Noteworthy, last year on the eve of OSCE Ministerial Council meeting in Porto mediators made public another initiative on the establishment of “a contractual federation” between the Republic of Moldova and Transdnistria. The initiative was backed up by the mediator countries, i.e. Russia and Ukraine, as well as by OSCE and Transdnistria. Apparently, this time Kremlin decided not to repeat last year mistake when the document entitled “statement of intentions” was submitted to Moldovan authorities one day prior to the Porto Summit. Kremlin therefore failed to convince Moldovan authorities to accept the idea of “contractual federation”. Furthermore, Moldovan Foreign Minister addressed international community at the OSCE Ministerial Council meeting warning on the threat posed by Transdnistrian regime to the security in the region, which exists mainly due to smuggling of munitions, drugs, and human beings.
This year, however, Kremlin decided to go on its own, by-passing the pentagonal mediation mechanism, thus submitting the Memorandum to their Moldovan counterparts several weeks in advance so as to secure enough time to convince Moldovan side to accept the document. According to other opinions, Moldovan side co-operated with their Russian counterparts right from the beginning in drafting the Memorandum and failed to notify either Ukraine or OSCE. All in all, it seems Moldovan side will be the one to justify at the Maastricht Summit “Russia’s failure to evacuate its troops from the soil of the Republic of Moldova”.
An evidence to this effect is the fact that immediately Memorandum was released, President Vladimir Putin himself clearly stated that Russia would honour its engagement to withdraw the munitions and troops from Transdnistria, only after Memorandum is accepted and implemented. Noteworthy, once both Moldova and Transdnistria accept the Memorandum, other parties to the pentagonal mechanism: Ukraine and OSCE holding on to the principle “we accept any formula of the conflict resolution that is acceptable to the conflicting parties” would accept it as well. Nevertheless, OSCE and the Republic of Moldova publicly expressed their lingering concerns with regard to the Memorandum.
Indeed, electoral factor would play a key role in the Memorandum’s acceptance by Moldovan authorities. Right now, Republic of Moldova ruling party has found itself in a quite delicate situation. Firstly, albeit the economic growth reported by official statistics three years in a row, economists, including those of the Communist faction, believe Moldovan economy is in pre-infarct state. Skyrocketed prices on energy and food have stymied social policies announced by the ruling party. When it comes to ideology Communist Party has shifted towards opportunism and revisionism, which in the long run might impair their ideological attractiveness. Out of all electoral promises made, ruling party has delivered only one — it revised local public administration system. The impact of the said revision in terms of boosting local government effectiveness is rather questionable. One may rightly claim that the only benefit produced by the said reform resumed to edifying a “vertical power”, which is to be employed by the ruling party in pulling “administrative resources” in the upcoming elections.
Since it decided to wield heavy pressure, Communist ruling has suffered a number of painful defeats in its relations with Transdnistria. The “economic blockade” supinely endorsed by Russia and Ukraine has lead to a considerable drop in bilateral trade between Chisinau and Tiraspol, Moldovan goods being totally replaced on Transdnistrian market by Russian or Ukrainian ones. Moldova also lost the telephonic war it had started against Transdnistria. Moreover, Tiraspol accepted President Voronin’s call to stop the war on one condition, i.e. a bilateral agreement is to be signed by the parties, whereby undertaking to refrain from such measures in the future. This condition resembles a proposition to sign a “capitulation act” at the end of a lost telephonic war.
Under those circumstances, the last-ditch for the incumbent ruling party and its Chairperson would be to go in the next elections as “country unifiers”.
In this respect we should mention that making concessions in conflict settlement has become already tradition in Moldova, especially on the eve of elections. In 1996 Petru Lucinski at that time Parliament Speaker build his electoral campaign around blaming President Mircea Snegur for instigating the bloodshed conflict, rather than the separatist regime. Later, on May 8, 1997 Lucinski signed a Memorandum, thereby granting Transdnistria equal rights to Moldova in the negotiation process, as well as the right to pursue its own foreign trade.
After its victory in 2001 elections, conflicts remained to be the best tune of the Communist Party. For instance last year, after instigating a political scandal in Comrat that ousted Bashkan Dumitru Croitor, to promote their protege Communists promised to raise the legal status of Gagauz-Yeri, thereby enabling it to break away from Moldova under certain circumstances. It is true that later on they gave up that promise. This year also, on the eve of elections to Peoples’ Assembly Gagauz-Yeri was promised the status of a federation subject in the would-be Moldovan federation.
Bilateral relations with Tiraspol evolved along the same scenario. Soon after he had declared Transdnistrian conflict resolution as one of his top priorities, President Voronin discovered that breakaway leaders took the provisions of the 1997 Memorandum providing for equality of the parties equality, rather seriously. President Voronin wielded heavy pressure on the Tiraspol regime, which as mentioned above has failed. Under given circumstances, when there is one year left until elections, authorities have nothing but to follow the old tradition and make concessions. This time concessions are made under the cover of the so-called “asymmetric federation”, which President Voronin wanted so badly.
Under Kremlin’s Memorandum the representation of Gagauz-Yeri (4 Senate mandates per 100,000 citizens with the right to vote) and Transdnistria (9 mandates per 400,000 citizens) in the Senate, the most important institution of the would-be federation, would be 7 and 4 times higher than that of Chisinau (13 mandates per 2,400,000 citizens). Having said that, would anybody dare say that the proposed federation is not asymmetric!
Secondly, the draft Memorandum provides for a ten-year transition period, wherein asymmetry would be applied not only in Senate representation, but also in decision-making, i.e. by a majority of 3/4 out of the total number of mandates. Therefore, Tiraspol on its own would be able to veto any legal act, and this even without Gagauz-Yeri. However, this time asymmetry would work against Chisinau. Moreover, senators would be entitled to an imperative mandate, i.e. Transdnistria and Gagauz representatives shall vote as Tiraspol and respectively Comrat chooses to, otherwise risking to be recalled and replaced with others, more loyal to the cause pursued by the relevant subjects. Those are some additional measures aimed at ensuring the much-wanted asymmetry.
Thirdly, throughout transition, federation subjects would preserve their own state institutions, whereas all the shocks of transitions would be attributed to the so-called “federal territory”, i.e. what remains of the Republic of Moldova. The latter would have to take the blow and experience the effects of state structural reforms enforced within the framework of an unprecedented model Russian experts came up with. Moldovan authorities are already known for their ability to promote reforms, the more so as the state structure proposed by the Russian Federation is unique. Moreover, the latter is to comprise elements that were in open confrontation during the last 15 years.
Viewed from this perspective, Moscow’s compromise variant on the one hand enables Chisinau to use the adjective asymmetric against such a noun as federation, and on the other, guarantees Transdnistria and Gagauz statehood and on top of that entitles them to decide on internal matters of the “federal territory”.
And last but not least, the 12 yeas of independence have proved that in Moldova nothing is more stable than transition. The prerogatives Tiraspol and Comrat are to receive would allow them to decide on how long transition is to last on the federal territory, it may well happen that it would last until asymmetric federation would have totally discredited itself. And this because federal structures wouldn’t have any control mechanism over the federation subjects, as the law enforcement forces would exist as separate units. Indeed, Chisinau would be entitled to one lever — each time to appeal to the Memorandum authors in Moscow asking them to interfere and pursue federation subjects to comply with the Memorandum provisions. However, such a mechanism is far from being appropriate to a sovereign and independent state.
The aforesaid might spur dissatisfaction among the public and might also worsen off the political stability in the country. One may not underestimate negative attitudes of the population towards a federation with a regime, labelled by the official propaganda as a “criminal and Mafia type”. Citizens may rightly wonder whether authorities lied them when they had labelled Tiraspol regime as a criminal one, and if so, then why they had entered in a game with separatists in the first place.
In addition, we should not forget that at the moment there is only one strategic objective that might consolidate the society, namely the Strategy of European Integration. This was confirmed in the President Voronin address to European Union back in 2002 as well as in the Joint Declaration of the three Parliament factions (ruling party and opposition parties alike) signed on November 14 confirming their cohesiveness in pursuing European integration.
A quick look at the Memorandum would suffice to understand that it is far from being able to consolidate the society. Its implementation, as well as military guarantees propositions that followed, undermine the pursuit of European integration strategic goal. Moreover it does no good to the image the country projects abroad, when it agrees to solutions running counter to the publicly stated goal of European integration.
All this because the conflict resolution plan is unilateral, as it comes from a power directly involved in the conflict and promoting its own strategic interests, as well as the interests of Russian citizens who usurped the power on a portion of Republic of Moldova territory. Those interests are quite different from those of the Republic of Moldova. The biased attitude of the Memorandum authors has been disclosed by the proposed federation formula that envisages an asymmetry unfavourable and discriminatory towards the Republic of Moldova. Moreover, Tiraspol has reiterated on numerous occasions that Transdnistria is a “Russian land”. Therefore we should not even dream of Russia’s full support in our European integration efforts, as it promoted the Memorandum and has been the main guarantor of its enforcement
And those are just a few of the risks Republic of Moldova exposes itself to, once it accepts the Memorandum.