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Political year 2006

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Igor Botan / December 30, 2006
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Crises of gas and wine

The political year 2006 was difficult for Moldova. It began with the gas crisis and the gas price rose two-fold in the second half of 2006. It was followed by Russia’s embargo on wines, Moldova’s main products for export. The wine crisis was speculated by Patria-Moldova organisation based in Moscow, which claims to represent the interests of all Moldovan guest workers, with the purpose to produce a financial crisis in Moldova. Patria-Moldova called upon all Moldovan citizens in April-May to withdraw their deposits from commercial banks in order to challenge a financial collapse. These actions have raised concerns among businessmen and banking sector. The National Bank besides international financial institutions had to intervene and stabilise the situation, and they succeeded completely.

Conservation of “frost”

The introduction of the new customs regime in the Transnistrian section of the Moldovan-Ukrainian border on March 3 challenged the reaction of the Russian Federation toward restoration of “equality of the conflicting sides,” imposing the embargo against Moldova. The open economic, political and diplomatic support of Russia for Transnistria followed.

On August 3, the Government adopted an action plan on use of conclusions of the report “Thawing a frozen conflict: legal aspects of the separatist crisis in Moldova”, worked out by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York, in the country reintegration process. The Government obliged the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration to submit a joint request on behalf of GUAM to the U.N. General Assembly president and the General Committee concerning the additional inclusion of a point on examination of conflicts in the Black Sea and Caspian Sea region in the agenda of the 61st session of the General Assembly.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrei Stratan told the viewpoint of Moldovan authorities on settlement of the Transnistrian conflict within the September U.N. General Assembly: the need of transforming the peacekeeping mechanism into an international peacekeeping mission with international mandate; Russia’s respect for the commitments assumed at the 1999 Istanbul OSCE summit; conditioning of ratification and enforcement of the CFE Treaty with implementation of all decisions of the 1999 OSCE summit. The December 2006 OSCE ministerial meeting reconfirmed Moldova’s stance on conflict resolution conditions.

Russia has openly joined the separatist regime, supporting the September 17 Transnistrian referendum on joining of Transnistria to Russia. This way, Russia has used all means to support Transnistria. Acting this way, it revealed the fact that it cannot afford the incorporation of Transnistria into itself and the recognition of independence of the secessionist republic. As a result, the Transnistrian conflict remained frozen for an indefinite period.

Surprise of the year

The failure on December 3 of the candidate supported by the Communist Party to succeed to the runoff vote for the post of Gagauz governor is the surprise of the year. Consequences of results of the Gagauz elections will be felt in 2007, they are not dramatic for the ruling party, but will have a major impact on relations between Chisinau and Comrat.

Scandal of the year

The scandal of 2006 was challenged by adoption and start of implementation of the Broadcasting Code. The broadcasting is a very strong tool to gain money from advertising and the most important tool to influence the electoral opinions of citizens. Although provisions of the initial draft Broadcasting Code were repaired and improved, the implementation of this document regenerated older political antagonisms. The appointment of members of the electronic media watchdog CCA, promotion of decision on reorganisation-sale-privatisation of the municipal radio and TV channels Antena C and Euro TV developed into protests of some political parties and journalists on one hand and motivation of the need of privatisation through lack of finances to maintain them in municipal property and accusation of these channels of political partisanship on the other hand. These accusations are formally right. Indeed, they are absurd. A consultation of election monitoring reports released by the OSCE in the past years reveals that the two channels have been biased somehow. But the easily biased nature “corrected” the clear bias of the main broadcasting institution of Moldova — TeleRadio-Moldova Company. Hence, the scandal is linked to fact that there are tries to regulate some older political antagonisms under coverage of new legal norms.

External evolutions

Moldovan authorities shirked from adopting new concepts on foreign and security policies in 2006. There were premises for their adoption: these documents were drafted on basis of presidential decrees in March; surveys show clearly what external political course the absolute majority of citizens would choose; there is a disciplined parliamentary majority, which could vote the two documents. Explanations of experts over this state of things are reduced to affirmations that facts are more important than the solemn announcement of a course, which would be limited and without flexibility later.

The security and foreign policies of Moldova remain strongly influenced by Transnistrian factor at this stage, better saying by interests of neighbouring states participating in the settlement of the separatist conflict. The change of the vector of foreign policy in 2003 was argued through the need of “internationalising the conflict resolution process.”

Year 2006 was the year of plenary manifestation of effects of internationalisation of the Transnistrian conflict. The internationalisation did not approach the conflict resolution, but it explained the attitudes of neighbouring countries and great powers toward this conflict. The support of the United States and the European Union was decisive to help Moldova resist to Russia’s economic pressures and for efforts to restore the territorial integrity. As a result, Moldovan authorities were obliged to take the measures needed to settle relations with international financial organisations and to obtain a support over expectations (1.2 billion dollars) from the board of donors created by the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank.

The E.U. and the U.S. have implicitly influenced the attitude of Ukraine toward the Transnistrian problem. This influence is the collateral effect of Ukraine’s interest for maintaining good relations with the U.S. and E.U. For this reason, Ukraine was and remains in continuation the main lever of influence on Transnistria, no matter if it wants this or not, including by maintaining the new customs and control regime in the Transnistrian section of the border with Moldova.

In spite of some bitter replies and inadequate rhetoric of the top leadership, Moldova has enjoyed the support of Romania to become a full rights member of SEECP in May and a CEFTA member in December. These performances fuels hopes expressed by Moldovan authorities regarding the signing of an Association Agreement with the E.U. in a predictable future.

Perspectives for 2007

Events with a big impact on further development of Moldova are scheduled for 2007. Firstly, 2007 is an electoral year. The importance of general local elections set for May is decisive for the political configuration of the country the next years. The results of elections will establish a rating of main political forces before the 2009 parliamentary elections besides the proper significance of elections for local public administration, which is permanently reformed.

Elections for the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia will take place in September 2007. These elections besides the May-scheduled local elections will establish the political configuration in the Gagauz region at least for the period till the March 2009 parliamentary elections.

In 2007, Moldova will have to negotiate the adoption of a new document with the E.U. to establish the framework of political relations, replacing the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and the Moldova-E.U. Action Plan, which will expire next year.

Implications of Romania’s accession to EU on Moldovan-Romanian bilateral relations Moldova within ENP. First assessment report by the European Commission