official language is the one stipulated in the Declaration of Independence, which is the “Romanian language”.

The name of the country’s official language aroused and continues to arouse heated debates among the supporters of the names “Moldovan language” and “Romanian language”. For their part, these disputes are a reflection of the deep disagreements existing on society over the national identity of the native population, with some of these considering themselves “Moldovans”, while the others considering themselves “Romanians”. These disagreements are intensely speculated for political purposes and represent one of the many criteria by which Moldovan society continues to be divided.

National currency

The Moldovan leu is the national currency of the Republic of Moldova. It was introduced into circulation on November 29,1993, following the adoption of the Law on the National Bank of Moldova on June 4, 1991, which envisioned the introduction of the national currency of the Republic of Moldova, without specifying yet the name of the national currency.

There were two variants for the name of the national currency - ducat and leu. The choice was in favor of the leu. The 1 leu bill was the first issued banknote. In April 1994, there was issued the 5 lei bill. One month later, there were issued the 10 lei and 50 lei bills. The 100 lei and 200 lei bills appeared in September 1995, while the 500 lei banknote was put into circulation in 1999. The 1,000 lei bill was issued in October 2003.

The leu replaced the Moldovan coupon on November 29, 1993. During 1918–1939, when the territory between the Prut and the Nistru Rivers of the current Republic of Moldova formed part of Romania, the circulating currency was the Romanian leu. When the Republic of Moldova formed part of the USSR, the official currency was the ruble.

Decision of Istanbul OSCE Summit

On November 22,1999, the Istanbul OSCE Summit adopted a statement whereby the Russian Federation, as the successor of the Soviet Union, was obliged to pull out its troops that were deployed in the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova in the Soviet period, until January 1, 2003. The statement provided that the party states welcomed Russia’s commitment to complete the pullout of its military forces from Moldova’s territory until the end of 2002. Russia withdrew 58 trains of equipment and munitions from Transnistria, but later decided that the pullout will be finished only after the Transnistrian conflict is politically resolved.

In July 2017, Moldova’s Parliament adopted a decision whereby the Russian Federation is requested to pull out its troops and munitions from the territory of the Republic of Moldova. This was the first official document to this effect adopted in the period of the Independence. In August 2017, the government of Moldova officially requested the UN to include the pullout of the foreign troops from the country’s territory in the agenda of the 72nd session of the UN General Assembly, which will take place at the start of next month.

Constitution of the Republic of Moldova

Adopted by Parliament on July 29, 1994, the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova is the main political-legal instrument that enshrined the separation from the totalitarian regime, offering the country a new constitutional order and the possibility of embracing the values of the civilized world, such as respect for and promotion of human rights and freedoms, political pluralism and market economy, the rule of law, justice and social solidarity, equality and social justice. This took effect on August 27, 1994.

Moldova’s Constitution consists of seven titles divided each into chapters and sections. The preamble specifies the century-old aspirations of the people to live in a sovereign country, the goals to satisfy the people’s needs and to ensure the continuity of the statehood of the Moldovan people in the historical and ethnic context of its establishment as a nation. The preamble of the Constitution includes statements on the political and state organization and on the fundamental social relations between the members of society. Under the Constitution, the Republic of Moldova is a sovereign and independent, unitary and undividable state. The republic is its form of government.

Protests against governments

1. During January 9 – April 29, 2002, the Christian Democratic People’s Party (PPCD) mounted nonstop protests against the Communist movement in the Great National Assembly Square of Chisinau. It set up a tent town called the Freedom Town. The protests were triggered by the order of minister of education concerning the mandatory studying of Russian in schools starting with the second grade. In December 2002, a decision on the opportunity of holding a national consultative referendum on Moldova’s entry into the EU and NATO was adopted under the aegis of the PPCD. By this, an initiative group for organizing the referendum was also created. Following the Central Election Commission’s refusal to register the initiative group in February 2003, the PPCD mounted large-scale protests against the government’s actions under the slogans: “We want in Europe!”, “We want in NATO!”.

In November 2003, on the initiative of the parliamentary group of the PPCD, there was constituted the Committee for the Defense of Moldova’s Independence and Constitution. This consisted of representatives of the Democratic parties and civil society, who proposed solutions to the Transnistrian conflict, in accordance with the Constitution and the international law norms. The Committee also organized large protests where they demanded that the Communist government should not sign the so-called “Kozak Memorandum” promoted by Russia, which envisioned, among other proposals for settling the Transnistrian conflict, the legalization of the stay of Russian troops on Moldova’s territory for a period of 20 years. Communist President Vladimir Voronin was close to signing the document, but ultimately changed his mind. In time, the leaders of the protests on behalf of the PPCD accepted the cooperation with the Communist government and high-ranking posts in state institutions and abandoned the pro-Romanian, pro-Western and pro-Atlantic options in favor of the pro-Eastern and pro-Russian ones.

2. The protests of April 6-7, 2009 represented a series of mass demonstrations against the results of the April 5 parliamentary elections. After the Central Election Commission published the first official results, according to which the ruling Party of Communists of the Republic of Moldova won a majority of seats in Parliament for the third consecutive time, calls to protest were made through the Internet and social networking sites. These intensified when a number of parties joined the protest. On April 7, over 30,000 people who supported the opposition took to the streets in Chisinau to challenge the Communists’ victory in election, chanting “We want the elections to be rerun” and “Down with the Communists”. Also on April 7, the peaceful protests degenerated into violence that ended with the destruction of the Parliament Building and the Presidential Building, arrests and victims. The attempts made to investigate the circumstances and to identify the organizers of the violent acts failed both during the Communist government and later, after several coalitions that declared themselves Democratic took over.

3. The demonstrations of 2015–2016 represented a continuous protest against the socioeconomic situation in the Republic of Moldova, which got a clearer shape in 2015 and was worsened by the financial-banking scandal known as “the theft of the century”. There were held nonstop protests with tents pitched in central Chisinau and periodic peaceful demonstrations that tended to decline. After the Filip Government was invested in January 2016, the street protests intensified. In response to the banking fraud of about US$ 1 billion, the EU, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank stopped the financial assistance intended for the Republic of Moldova.

Liberalization of visa regime with EU

The liberalized visa regime with the EU started to be used on April 28, 2014. Thus, only the Moldovans with biometric passports can travel in the EU. The discussions between the Republic of Moldova and the European Union on visa-free travel in the European area were initiated in 2010. One year later, Moldova received the visa liberalization action plan from the EU.

The right to travel freely in the EU became a reality after Moldova fulfilled all the conditions related to the security of documents, including the issuing of biometric passports, fighting of illegal migration and institution of control over the migration flows through the Transnistrian segment of the Moldovan-Ukrainian border. This way Moldova became the first Eastern Partnership country that benefits from a visa-free regime with the EU.

Association Agreement with EU

The Association Agreement between Moldova and the European Union was signed on June 27, 2014 and took effect on a temporary basis on September 1, 2014 and definitively on July 1, 2016. The agreement aims to contribute to more profound rapprochement between the two states at political and economic levels. The document also includes a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement that facilitates the diminution of barriers to the bilateral trade, contributing thus to economic growth.

Following the numerous restrictions imposed by Russia after 2005, the Moldovan companies reoriented themselves to the EU market. Currently, Moldova’s exports to the EU make up 63%. About 1,400 companies successfully export goods to the EU based on over 2,100 tariff positions. Some of the export quotas are not fully used. Exports to the EU from regions have increased, including from the Autonomous Territorial Unit of Gagauzia and the Transnistrian region, which, based on the agreement signed by the constitutional authorities, sell to the EU more than a half of the products intended for export. The benefits of the Association Agreement include the harmonization of the national legislation with the Community acquis, appearance of modern technical regulations and borrowing of over 14,400 European/international standards, annulment of about 11,600 conflicting and outdated Moldovan standards. Based on the agreement, the EU offers Moldova significant financing and logistic support for doing reforms in practically all the spheres of life.

Migration and massive remittances

According to the Labor Force Poll, the number of Moldovan migrants who went abroad to look for sources of livelihood had constantly increased during 12 years, except for 2005: from about 100,000 Moldovans in 1999 to approximately 350,000 at the end of 2010. According to a study commissioned by BBC, 106 persons from Moldova emigrate daily, Moldova being the country with the highest population decline rate in the world.

Starting with 2003, the flow of migrants from the rural areas started to increase at higher paces than that from urban areas and the difference is now of 4-6 percentage points. According to official statistics of the end of 2016, provided by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration, the Moldovan citizens abroad total 805,509. The last census shows Moldova has a population of almost 3 million.

The remittances sent to Moldova from abroad in 2000, when the phenomenon of migration in the country started to take shape, came to US$ 152.9 million. In 2016, the Moldovans received US$ 1.079 billion from relatives and friends from abroad. The data of the National Bank of Moldova show the amounts transferred by the Moldovans home rose constantly in 2000-2008 and added up to US$ 1.218 billion in 2007. A record was hit in 2008, when remittances totaled US$ 1.66 billion and the value of transfers then fell suddenly to US$ 1.182 billion.

The data of the World Bank show the share of remittances in the GDP in 2008 was of 33%, while in 2011 this fell to 21%. In 2012 the remittances represented 24% of the GDP, while in 2013 – 25%. The remittances hit a new record low in 2016. Even if Russia remains the main supplier of remittances, the value of these halved and the transfers to Moldova increased from such countries as Israel, the U.S., Germany, the UK and Romania.

Russia’s bans

Russia used the bans on the import of Moldovan products as an instrument in the bilateral relations as of 2005, when the Communist government reoriented the geopolitical options of Moldova from the East to the West, with considerable rapprochement with the EU bodies. This instrument has been yet used more intensely starting with September 2013, when a real perspective of signing the Association Agreement with the EU appeared. Most of the bans are yet in force and refer mainly to such strategic export products as wine, fruit, vegetables and cans.

“Theft of the century”

The scandal appeared when the National Bank of Moldova determined that three financial-banking institutions of Chisinau, which accounted for about one third of the country’s banking assets, provided loans to the total value of US$ 1 billion or 15% of Moldova’s GDP. The “discovery” was made public shortly after the parliamentary elections of the end of 2014.

The central bank instituted a special administration regime at the three banks in December 2014, while in January 2015 contracted the audit and financial investigations company Kroll to perform an investigation. The first Kroll report shows that transfers started to be made in secret in 2012 and operations to eliminate the trances of those transfers by complex transactions and by removing documents, including by burning a car with essential documents of Banca de Economii, were performed in the second half of 2014. According to the report, businessman Ilan Shor in 2012 obtained control over the three banks and then started to transfer loans among the three banks and to foreign entities  (Russian banks and offshore companies), artificially increasing their liquidity. The last act of this process consisted in the withdrawal of a sum equal to 13% of the GDP (14 billion lei) from the reserves of the National Bank of Moldova. The money was used to fill the gaps at the three banks. Afterward, the loans were converted into a state debt based on the Government’s guarantee.

Arrests among “high-ranking officials”

Ex-Premier Vlad Filat, who led the most important party of the ruling coalition, was arrested on October 15, 2015 following self-denouncing statements made by businessman Ilan Shor. It is the first and only arrest that ended with a definitive conviction sentence among high-ranking officials during the whole period of Independence. On June 27, 2016, Vlad Filat was sentenced to nine years in jail for passive corruption and influence peddling and a part of his property was confiscated. Also for the first time, an ex-MP was recently arrested and convicted of treason and espionage in favor of Russia. And also for the first time, the most influential mayor of the country – Mayor of Chisinau Dorin Cirtoaca – was arrested and is investigated for influence peddling and passive corruption. The arrests and convictions affected also ministers and deputy ministers, police chiefs, lawyers and other persons with responsible posts. The conclusion that on the 26th year of independence Moldova launched the process of cleaning the political class and society in general would have been tempting if there hadn’t been reasonable suspicions about selective justice in the interests of groups of interests. The closed trial of ex-Premier Filat in all the national courts is a sign that could confirm these suspicions.

Change in electoral system

In July 2017, Parliament adopted the bill to amend the Election Code and introduce the mixed-member electoral system instead of the party-list proportional representation system. Thus, half of the MPs will be chosen based on party lists, while the other half in single-member constituencies. In general, the promoters of the change argue the largest part of society wanted this and the move is also aimed at cleaning or renewing the political class and this will generate significant transformations in the life of Moldovan society. The opponents draw attention to the fact that the change in the electoral system antagonized even more society that has been profoundly divided throughout the Independence period and to the danger of damaging the relations with the development partners, which didn’t univocally recommend doing the given electoral reform at this stage.

Sabina Rebeja, by using IPN data and information from the public sphere

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