Alegerile parlamentare din 2021 în Republica Moldova -

It’s clear than nothing is clear

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Igor Botan / May 9, 2004
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Three years since presidential decree was signed

Three years passed since the presidential decree no. 46-III of 15.05.2001 on resolution of the Transdnistrian conflict was issued. Under the decree “settling Transdnistrian conflict by observing the principles of territorial integrity and state sovereignty is a key task for the public authorities of the Republic of Moldova”. Three priorities were singled out: a) developing and adopting a special legal status of the localities to the left of Dniester; b) restoring joint economic, social, legal and defence space as well as a single border; c) undertaking measures to build mutual trust. To enforce the decree a raft of Parliamentary and Governmental commissions and other structures were to be established so as to “speed up resolution of the Transdnistrian conflict”.

As a result, Parliament established via its resolution no. 178-XV of 18.05.2001 a parliamentary Commission on Transdnistrian problem that was to “meet with representatives of Transdnistrian side on a bi-weekly basis”. On December 6, 2002 Parliament passed the Law no. 1520-XV on modification and completion of the Law no. 64-XII on Government providing that “Government shall also include a Ministry of Reintegration of the Republic of Moldova”, which “shall promote and ensure the enforcement of the Government policy on country reintegration”.

President established via his decree no. 812-III of 01.08.2002 a State Commission for the Reintegration of the Republic of Moldova entrusted to “work out propositions on modification of the legal framework so as to bolster country reintegration process”. Via Decree no. 1012-III of 12.12.2002 Vasile Sova was appointed as the Minister of Reintegration, who was entrusted via another decree no.1101-III of 31.01.2003 to “negotiate on settling Transdnistrian conflict and country reintegration…” In its turn, Government established via resolution no. 385 of 31.08.2003 an Interdepartmental Commission for the Country Reintegration entrusted to “implement unified policy of country reintegration…” Ministry of Reintegration headed by Vasile Sova was designated to oversee its activity.

In line with presidential decree no. 46-III “bodies taking part in negotiations on behalf of the Republic of Moldova are to actively cooperate with State Commissions on political resolution of the Transdnistrian conflict of the Russian Federation and Ukraine, as well as OSCE Mission and other international organisations”. In this respect, Parliament ratified via Law no.760-XV of 27.12.2002 the Friendship and Cooperation Treaty between Republic of Moldova and Russian Federation of 19.11.2001. Under the Treaty, contracting parties “pledged their commitment to political resolution of the Transdnistrian conflict, whereto Russian Federation is one of the mediators and guarantors…”

In fact the Treaty was signed with many legal aspects such as support of secessionism, or Russian military presence on the soil of the Republic of Moldova being inadequately tackled. As there were no clear-cut solutions as to how to settle the conflict, Article 4 of the Treaty provided that in cases when “security of any of the parties is under threat, it shall address the other Party to immediately hold consultations and examine the situation”. Article 5 of the Treaty provided that “Each of the Contracting Parties shall refrain from any actions that would infringe on the other party’s sovereignty, independence and its territorial integrity. The Parties condemn separatism under all its forms and pledge not to support separatist movements”.

Therefore, albeit many of the aforesaid actions were actually carried out, their effects have been contrary to the outcomes Decree no. 46-III sought to achieve and even fell short of Moldovan authorities’ expectations. A raft of events in the last couple of months might prove to have negative or even dangerous repercussions: total halting of the economic ties between Chisinau and Tiraspol; provocations and other actions seeking to throw Moldovan police out of Bender; threats to shut down Moldovan schools in Transdnistria; privatisation of Transdnistrian enterprises despite measures undertaken by Chisinau to halt the process; no telephone connection between the two regions for almost six months, etc.

Efforts to work out the legal status of Transdnistria

Noteworthy, there are evidences pointing to the numerous deviations in enforcing presidential decree no. 46-III. Thus, one year after it was signed the idea of “developing and adopting a special legal status of localities to the left of Dniester” was abandoned in favour of modifying Constitution of the Republic of Moldova, so as to transform the country into a federative one. That was provided for in the OSCE draft made public on July 3, 2002 in Kiev.

Later on, in February 2003 President Voronin gave up the idea of modifying Constitution of the Republic of Moldova and proposed to draft the Constitution anew. That was to be done by a Constitutional Commission to equally represent Moldova and Transdnistria. Parliament adopted via its resolution no. 160-XV of 04.04.2003 the Protocol on the mechanism of developing and approving the Constitution of the Federal State (that was never made public), whereas via its resolution no. 180-XV of 17.04.2003 designated three people to the said Commission. It was to be assisted by experts from OSCE and Venice Commission of the Council of Europe.

Yet the third correction in handling Transdnistrian conflict was by all means a secret one. Without notifying citizens of the country, or OSCE for that matter, which at the time was working on a new draft agreement between Republic of Moldova and Transdnistria, Vladimir Voronin asked Russian President to designate experts that were to draft constitutional principles of the “joint state” due to be formed by the Republic of Moldova and Transdnistria. The resulting document — “Kozak Plan” named after Russian expert and diplomat who oversaw its elaboration, was released half a year ago and was to provide a quick solution to the Transdnistrian conflict. According to president Voronin it should have had the impact of the “Berlin wall” fall. The document was to be signed by the Moldovan President and the chief of Transdnistrian administration in the presence of Vladimir Putin on November 25, 2003. However, shortly before President Putin’s arrival to Chisinau, his Moldovan counterpart changed his mind and decided to “adjourn” the document signing on the grounds “the document was developed behind Europe’s back, which we intend to join”.

International reactions to not consulting OSCE, EU, NATO etc while developing the “Kozak Plan” albeit diplomatic, were quite negative. Domestically, public opinion had different opinions. For instance state owned media referred to aforesaid events as a “brave initiative” of President Voronin. Opposition had its own takes on the subject and responded with protest rallies and accusations of “high treason”. Constitutional experts referred to the morph from “developing and adopting a special legal status for localities to the left of Dniester” into developing a new Constitution by Republic of Moldova and Transdnistria based on parity principles, as well as to ways and procedures for reaching that goal as juridical nihilism.

Negotiation status

Since the “Kozak plan” signing has been “adjourned” almost half a year ago, negotiations between Chisinau and Tiraspol have reached a deadlock. President Voronin confirmed this in his address to the Parliament at the closing winter session: “Currently, the prospects of Transdnistrian conflict settlement seem quite gloomy”. Tiraspol administration blames President Voronin for that “gloominess” in the negotiation process, also for undermining “final” solutions of settling the conflict, and what’s more important for “total lack of credibility”. Given the aforesaid, Tiraspol position in negotiations has become more intransigent while it insisted on extra-guarantees for the negotiations to resume.

The deadlock in negotiations for some months now has made overcoming “gloominess” a must for everyone, i.e. conflicting parties and mediators alike. And this is the more so, as some are keen to preserve the status quo, which to some opens opportunities in pursuing their goals, whereas to others to justify their mediation efforts. In this respect, to resume negotiations in January Bulgarian Chairmanship of OSCE gathered mediators (Russia, Ukraine and OSCE) for a meeting in Sofia. Parties agreed that negotiation format should not be changed. Two weeks later on February 13, OSCE Mission in Chisinau released a new plan entitled “Propositions and recommendations of the mediators, i.e. OSCE, Russian Federation and Ukraine on Transdnistrian conflict settlement”. Moreover, they called on Chisinau and Tiraspol to come up with propositions on amending the plan, which were to be discussed in late February at Belgrade mediators’ reunion.

Chisinau did submit its recommendations; however it failed to present them to its own people. Only mediators, Tiraspol administration and some international institutions have had a chance to take a good look at the document. Well, the only thing Moldovans did really learn was that the new draft Moldovan authorities came up with was nothing but an amended version of the “Kozak Plan”; info disclosed by foreign political analysts, in particular American analyst Vladimir Socor. The latter also revealed that Moldovan authorities intend to hold a referendum on the modification of the Republic of Moldova Constitution simultaneously with parliamentary elections, in the hope that the move would resolve the conflict. Those suppositions are very much in line with President Voronin’s claims that Transdnistrian conflict would be settled by April 2005.

Transdnistrian authorities did not come up with any propositions at the Belgrade meeting as they were quite happy with the “Kozak Plan” as it was. OSCE Mission in Chisinau was quite critical of their position as well as of their thwarting pentagonal negotiations. Nevertheless negotiations resumed on April 27. Still the situation is quite uncertain. On top of that, resumed negotiations were a good opportunity for Tiraspol to release the draft “Declaration on endorsement by the people of the Republic of Moldova and Transdnistrian Moldovan Republic of the federative state establishment”.

It is all-to-clear that the draft Declaration issued by the Transdnistrian authorities was part of its plan to make its position more intransigent. Indeed, last year on August 8 Tiraspol released its own draft Constitution for the “joint state” that is to be founded by the Republic of Moldova and Transdnistria. That draft was in fact copied from the confederation model to be found in Serbia and Montenegro Constitution (see political comment “Transdnistrian project”). It provided for the subject’s rights to secession. This time however, Transdnistrian leaders propose the Declaration itself to be subject to a separate referendum to be held in Moldova and Transdnistria, making possible to legalise secessionism prior to the establishment of a “joint state”, in case that people on either sides would give up on establishing a “joint state” at the would-be referendum.

Tiraspol’s dexterity or Chisinau’ inconsistency

Regardless of the attitude one might have towards Tiraspol separatist regime, undoubtedly it is very efficient in pursuing its goals. For instance in 1994 it secured the documents synchronising the evacuation of Russian troops with working out its legal status to be signed; in 1996 it earned the right to foreign trade based on the customs seals provided by Republic of Moldova; in 1997 the famous Memorandum granted it the status of equal party in building the “joint state” together with the Republic of Moldova; in 2002 it pushed Moldovan authorities in accepting the “joint state” to be a federation; in 2003 via “Kozak Plan” it was on the verge of its statehood being recognized, having the right to veto in the would-be Federation Senate with only ? of the votes, while holding 1/3 of seats — all of that in a “demilitarised” territory with great many guarantees provided by Russian Federation, including those in line with the Treaty signed with the Republic of Moldova. Indeed, such a performance is a huge incentive for Transdnistrian leaders to keep striving for their ultimate goal, i.e. recognition of their independence. For this to happen, even Transdnistrian Constitution was amended so as to allow Igor Smirnov to stay in power until the ultimate goal is fully achieved. Smirnov even issued a statement in this respect claiming that he would leave the position only when the country becomes independent.

In the eyes of many Transdnistrian achievements are largely due to the Moldovan governments’ inconsistency, rather than dexterity of separatist leaders. If Republic of Moldova had accepted federalisation and thus made its last concession, then 2002 OSCE plan wouldn’t seem like the worst scenario. At least OSCE Plan provided for a classical federalisation model and laid the grounds for a sovereign state. It acknowledged peoples’ sovereignty on the entire soil of the Republic of Moldova; it provided for a single economic, monetary and customs space; it distinguished quite clearly between the prerogatives of the federal centre and its subjects, with the former exercising the most important ones; it left the issue of federation subjects open, thereby not clarifying on the representation method in the upper chamber of the Parliament; and the law enforcement forces were similar to classic federation model.

Having said that, it is not clear why the President went for “Kozak Plan”, which: did not clarify to whom “joint state” sovereignty belongs to; left in the competence of the federal centre only citizenship of the “joint state” and meteorology issues, while transferring the main prerogatives either in the joint competence of the centre and subjects or in the exclusive competence of the subjects; legalised the right to secession; provided for demilitarisation of the “joint state”; granted Russian Federation exclusive right to guarantee “Kozak Plan” enforcement, albeit it was involved in the conflict right from the beginning and was openly supporting Tiraspol leaders, who by the way are Russian citizens, etc. Moldovan authorities realized what a trap had been set only on November 23, 2003 when Russian Defence Minister, Serghei Ivanov, made public Russia’s plans to deploy a 2,000 peacekeeping squad in Transdnistria until 2020. Ivanov went as far as saying that he had given the relevant orders in this respect once Transdnistrian leaders conditioned accepted of the “Kozak Plan”, by Russia’s deployment of its military on the soil of Moldova for thirty years.

Ironically, the last OSCE draft agreement issued on February 13, 2004 and developed while “Kozak Plan” had been worked out “behind Europe’s back” is favourable to the establishment of a classic federation, especially as it had the deficiencies of the 2002 draft eliminated. Still, the last draft OSCE came up with, should have taken into account the “achievements of the Kozak Plan” in as far as subject’s right to secession and demilitarisation of the Republic of Moldova is concerned.


Moldovan authorities’ teetering in choosing the right solution has resulted in Transdnistrian leaders proposing Chisinau to choose between “Kozak Plan” and their draft Declaration. The move is solely intended to thwart negotiations. Meanwhile, Tiraspol leaders keep talking of the impossibility to reach an agreement with incumbent Moldovan authorities that “lost their credibility” and are guilty of all the worlds’ ills. Therefore, on the eve of the parliamentary elections Tiraspol is showing Chisinau the other side of the actions it undertook against Transdnistrian leader when he was running for re-election in 2001. Back then Tiraspol administration was accused of corruption, weapons, drugs and human trafficking, etc in an attempt to sack Smirnov. “Grom” (Thunderstorm) show launched at the National Television was intended specifically to serve as “purifier after a storm” from the “Smirnov criminal regime”. In fact, though, “Grom” had the contrary effect to what the presidential decree no. 64-III referred to as “measures aimed at building mutual trust”. That is why official media in Transdnistria alleging that there is no alternative to independence, announced it would closely watched on upcoming parliamentary elections in the Republic of Moldova. And that probably in order to denigrate Moldovan authorities and support a pro-transdnistrian political force.

Mediators both from OSCE Mission and Russian Federation, William Hill and Valerii Nesteruskin respectively, also voiced their scepticism regarding breakthrough in settling Transdnistrian conflict prior to spring 2005 parliamentary elections.

Still experience shows that on the eve of elections opposition and ruling parties standing real chances of victory make promises and considerable concessions. Therefore, it may well happen that the state of negotiations would radically change until the elections, this is the more so considering President Voronin’s plans to settle the conflict by April 2005. On the other hand, experience also shows that short-sighted electoral stunts have never contributed to the consolidation of Republic of Moldova’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. That is exactly why, at least for now, the prospects of Transdnistrian conflict settlement remain quite unclear.

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