One the other hand, notable figures within the ruling party expressed their reticence with regard to President’s statements. Therefore, the President was forced to declare that domestic press misinterpreted his words with regard the CIS future and the future of Moldova within CIS, for that matter. So, in the end the ruling party came back on track of its oscillating policies.
It is worth clarifying certain issues here. Firstly, opposition was suspicious over the pro-European statements made by President Voronin one year ago. The best test for the authorities to prove their pro-European intentions was suggested by the Christian-Democratic Peoples’ Party, when last December they came up with the initiate of a consultative referendum for the people either to support European integration or oppose it. In doing so Christian-Democrats followed the logic that accession to EU should be preceded by some security guarantees, namely joining NATO. Apparently the referendum was intended to create a strong pro-European movement within the country, which would have compel political elite to follow it without many hesitations.
Authorities’ reaction to the Christian-Democrat’s initiative was quite eloquent. On the one hand the referendum was thwarted on the grounds that, under the Constitution, Republic of Moldova is a neutral state. On the other hand it enjoyed mockery coverage in the governmental press on the grounds that referenda on joining EU are held only in the countries already accepted to the Union.
Therefore, Moldovan authorities proved to be guided by other logic than the one recently tested by the ten East European countries accepted to EU. Apparently Moldovan authorities do not make a difference between a consultative referendum aimed to endow a clear strategic goal to the domestic policies and a referendum aimed at approving EU membership, which has a legal effect.
This fact alone determined a wide skepticism towards the latest pro-European initiative of President Voronin. It seems that the pro-European initiative is only one element of a wider range of methods aimed at changing radically the negotiation format with Transdnistrian leaders. The thing is that after two years in power, the Communist Party has understood that its plan to settle the Transdnistrian conflict is not feasible within the old structure and negotiation format. To attract new parties interested in the settlement of the Transdnistrian conflict, authorities came up with the idea of European integration. Let’s take a closer look at the sequence of events. After a series of meetings with Vladimir Putin, Moldovan President made an appeal to his Russian counterpart, on the Russian TV, to recall its citizen, Igor Smirnov, from the eastern territories of the Republic of Moldova. Voronin’s message was left without any answer, while the number of meetings between the two Presidents dropped. Then followed OSCE draft proposal on federalization of the Republic of Moldova, and a couple of months later President Voronin came up with the initiative of Moldova’s integration in EU. To attenuate somehow his initiative, during the CIS Summit held in Chisinau in October 2002, President Voronin suggested the entire CIS to follow the European integration path. Later, following the decisions taken at the NATO Summit in Prague and EU Summit in Copenhagen, President Voronin notified EU officials on his pro-European intentions and several weeks later he visited Washington and where he was promised US support in settling the Transdnistrian conflict. Meanwhile Christian-Democrats initiative to conduct the aforesaid referendum was rejected. At the same time a wide campaign against the breakaway regime was launched on the international scale. Accusations to the Tiraspol regime have been voiced at the OSCE Summit in Porto, at the Council of Europe, at the UN, etc. Indeed the campaign had a visible effect, especially when the Dutch Foreign Minister launched the idea of EU involvement in the resolution of the Transdnistrian conflict. Interestingly, when it was time to seize those opportunities Moldovan side was hesitant, could only express its gratitude to OSCE and other guarantor countries — Russia and Ukraine, and condemn “nationalism and separatism” that had divided the Republic of Moldova.
One might deduce that what Moldovan authorities really wanted was just to make pressure on Russia without antagonizing it too much by means of international institutions interested in securing the future NATO and EU borders. Despite the tough pressure on it, with Russia’s support Transdnistria managed each time to come up with “appropriate measures”, as in the case of “economic and diplomatic blockade”, “telephony war”, etc. An illustration of the implicit pressure on Russia, which has its own interest zones in CIS, was the session convened by Prime Minister Tarlev to discuss the Conception of Moldova’s EU integration held during the time of CIS Summit in Yalta. This session paved the way to the much-cited statement of President Voronin.
Russian political elite was rather sarcastic when commenting on the event, whereas President Voronin together with governmental press rushed into denial claiming that opposition parties and press misinterpreted his statement. This might indicate that President Voronin has probably exhausted his entire stock of maneuvers therewith he was trying to pass the message that he needs to be backed up in the standoff with Tiraspol, otherwise Chisinau might breakaway from “Russia’s influence zone”. This is an illustration of political calculation and desire to stay in power in their worse.
It thus has become clear that it is practically impossible to settle Transdnistrian conflict prior to the parliamentary elections, that is why electoral interests are taking center stage, whereas the much-promised resolution of the conflict by the end of the year — is adjourned until after 2005 elections. A simple calculation could show that the great majority of votes in favor of the Communist Party was cast by Russian speakers. According to the findings of opinion polls those citizens would rather go for CIS than EU. Meanwhile, the promises made by the ruling party on fighting corruption, settling Transdnistrian conflict, and poverty reduction are still not fulfilled. Moreover, given the worsening macroeconomic indicators the statement of the Minister of Economy that the foreign funding would not be resumed by 2005, i.e. after parliamentary elections, leaves room for speculations that Moldova is on the verge of a default, fact confirmed by several economists, including those from the Communist faction in Parliament. This is not the end of bad news. A part of opposition is engaged in protest rallies, whereas the other is suspected of keeping liaison with Tiraspol regime and Russian authorities in order to win their support in the upcoming parliamentary elections. There are also some outstanding negative factors. One month ago Russian press alleged that President Voronin’s son was supporting terrorists in Russia. Although there is probably little truth in those allegations, still they cannot be neglected.
As the electoral interests seem to take the center stage, the only option left for President Voronin is to radically change his message into a pro-CIS one, tactics already tested by his Belarus and Ukrainian counterparts. There are already some signals in this respect. Notable personalities within the Communist Party have already started reviving the idea of “Europe united as far as Ural”. Things would probably clear up after Vladimir Putin’s visit to Chisinau. Analysts believe that if the visit takes place, the parties would reach an agreement on withdrawal of Russian munitions and troops from the Eastern region of the Republic of Moldova. Most likely a Russian military base would be established in exchange for Russia’s pledge to continue supporting the “settlement of the Transdnistrian conflict by observing Republic of Moldova’s territorial integrity and sovereignty”, principles promoted by the ruling party. Of course European integration would not be forgotten, it would happen when the entire CIS would be ready for it.