Oleg Cristal: The principles of integrity and sovereignty must be respected in settling the problem of Moldova's eastern districts. Info-Prim Neo Survey

Info-Prim Neo News Agency is conducting an opinion poll on the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict among leaders of political parties, representatives of the civil society, and opinion shapers from both banks of the Nistru. The survey is aimed at finding out viewpoints that could contribute to the improvement of the present situation. All the participants were asked the same two questions. This time, the answers are given by Oleg Cristal, deputy editor-in-chief at “Moldova Suverana” daily, politics PhD candidate. [- How can the dispute be solved in your opinion? In what way, through what mechanisms and during what terms is a settlement possible?] - I must start with the remark that I'm going to express my personal opinion on the matter. The settlement of the problem of Moldova's eastern districts must be done with respect for the principles of the country's integrity and sovereignty, in accordance with the Constitution, adopted in 1994, and with the Law on the Basic Provisions of the Special Legal Status of Settlements on the Left Bank of Nistru, adopted by unanimity of votes by the Moldovan Parliament on 22 July 2005. Both the supreme law and that of 2005 provide for the unitary status of the Republic of Moldova, which I think must be kept after the settlement of the Transnistrian dispute as well. At the same time, any solution should envisage a broad autonomy for the population living in these settlements and a possible representation in the central governing bodies in Chisinau, proportional to the number of the inhabitants of the region. This doesn't mean that the representatives of the region should form distinct groups inside the central bodies, because the opening of this zone to the Moldovan information space may entail the amalgamation of the society. And I don't mean the Transnistrization of the Republic of Moldova, but rather the Europeanization of its easter region. In this connection, I insist on the need to boost joint efforts by the authorities in Chisinau, the NGOs working on the both sides of the Nistru and foreign partners to democratize and Europeanize the Transnistrian region, along with deepening this kind of reforms on the right side of the Nistru. The Law of 2005 also provides for another condition for the settlement of this dispute – the withdrawal of foreign troops from this territory. Some 20,000 tons of weaponry are still stocked in Cobasna depots, which should either be evacuated or disposed of. This will annul the need for the 1500 Russian troops stationed there to protect those stockpiles. Also, the current peacekeeping mission is ineffective and obsolete. It's very good that since the ceasefire was signed in 1992 no military clashes have occurred along the Nistru. Therefore, I see no reason why the current peace keepers should stay there any longer. They ought to be replaced by a civilian mission, internationally mandated (UN or OSCE, maybe in cooperation with the EU). In fact, the absence of military hostilities in the region is simply due to the fact that this conflict has merely economic and political roots, I mean mob interests. There are no animosities between ordinary people living on the opposite banks of the river, and this gives us hope that the conflict can be solved easily and quickly. Any definite political solution must be implemented in several steps. First of all, it should be accepted by Chisinau and the administration in Tiraspol, and then endorsed within the five-plus-two format talks (involving Moldova, the administration in Tiraspol, OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine, plus the European Union and the United States). Another stage would be the endorsement of the Moldovan Parliament and, of course, the general public. Otherwise, any solution, no matter how good, will turn on an immune reaction. It is also key to pay special attention to the viability of a potential settlement recipe, so that it would lead to a genuine reunification and the establishment of a functional state. We must avoid potential obstructions at government level, so that all the citizens of the reunified state can enjoy the benefits. We need to continue cooperating with the principal international players, which are directly involved in the process (the EU, the OSCE, Russia, the United States, and Ukraine). They can not just help to find a viable solution, but also to implement concrete projects related to infrastructure, social and economic development, support to civil society, democratization, etc. The EU and the U.S. have already announced their willingness to provide generous financing for a variety of projects, which will be useful to all of us. I suppose there may be other foreign donors as well to help us overcome a host of challenges. We should be some sort of prophets to be able to tell when two pieces of a country separated for more than 17 years will again become one. But we aren't. I know that most of us, including from the left side of the Nistru, wish for a quick settlement of this conflict, because it has exhausted us all. But at the same time we should remember the Latin saying “Festina Lente”, meaning “make haste slowly”. I repeat, we need a functional state. [- How do you think, how efficient and relevant to the created situation are the steps taken by the administration of Moldova at present? When do you think the effort made by the authorities will begin to produce results and what results can we expect?] - All the authorities in Chisinau must make every political, diplomatic, and economic effort to reunify the country. We all observe the sustained efforts by the Moldovan government to find a viable solution to the problem of the districts in eastern Moldova. In this connection, one can remember the great number of contacts at bilateral level with the participants in the five-plus-two talks. For instance, on May 27 this issue was examined in Brussels during the visit of Moldova's President Vladimir Voronin, but also in Chisinau, during the visit of Alexei Ostrovsky, Chairman of the Russian Duma's Committee for CIS Affairs. The eagerness of the Moldovan authorities to settle this 'frozen conflict' is so obvious. There are many premises, related to the regional and international conjuncture, which give hope for a possible resolution of the Transnistrian conflict in the foreseeable future, provided all the conditions above are met. Unfortunately, there are some forces (in Tiraspol, on the right side of the Nistru, outside the country, both at her east and west) which vehemently oppose the settlement. Two many shadow interests intersect in this “gray zone”. I personally expect only good results as concerns the Transnistrian settlement. And these are the expectations of the most of our citizens that live separated by the Nistru river. Except for those who wish for the preservation of the 'status quo' or the de jure institutionalization of the separatist republic.

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