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Asymmetric reasoning

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October 20, 2003
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At the end of November expires Republic of Moldova’s presidency over Council of Europe Ministerial Council. When in May Republic of Moldova took over the presidency, authorities made it clear they wanted to take advantage of that opportunity and take some measures in view of a faster resolution of the Transdnistrian conflict. During all kind of events held under the auspices of CE, as well as during various international forums, the President reiterated that one his top priorities as the head of state was settling the Transdnistrian conflict. Moreover, he condemned “separatism and nationalism”, i.e. the separatist regime headed by Igor Smirnov and the nationalistic Christian-Democrat opposition. Authorities took the presidency very seriously and even made everything possible not to miss this opportunity. During one of the sessions of the Permanent Round Table the President confessed that it was very difficult for him to refrain from resorting to force against the protest rallies staged by the Christian-Democrats in January — April 2002.

As it stands now at the end of the presidency, it turns out that the resolution of the Transdnistrian conflict hasn’t evolved too much, on the contrary it is stalled. Thus, the elaboration of the federalist Constitution, viewed as the last ditch in solving the conflict, has reached a deadlock. To sign a political agreement with Transdnistria, negotiations have to be start all over again. Moreover, Communist authorities, who had hoped after their victory in elections for a fast resolution of the conflict, faced the bitter reality — Transdnistria sees itself as an equal partner to the Republic of Moldova in laying the foundation of the “contractual federation” and it always comes up with “appropriate responses” to all the “coercive measures” taken by Chisinau. The on-going “telephony scandal” is a vivid illustration in this respect.

To secure that Moldova’s presidency wouldn’t to unnoticed, Moldovan permanent representative, Alexei Tulbure delivered a speech at Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers that unleashed a real diplomatic scandal. He brought serious accusations to Romania and invited Council of Europe to mediate between the two countries.

According to the allegations made on a contemptuous tone, which resembled much of the polemics between Turkish and Greek delegations in the European forums a couple of years ago, Romania was undermining Republic of Moldova sovereignty. Tulbure claims those actions included: Romania’s refusal to sign a Basic Treaty with the Republic of Moldova; financial support provided by Romanian Government to pro-Romanian opposition in Moldova; protectionist policy against the Moldovan products at the time Republic of Moldova was confronted with severe economic problems; Romanian support in teaching Romanian language and history in Moldovan schools, thereby promoting xenophobia and anti-Semitism; Romania’s negative opinion on the federalization of the Republic of Moldova.

In the opinion of the Moldovan side, all the aforesaid illustrate Romania’s paternalist attitude towards Moldova, which in its turn leaves room for speculations to the Transdnistrian side on a would-be unification of the Republic of Moldova and Romania. Those speculations justify Transdnistria’s uncompromising position in negotiations with Moldova. To put it differently, the failure to settle Transdnistrian conflict stems from the Christian-Democrats’ protest rallies and ultimately their supporter — Romania.

Apparently, Moldovan authorities pretend not to understand where the real cause lies, although Transdnistrian leaders’ economic interests and the exorbitant money they make out of Transdnistria, have been frequently cited. Firstly, breakaway regime had never been short of arguments in justifying its existence. For instance, in early 90’s it was preserving Communist and URSS values, precisely what the incumbent ruling party in Moldova is striving for. After the breakup of URSS Transdnistrian leaders proclaimed themselves defenders of Russian interests in the Balkans. Nowadays, Transdnistrian leaders defend the interests of the “Transdnistrian people” by privatizing the patrimony of the region and even the land. Today, Transdnistrian propaganda claims it has nothing to do with the “obsolete Communist regime” of the President Voronin. Having said that, one may only wonder in how far Moldovan authorities are sincere when asking Council of Europe to mediate between Chisinau and Bucharest in view of settling Transdnistrian conflict. Following the same logic, Council of Europe might be well invited to eradicate the “Communist regime” in the Republic of Moldova, which in Smirnov’s opinion is undermining the negotiation process by avoiding direct contacts between the two parties.

However, Moldovan authorities do not accept such reasoning. What they prefer is the “asymmetric reasoning”, which they applied on the one hand when accepting the current negotiation format and the 1997 Memorandum (providing for an equal status of Moldova and Transdnistria in creating a “joint state”), and on the other hand when they consistently plead for an “asymmetric federation”. Transdnistrian side has all the reasons to believe that the “asymmetric federation” is nothing but an euphemism, thereby Transdnistria would be subordinated to Moldova. In this respect, they speculate first of all on the Communist authorities’ manners in Gagauzia, especially when they incite hate and discord so as to eliminate top people in Gagauz administration and replace them with others more loyal to Chisinau ruling party. The latter is much more of an issue than the would-be unification with Romania. Under those circumstances, Moldovan opposition parties view as counterproductive or even dangerous the incoherent way Moldovan authorities play with federalization. This position was backed up by some Romanian officials as well, who are interested in securing their eastern borders.

In the same asymmetric manner Moldovan authorities speculate on the “nationalist opposition” and their alleged supporters in Romania, however, refrain from speculating on those who are behind the curtains of the Transdnistrian regime. Still they may want to ask themselves: how does Transdnistria manage to survive being under “severe economic blockade” and on top of that manage to always come up with an “appropriate response” to Chisinau’s actions? Nonetheless Moldovan authorities refrain from such questions, probably for the fear of some “appropriate actions” that might cost them loosing the power.

No doubt the “asymmetric reasoning” stems out of the Communist authorities’ preconceived ideas. For instance they openly state “even if Moldovan language would be tree times identical to Romanian it would be still called Moldovan for geo-political or ethno-political reasons” (see Comunistul of April 13, 2001). That is, the reality is of little importance, what really matters are the interest of the ruling party. Indeed, at the time the statement was made Communists indented Moldova to join Russia-Belarus Union and to “launch the revival of the Communist movement in the post-soviet space”. Those assaults on the sovereignty of the Republic of Moldova (i.e. joining Russia-Belarus Union) are still present in the political document of the ruling Communist Party, which the party is not rushing to cancel. And this despite that at the closing meeting of the summer Parliament session Vladimir Voronin, the President and Chair of the ruling party, indicated that to probe them real politicians had to be careful and not to admit a disparity between words and actions.

Pro Russia-Belarus rhetoric largely employed several years ago was aimed at convincing the main strategic partner, i.e. Russia, to endorse the “asymmetric reasoning” of Chisinau in its relations with Tiraspol. However, Russia assesses its interests according to totally different criteria. It does endorse “asymmetric reasoning”, but in a contrary direction, one which is favorable to Tiraspol regime, as is the case of Georgia as well. This is exactly why Moldovan authorities are so critical of the CIS and declare “accession to EU” as their strategic priority. Western diplomats accredited in Chisinau salute the new course of Moldovan authorities, however remind that political component is of extreme importance in the accession process. Unfortunately, the latter has been worsening during the Communist rule. In other words, western diplomats agree with President Voronin when he says that disparity between words and actions should be eliminated. Probably to avoid accusations of inconsistency in enforcing the main party documents and its new strategic objectives, the incumbent ruling party has chosen to be consistent at least in one respect — constantly blaming Romania for undermining Republic of Moldova sovereignty. It is worth mentioning in this respect malicious articles targeted against Romania after the two countries failed to sign the Basic Treaty right on the eve of Prague Summit, not to mention the speculations that it might thwart Romania’s accession to NATO.

It would be wrong to believe that everything resumes to “asymmetric reasoning”. The sad thing is that there is a pervert or no reasoning at all behind some of the Moldovan authorities’ actions. How is Council of Europe’s Ministerial Council supposed to react to the invitation to mediate between Republic of Moldova and Romania’s bilateral relations? Romania had a clear stance on this. It regrets that the bilateral relations between the two countries were brought up on the international scale. It would be interesting, though, to see how Republic of Moldova would involve the Ministerial Council in mediating on the language in which the Basic Treaty is to be written. Let’s see then Moldovan authorities explaining that although there is no difference between Romanian and Moldovan languages, the latter should still be called Moldovan for ethno-political or geo-strategic interests.

Moreover, one may recall that two years ago Moldova was on the verge of a diplomatic scandal during the hearings on the Bessarabian Church in the European Court for Human Rights. One may well recall the outcomes of those actions. Thus, the former Minister of Justice, Ion Morei, who instigated the scandal in the first place, was ousted by the President for several reasons. Presidential press service disclosed that one of them was deteriorating the bilateral relations between Republic of Moldova and Romania via his incriminating speech at the ECHR.

It is worth mentioning that the diplomatic scandal instigated by Alexei Tulbure is undermining first and foremost the policy of good neighborhood relations Moldovan authorities declared to promote. This is the more important given that Moldova is still an extremely weak and vulnerable state and for it to recover a clear and consistent policy is needed. That is, exactly what President Voronin was saying when calling to eliminate the disparity between words and actions, which true in the case of disparity between party documents and strategic goals as well. Pragmatic approach, as authorities like to put it, is very important here. In the last three years of being in power, authorities came up with a dozen of strategies and conceptions on fighting corruption, insurance healthcare, poverty eradication, etc., all of which proved to be worthless. Now it’s the European integration strategy, which already turned into a conception. From the prognostic point of view, Romania’s experience should not be neglected, especially as it already succeeded a great deal in the aquis communautaire. Having the same language has its advantages especially in assimilating faster this huge experience. But this only the declared goal of accession to EU goes hand in hand with the real goals pursued, whereas “geo-political” considerations (see Comunistul of April 13, 2001) do not prevail over realities.

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