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Overview of year 2002

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December 30, 2002
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It seems the most important events of the 2002 were: protest rallies at the beginning of the year; OSCE draft on the federalization of the Republic of Moldova; October CIS Summit; Presidential Decree on establishing a National Commission for European Integration; Christian-Democrats initiative to conduct a referendum on joining EU and NATO; and President Voronin’s official visit to Washington.

The aforesaid events are important, as they have marked the beginning of important stages in the political process having a major impact on the Republic of Moldova. Let’s say protest rallies staged by the Christian-Democrats at the beginning of the year ended with the adoption of PACE Resolution and close monitoring of political developments in the Republic of Moldova by the Council of Europe. The fact that Republic of Moldova is due to take over the presidency of the Council of Europe Ministerial Council at the time Communists are in power, seems an advantage. For one thing, this may serve, as a guarantee that there would be no “anti-democratic slide” within the country at least for the time period Republic of Moldova would hold the presidency.

OSCE draft on the Republic of Moldova federalization marked the negotiation process on settling Transdnistrian conflict and would have serious repercussions. The fact is that, political forces in the Republic of Moldova insisted on the internationalization of the Transdnistrian conflict settlement process, but they never managed to produce a proposal on settling the conflict convenient for the Republic of Moldova. Not to say that the international machinery is very slow in examining issues concerning such small and exotic countries like ours. Under those circumstances the country leadership preferred to accept the federalization draft presented by OSCE. It was only on the eve of the OSCE Summit in Porto that Moldovan leadership realized that is has fallen into the trap. Russia, Ukraine, OSCE and Transdnistria made an attempt to force Republic of Moldova to sign a statement of intentions on the establishment of a “contractual federation”. Moldovan representative refrained from signing, as he understood that the “contractual federation” was the intermediary, but decisive step towards Transdnistria’s independence. Considering the aforesaid one may conclude that there are no chances for Republic of Moldova to avoid federalization. The only thing left is to gain the acceptance of federalization through decentralization, i.e. a federation is to be established and within its framework Republic of Moldova would grant extensive prerogatives to Transdnistria, however without recognizing its sovereignty and right to cession. The only way to achieve the aforesaid is by gaining the support of US, the only superpower able to overcome any impediments. Republic of Moldova would have to undergo a long and tiresome reorganization of the state power under a severe economic crisis. This reorganization would take quite a long time and all this time the major mediators — Russia and Ukraine would take Tiraspol side. Considering those circumstances President Voronin was right to ask for US and EU support, despite the fact he used to oppose such an interference. This however, might jeopardize the unity of the ruling party. Consequently, Vladimir Voronin would have to navigate under extremely difficult conditions, especially as in order to gain EU and US support he would have to accept some inner reforms.

The joint statement of Presidents Bush and Voronin signed during Washington visit contains extremely important provisions regarding reforms, investments, etc. It also stipulates the need to further ensure the freedom of press and free and fair elections. The latter is probably a polite warning made by US authorities once the experience of elections in Gagauz-Yeri and situation of mass media in Moldova came to their knowledge.

The metamorphoses in President Voronin’s political orientation could have been predicted earlier on. It sees Moldovan authorities realized long time ago they have nothing more to expect from Community of Independent States (CIS). CIS member countries pursue quite different interests and Russia does not possess enough economic and financial resources to keep those countries within its exclusive field of interest. For instance, Ukrainian President, Leonid Kucima, stated recently there was no reason for his country to enter Eurasia Union, unless Russia equals the prices it charges from members states to the inner ones.

From this perspective, Moldovan authorities’ declarations that EU integration did no contradict CIS membership are rather precaution measures aimed at avoiding confrontation with Russia. Both political leaders and analysts agree that CIS is an inoperative structure and the only thing it is capable of is cutting its enormous personnel. Needless to say, President Voronin signed the Decree on the establishment of a National Commission for European Integration right before the CIS Summit in Chisinau. The nine years passed since Copenhagen Summit, which adopted the standards and criteria for EU extension, have shown political and economic progress that could be achieved by candidate countries. Even the incumbent ruling party in Moldova cannot deny this fact.

And finally, Christian-Democrats initiative to consult the population on whether to join EU via a national referendum might prove to have a great impact as well. This is a very positive initiative although at the first glance one may say there is nothing special about it, as long as practically all political parties are in favor of European integration. The positive thing about it is that only a referendum might turn the idea of European integration from political speculations to a legal issue decided by citizens of the country, even if it is only a consultative referendum. Let’s not forget that political leaders rapidly change their opinions readjusting them to the conjuncture.

However under the internal and external pressure the ruling party would have to face its reformation. The issue was raised during the May Party Plenary Session, however there was no follow-up. That is why, there is an impression of a gap between the President Voronin message and the principles stipulated in the party official documents. Only recently the Communist Party ideologists started a debated with social-democratic parties. Communist Party ideologists accused Moldovan social-democrats of discrediting the idea and claimed that they were the real social-democrats, although they had no intention to change the party name, which is so popular among the impoverished population of the country (accounting for 80%).

Given the aforesaid one may conclude that the most important events of 2003 would most likely be related to: withdrawal of Russian munitions from Transdnistria and negotiations on federalization of the Republic of Moldova; local elections scheduled for May; consultative referendum on joining NATO and EU; elaboration and enforcement of the Poverty Reduction Strategy under the supervision of the WB and IMF; elaboration of the Strategy on European Integration; and reforming ruling party. All of the said events are very complex ones and because of this the relationships between the ruling party and opposition would be of crucial importance. In 2002 those relationships generated too many political conflicts.

Referendum on joining EU 2003 electoral year