Transnistrian Conflict: State of Affairs and Prospects of Settlement


Natalya BELITSER, Kyiv, Ukraine
A paper prepared for the International conference “Frozen Conflicts” in Europe: Searching for Pragmatic Solutions and Promoting Reconciliation, 1 September 2012, Bled, Slovenia

 

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REPUBLIC of MOLDOVA (including Transnistria).

Population (1998) 4,378,000. Area 33,700 km2. Major ethnic groups: Moldovan (64%); Russian (13%); Gagauzi (4%); Jewish (2%). Economy: Wine, tobacco, food-canning, electrical engineering, instruments, textiles, fruit. Physical: Landlocked area consisting of hilly plants with warm, moderately continental climate.

Source: The Cambridge Factfinder, Fourth Edition, 2000.

Introduction

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Transnistrian frozen conflict is characterized by quite a few features making it distinct from other post-soviet frozen conflicts. The most important of them is, perhaps, the already widely acknowledged fact that populations on both sides of the Nistru River that provides a natural dividing line between the Republic of Moldova on the right bank, and its eastern Trnsnistrian region – the self-proclaimed ‘Transnistrian Moldovan Republic’ (TMR) – on the left, consist actually of people belonging to the same ethnic groups and religious denominations. Consequently, in the absence of mutual animosities and mistrust based on ethnic or religious ground – as has been the case with other separatist conflicts in Caucasus and also in Balkans, after the cease-fire agreement of June 1992 no further incidents of violent clashes, or insurgent movements, or low-scale military actions of any kind have occurred.

However, the de-facto Transnistrian statehood has existed for over 20 years, having developed throughout this period many attributes of a state such as different institutions of executive and representative powers, judicial system including Constitutional Court, its own currency, customs, border guards, security service, education system etc., not to mention the armed forces that are considered more numerous and better equipped than those in the Republic of Moldova (RM). Leaving aside the issue of quality of these institutions and their doubted compliance with even the minimal democratic standards, it should be noted that their very presence has had an essential impact on the mindset of ordinary people representing the opposing sides of the conflict, on prospects and possible scenarios of conflict settlement, and on the attitudes towards Transnistrian problem on the part of a number of internal and external actors, including participants and observers within the frame of the official negotiation process, but also media, academics, and expert community.

Reliable and valid assessment of the genuine feelings and opinions of the Transnistria’s population by any sociological tool is, regrettably, a difficult task, taking into account essential closedness of people there, who are usually very reluctant to express themselves openly, especially before foreigners. As a result, rather biased picture is often created, taken as a matter-of-fact (especially following interviews with the de facto authorities of the TMR) and then reflected, spread and reproduced in media and research studies. The most reliable results are therefore provided when – and if – participants of the focus groups agree to get engaged under conditions of ‘no names, no quotes’ rule, and feel trust in the researchers who will not ‘betray’ them.[1]

The ‘frozen’ situation of this conflict has essentially changed over the last couple of years. Therefore, in order to assess the new opportunities, but also risks and challenges linked to these changes, this paper addresses the background and the environment in which the conflict developed, and previous attempts of its resolution. These two parts are followed by a brief description of the current situation and the analysis of roles played by the two major actors engaged in conflict settlement, i.e., the EU and Russia, and also by Ukraine and Romania as the two states directly bordering the Republic of Moldova with its breakaway region, ‘TMR’. Possible scenarios of further developments are then considered; the last parts of the paper include Discussion and Conclusion, and Recommendations for main stakeholders and the sides involved.

A Brief History of the Transnistrian Conflict[2]

Приднестровское ополчение, с сайта forum.pridnestrovie.com

 forum.pridnestrovie.com

Transnistria is a narrow strip of land at an easternmost region of Moldova, located along a major part of the Ukrainian-Moldovan border (see Picture). The first signs of the forthcoming conflict appeared at the final stages of Soviet “perestroika” preceding the collapse of the USSR. This heavily industrialised region with its well-developed enterprises of the military-industrial complex was populated mainly by the Russian-speaking Slavs (Russians and Ukrainians) who outnumbered ethnic Moldovans; this factor had then been successfully used to antagonise majority of Transnistrian population against the right-bank Moldova. Apart from ‘linguistic’ concerns, successful large-scale propaganda fuelled the fears that in the case of Moldova’s separation from the Soviet Union it would immediately join Romania – the country with which Moldovans share language, culture, and historic tradition.

Thus, the roots of this conflict are to be found in the events and developments of late 80s. As in some other regions of the then national federate republics – constituent units of the USSR, after Moldova had exhibited the first clear signs of aspiring for state sovereignty, it has immediately faced a strong separatist resistance to that move on the part of not only Transnistria but also, in its southern region – the territory compactly populated by Gagauz.[3] 

In particular, declaration on state sovereignty adopted by Moldova’s parliament on 23 June 1990 was followed by the proclamation of the Gagauz Union Republic on 19 August 1990 and of the Transnistrian (‘Pridnestrovskaya’) Moldovan Republic on 2 September 1990. Both proclamations were immediately condemned by the Moldovan parliament; although military forces entered Gagauzia, this separatist conflict had been relatively quickly resolved not in the least due to the rejection by Moscow of the Gagauz claim for becoming a republic of the USSR.

Meanwhile, in the heavily industrialised Transnistria with its big share of Russians, the situation developed towards a much more serious conflict. The population of the left bank was severely antagonised by the new language legislation adopted on 31 August 1989 by the Supreme Council of Moldova; according to it, Moldovan language was recognised to be the same as is Romanian; it was switched from Cyrillic to Latin script, and acquired a status of the ‘official’ (state) language, leaving for Russian a role of ‘language of interethnic communication’. Responding to these legislation changes, vigorous protest actions uniting non-Moldovan/Romanian speakers (predominantly, Russians and Ukrainians) were organised on the left bank by the “Union of workers’ collectives”.

Even more violent resistance had met the intention (or, rather, talks about the intention) of unification of Moldova with Romania. Although Moldovan ‘Popular Front’ – the winner of the last parliamentary elections – had indeed cherished this idea that was also promoted by Bucharest, it was never especially popular among the ordinary Moldovans on the right bank as well, and in fact, no practical steps for its realisation were ever undertaken.  Nevertheless, these rumours and fears had played an important role in mobilisation and consolidation of the separatist movement in Transnistria.

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On 25 June 1991 the renamed Republic of Moldova (RM) proclaimed itself a sovereign state within a future confederation of sovereign states – former Soviet republics. The attempt of coup d'etat in Moscow on August 19 – 21, 1991 was condemned by Moldova but supported in both Transnistria and Gagauzia; its failure precipitated the collapse of the Soviet Empire.

On 27 August 1991 the official independence of the Republic of Moldova was declared, and a few days later, on September 2, the Transnistrian Supreme Council voted to join the Soviet Union.

In early November 1990, the first violent clashes occurred between Transnistrians and Moldovan police in Dubasari (central Transnistria). Paramilitary ‘worker’s troops’ had already been formed on the left bank in late 1990, and the Transnistrian ‘Republican Guard’ was established in 1991, receiving also aid and support from Cossacks and other volunteers coming to the area from Russia but also, from Ukraine.[4] By the end of 1991, the Transnistrian separatists were gradually taking control over such public institutions as municipal and local administrative buildings, police stations, schools, newspapers and radio stations in towns and villages on the left bank.

Бендеры, 1992, с сайта forum.pridnestrovie.com

Willing to escape further escalation of a violent conflict, Chisinau at first did not interfere with using force; on 13 December, however, the Moldovan police for the first time defended with weapons the regional government building in Dubasari. New clashes took place in March 1992, and fighting between Moldovan and Transnistrian forces intensified in May and June. The major battle in Bendery on June 19-21was ended when the Russian forces stationed in Moldova – the 14th Soviet army – had intervened, and Moldovan forces were driven out of the town. Russian military forces provided also arms to the Transnistrian paramilitary groups, and training for the ‘Republican Guard’. General Aleksandr Lebed, commander of the Russian forces in Moldova from June 1992, supported the Transnistrian separatist leadership and denounced Moldovan authorities as ‘war criminals’, accusing Moldova of being a ‘fascist state’.[5] It should be noted that short-lived but bloody events on the left bank of the Nistru River in 1992 were immediately followed by the influx into Ukraine of thousands of refugees from the Transnistrian region, who then received a temporary status of asylum seekers.[6]

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Since all international attempts to prevent conflict escalation in spring 1992 had failed, the Moldovan government requested eventually the help from Russia, and a cease-fire agreement was signed by the Moldovan President Mirca Snegur and Boris Yeltsin in Moscow on 21 July. It provided for an immediate cease-fire and the creation of a demilitarised Security Zone (SZ)  extending 10 km from the Nistru on each side of the river, including the town of Bendery on the right bank. A set of principles for the peaceful settlement of the dispute was also announced, namely, respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova, the need for a special status for Transnistria, and the right of its inhabitants to determine their future in case Moldova were to unite with Romania. Some control mechanisms were also proposed, including the setting up of a Joint Control Commission. The agreement stipulated that its implementation has to be ensured by military contingents representing the Russian Federation and the two parties directly involved in the conflict. Initially, the peacekeeping forces were composed mainly of Russian troops (five battalions), with limited number of Moldovan (three battalions) and Transnistrian (two battalions) officers, operating in checkpoints in three sectors of the SZ. A military observer mission was also launched in 1992, consisting of ten observers from Russia, Moldova and Transnistria, respectively, to which ten Ukrainian observers were added in 1998.

As to the remnants of 14th Army stationed on the left bank, there were numerous rounds of negotiations between Chisinau and Moscow on their withdrawal between 1992 and 1994. According to the Agreement reached in October1994, the Russian troops were to be withdrawn over a period of three years, the process to be synchronized with a settlement of the Transnistrian conflict by granting of a special autonomous status for Transnistria. Indeed, Russia began the withdrawal in 1995, whereas the Russian forces in Moldova were renamed the Operational Group of Russian Forces (OGRF). However, the Russian State Duma stalled the withdrawal, and later, it was announced that the withdrawal of troops and equipment would be determined by the two parties.

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One more major concern about the Russian military presence is the more than 40,000 tonnes of equipment and ammunition left in Transnistria. While both the Russian and Moldovan governments agree that these should either be destroyed or removed, the Transnistrian leadership insisted that it should be turned over to the Transnistrian authorities, and this issue was not addressed by the 1994 agreement on withdrawal.[7]

Casualties of this conflict were estimated, according to different sources, as ranging from a few hundred to over a thousand, but after the ceasefire, no more outbreaks of violence resulting in fatalities, were reported.

Plans and Initiatives on Conflict Settlement

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Since all of the previous attempts to find mutually acceptable solutions for Transnistrian problem didn’t bring any tangible results, they will be only briefly mentioned, thus providing more room for addressing the recent changes in political situation on both banks of the Nistru River and their impact on the prospects of a sustainable conflict settlement.

Initially, the efforts to put an end to the armed conflict were undertaken either within the format of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States, a non-coherent alliance that represents the successors of the Soviet Federal republics, but without the three Baltic states – Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania), also by the heads of the most interested neighbouring states, namely, Russia, Ukraine, and Romania. For example, soon after the collapse of the USSR in December 1991, at the Kyiv meeting in March 1992, the heads of the CIS countries adopted a Declaration stating that the territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova is the key element for the entire stability in the region. It should also be mentioned that at the initial stage, approaches to conflict settlement sought to ensure broader international engagement, and at the level of expert meetings, included specialists from not only Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine, but also from Romania and Hungary. [8]

Throughout the 90s, a number of bilateral and multilateral initiatives have taken place, and different kind of documents signed. Regrettably, the CSCE during a period of violent conflict and at the first stages of its settlement was preoccupied with the escalating crisis in the former Yugoslavia; because of this, and despite the calls for intervention, its Mission to Moldova was established only in April 1993. This event certainly invigorated the settlement process; already in November of the same year CSCE Mission prepared a report outlining proposals to serve as a basis for further negotiations between the two parties. The report suggests that Transnistria could exercise the right to ‘external self-determination’ in case of Moldova’s merging with Romania; it recommends, in a long-term, a general decentralisation of Moldova according to the principle of subsidiarity. The Special Region of Transnistria, although an integral part of Moldova, would enjoy considerable self-rule, with its own executive, elected legislature and court. As far as the division of competences is concerned, most jurisdictions would be mixed.

In 1994, negotiations based on the OSCE proposals, have started; in 1995, Ukraine has become the third official ‘mediator’ in the Transnistrian conflict and eventual ‘guarantor’ of a settlement. On 19 January 1996, Russia, Ukraine and Moldova signed a Joint Declaration recognising the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova.[9]

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Among the remarkable initiatives put forward in 90s, the Memorandum of Understanding on the Principles of Normalisation of the Relations between the Republic of Moldova and Transnistria, signed in Moscow on 8 May 1997 (the so-called ‘Primakov[10] memorandum’) is widely referred to. It suggested the formation of a ‘common state’ as a way out of the deadlock; although not many concrete details of what actually the term meant were provided, Transnistrian statehood was implicitly recognised, including acquiring the right to establish its own foreign relations; the presence of the peacekeeping force was reaffirmed.[11] At that time, the document was seen as able to satisfy the Moldova’s demands for restoring its territorial integrity, and at the same time, the TMR claims for ‘external’ (political) self-determination. But because of a rather dubious meaning of this very term, further negotiations were blocked by the attempts of interpreting and defining the legal sense of it, and therefore, they have never reached even a point of discussing a division of competences between Moldova and TMR. [12]

The Agreement on Confidence Measures and Development of Contacts between Republic of Moldova and Transnistria was signed in Odessa on 20 March 1998. It called for a reduction in the number of peacekeepers numbers, invited peacekeepers from Ukraine, and addressed a number of secondary but concrete issues. A Joint Statement on Issues of Normalization of Relations between the Republic of Moldova and Transnistria was signed in Kyiv by the two parties and the three mediators on 16 July 1999. That document contained an important provision for five ‘common spaces’ – common borders, common economic, legal, defence, and social domains to be established; regrettably, none of these were even started to be implemented.

The most important event of late 90s was the OSCE summit in Istanbul in November 1999, where Russia committed itself to the withdrawal of Russian troops and equipment in Moldova. The weapons of the forces in the region were to be removed by the end of 2001, whereas personnel and stockpiled equipment –  by late 2002. 

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In fact, in 2003, the peacekeeping operation still consisted of estimated 1,000 troops, deployed in thirteen posts, some of them represented by Russians only, others trilateral. [13] The peacekeeping operation and control mechanisms proved rather effective throughout the 1990s to observe a cease-fire agreement, but they maintained the status quo of divided Moldova rather than contributed to the negotiations concerning the relations of the two sides of conflict, and finding a viable solution for the task of re-integrating the self-proclaimed TMR into the general fabric of the Moldovan state.

Over the next decade, quite a few diverse settlement plans were proposed. The most hotly discussed were those based on the idea of federalisation of the RM. At a meeting in Kiev on 1-3 July 2002, the mediators for the Moldovan-Transnistria conflict proposed, on the initiative of the OSCE, a draft agreement on the constitutional system that would regulate the distribution of competencies between Chisinau and Tiraspol. The document defined the Republic of Moldova as a ‘federal state’; the implementation of the agreement would have been monitored and ultimately guaranteed by the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the OSCE. [14] This plan has had both critics and supporters on both banks and among international expert community; in general, it was considered worth of serious attention and further elaboration.[15]

Regrettably, instead of a wide discussion of this ‘Kyiv Document’, another federalisation plan, worked out unilaterally by the RF and usually referred to as ‘Kozak plan’, appeared on the scene. It was recognised by the opponents as the worst of all of the previous versions.[16] As Dov Lynch has written, “The “Kozak plan”, as it is now known, was so riddled with problems that one wonders if the Kremlin seriously expected it to succeed”.[17] The content and style of the proposal, also the unilateral character of the initiative, taken without any intention to discuss it with other interested parties, including official mediators, alienated the OSCE, the Council of Europe and, seemingly, the EU as well. As a result, just at the noon of the President Putin’s visit to Chisinau in order to participate in an official signing of the document, President Voronin ‘suddenly’ changed his mind and reversed the earlier given promise to sign the “Kozak plan”. It was done under the pretext that such a decision would be premature, and not possible without the detailed consultations with all the sides involved, also with the authorities from a number of European institutions. In particular, he mentioned the necessity to confer with the OSCE and the Participating States at the Maastricht ministerial summit, to be held in early December.

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This last-minute refusal invoked an angry outburst from the Russian side. Russian President Vladimir Putin cancelled his visit to Chisinau, deputy head of presidential administration Dmitri Kozak accused President Voronin of lacking both political courage and political will to engage in a dialogue with the population,[18] whereas within Russia, there were rather sharp responses to this turn of events. In Moldova, the Russian federalisation plan invoked sharp negative reaction and intensified the public protests. Since further negotiations were frozen, the results of these proceedings were evaluated as “quite gloomy” for both the Moldovan president who compromised his position domestically and complicated relations with Russia, and for Moscow that was hit by Moldova’s “last minute rejection of what was planned as a surprise coup”, also by the strong resistance on the side of the OSCE and important Participating States. The same analysis stated that the “only clear winners are the leaders of the PMR”. [19]

The situation stagnated until the Orange Revolution in Ukraine; having occurred during the presidential elections of 2004, it brought to power pro-Western President Victor Yuschenko and his team. Soon after the changes of the political landscape of Ukraine, its new proposal was presented in May 2005, known as ‘Yuschenko plan’. Although far from being unanimously hailed by Moldovan political class and civil society,[20] it was used as a basis for preparing by Moldovan lawmakers the Organic Law on the principles of resolving the conflict in Transnistria that was adopted by the parliament on July 22, 2005.[21] Strong resistance from the Russian and Transnistrian sides prevented, however, any further attempts of implementation of either Yuschenko plan, or Moldovan law mentioned above.

Later on, some fears appeared once again concerning the information coming from the diverse sources about the Russian intention of imposing on Moldova a new plan of federalisation (named ‘Kozak-2 plan’) that, according to rumours, this time might be supported by Germany.[22]

Current Situation: Context Changed?

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New prospects for conflict settlement have appeared after parliamentary elections of 2009 in the Republic of Moldova. The new pro-Western team – the Alliance for European Integration (AEI) – that substituted the Communist Party ruling the country from 2001, proved much more pragmatic and willing to deal with its breakaway region than their predecessors pursuing rather an isolationist policy.  Later on, important changes have also taken place in Transnistria, relating first and foremost to the results of the presidential elections in December 2011 that overthrew conventional expectations of its outcome, as well as many of previous perceptions of the region as a whole. The long-standing ‘president of the TMR’ Igor Smirnov, this time having no support from Moscow, failed to be re-elected, and the same occurred to the Russia’s favourite Kaminsky. The impressive majority of voters gave preference to younger leader of the ‘Revival’ movement Yevgeny Shevchuk. This victory engendered hopes for the settlement process to acquire a positive momentum.

Indeed, to some extent, these expectations come true. The most significant positive result of power changes in Transnistria was the resumption of the official negotiation process that had been interrupted for almost six years. It re-started in November 30 – December 1, 2011 in Vilnius, Lithuania, to be followed by a meeting on February 28-29, 2012 in Dublin, Ireland, where discussions over the principles and procedures of further negotiations process and agenda took place. On April 17-18, 2012, the Document of principles and procedures and agenda of negotiations were agreed in Vienna, whereas on July 12-13, 2012, also in Vienna, this Document was signed. It included such topical and painful for the divided populations of both banks of the Nistru River issues as freedom of movement of passengers and cargo, traffic of trains, education issues,  etc.

The next three meetings are scheduled to occur in September, October, and November, 2012.

The main approach of the resumed negotiations and to the settlement process in general focuses on Confidence Building Measures (CBMs).[23] This means that political aspects of the settlement, first of all, about a mutually accepted status of Transnistria, are not yet touched, being actually substituted by the attempts to solve a number of concrete issues that both sides of the conflict are interested in. For this, a set of initiatives have already been realised, including:

  • Engaging the sides into direct dialogue;
  • Establishing joint Working/Expert Groups on confidence building measures;
  • Conducting meetings at a higher level (for example, between Prime-minister of the RM Vlad Filat and leader of Transnistria Yevgeny Shevchuk, also between the heads of foreign ministries Eugen Carpov and Nina Stanski);
  • Elaborating and implementing national and international social and economic development projects etc.

The record of a direct dialogue, in particular, at a higher level, looks impressive indeed, especially in contrast to previous lack of any kind of dialogue lasting for years. For example, Filat-Shevchuk meetings took place on January 27 in Odesa (Ukraine); on March 15 in Chisinau (RM); on March 30 – also in Chisinau; on April 26 – in Rybnitsa (Transnistria); on June 20 – in Rottach Egern (Germany), and on July 14-15, in Greece.

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Concerning the Working (Expert) Groups on CBMs, they were formed in both Chisinau and Tiraspol in 2007[24] with the intention to implement common projects in different fields, and solve practical problems faced by people on both banks, but until recently, there were almost no tangible results of their activities. On 8-9 September 2011in Bad Reichenhall (Germany) the parties agreed upon the General Regulations on the Expert (Working) Groups on Confidence Building Measures. On 19 March 2012, meeting of working groups in the presence of political representatives had occurred; on 26 April 2012 the Protocol Decision "On the principles of full resumption of rail freight through the Transnistrian region“ was signed. The advancement and further course of these proceedings were discussed on 20-23 June 2012 in Rottach-Egern, Germany, at a conference on "Promoting confidence building measures in the Transnistrian conflict settlement".

Currently, there are twelve WGs, eleven of which are functional, namely, those on economy, agriculture and environment, transport, railways, civil status acts, social and humanitarian aid, health, education, combating organised crimes and emergencies, telecommunications, and customs. 15 meetings of these WGs were already conducted, whereas the WG on demilitarisation and security is not yet operating because of high sensitivity of these issues and political considerations behind them.[25]

Among the achievements resulting from joint endeavours, the following could be named:

  • Protocol decision on the procedure of transporting and storing radioactive materials located in Transnistria, being implemented, sources of radioactive contamination successfully evacuated.
  • WG on Combating crime and emergencies has managed to establish a good dialogue, regular contacts and exchange of information to combat organised crime. A set of recommendations has been prepared, in particular, to develop a complex plan of fighting against crimes and thefts, and to improve cooperation mechanism in emergencies.
  • In the field of health, a number of national health programs and projects were implemented with the assistance of international organisations, including modernisation of the healthcare system in the region.
  • Concerning the area of economy, it is remarkable that a certain kind of economic integration has started in 2006; by May 31, 2012, 820 economic agents from Transnistria were registered by central bodies of the RM, 573 of them – provisionally, and 247 – on a permanent basis. In 2012, Moldovan Customs Service issued to 33 economic agents from Transnistria 740 certificates of origin for export production to the European Union, using the Autonomous Trade Preferences. In general, export volume from the region in 2012, declared by the Customs Service, constituted 162 ml $, 37% of which was to the CIS countries, and 52% - to the EU. It is also important to note that an expert from Transnistria is now taking part in the negotiations on the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement with the European Union.
  • WG on agriculture and ecology is now examining the ways of coordinating and undertaking joint activities aimed at food security, fisheries exploitation, monitoring the current condition of common water resources etc.

Activities within the framework of the CBMs are supported and funded by the EU. On January 10, 2012, the Financing Agreement on the "Confidence Building Measures" Programme” was signed between the Government of the Republic of  Moldova and the European Union that has allocated for this purpose 13 million Euro.[26]

A Role of the External Actors in Conflict Settlement

A) A role of the EU[27]

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Compared to the two other most influential international actors – the US and NATO – the European Union is in a more advantageous position with regard to the parties of the conflict. It has a positive reputation on both sides of the river, significant experience of conflict reso­lution in Europe (for example, South Tyrol, Northern Ireland, Bosnia and Herzegovina etc.) and in general, its ‘soft power’ approach to conflict situations looks much more appealing than resorting, otherwise, to ‘hard power’ and military force.

In view of the entering into the EU in 2007 of the two new members, Romania and Bulgaria, the Republic of Moldova with its unresolved Transnistrian conflict has become an immediate EU neighbour; the presence of this conflict in such a close vicinity to its borders makes for the EU no more possible to neglect it and continue let it unheeded. Therefore, even before the last enlargement has indeed occurred, the European Union has undertaken certain steps signifying its direct engagement in and contribution to the settlement process.

One of these steps was reformatting of the negotiation format by the EU and the US joining it in 2005 in the status of observers (the so-called ‘5 + 2’ format). Another one consisted in establishing, by the end of the same year, of the EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) at the Ukraine-Moldova border (including its Transnistrian segment).

Regrettably, a new formula of the negotiation process lasted for only a short period; as was already mentioned, in 2006 it was interrupted and remained ‘frozen’, too, for over the next five years. In the resumption and invigoration of the official negotiation process that restarted by the end of 2011, a leading role belonged not so much to the EU as a whole, but, rather, to Germany that undertook a number of preliminary steps to make Russia more cooperative. In particular, such an attractive ‘carrot’ was offered as establishing of an influential institution that would take responsibility for coordinating key security issues: the EU-Russia Political and Security Committee. However, Russia was first expected to show political will regarding Transnistria settlement. This initiative was also supported by France; Transnistria was included into the agenda of a meeting between the three leaders – Medvedev, Merkel and Sarkozy – in the French resort town of Deauville.

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Despite favourable turns in negotiation climate and repeated claims from Chisinau and some other actors, Brussels seems not yet inclined to change its status in the process, raising it from that of just ‘observer’ to the full-fledged participant. Such a stance is usually explained by the argument that such a change needs to be endorsed by all sides, whereas Transnistria is against it. However, according to Ukrainian experts from the Institute on World Policy, during their meetings with the Transnistrian authorities, the latter told them that they had actually appealed to the EU to in­crease its status in the negotiations, but the EU showed little interest. In Tiraspol it is believed that this attitude might be explained by the desire on the part of the EU to have more room for manoeuvring but fewer commitments and responsibility.[28]

Concerning the EU Border Assistance Mission for Ukraine and Moldova, its mandate at the request of the Moldovan and Ukrainian sides was twice extended, the second time for a period 2011 – 2015.

The EUBAM, launched on 30 November 2005, is a technical advisory body without executive power. It aims at:

  • Making a sustainable contribution to development of border management;
  • Supporting legitimate needs of MD and UA citizens, travellers and trade;
  • Supporting confidence building measures;
  • Enhancing security and stability in the region, in particular at MD-UA border;
  • Promoting good governance and investing in civil society, in particular academic community and educational institutions.

Initially, this unique (for the ‘post-Soviet space’) mission was supposed to impact essentially a process of Transnistrian settlement, but as a result of numerous debates and discussions, it was decided to shift its activities towards more pragmatic issues like fighting smuggling and, generally, ‘promoting order’ at the Ukraine-Moldova border, including its Transnistrian segment.[29] Therefore, although a set of measures, initiated and supported by the EU and implemented through the Mission, indeed promoted a kind of ‘economic integration’ of the Transnistrian region into the common space of the RM, political level of the settlement until recently demonstrated no visible signs of positive trends; the steps aimed at encouraging the Transnistrian de facto authorities to resume the official negotiation process within the ‘5 + 2’ format proved then ineffective.

However, after the last presidential and parliamentary elections in the RM, and especially when the new authorities in the TMR had taken the upper hand over the Smirnov’s team as a result of the elections in December 2011, new ‘window of opportunities’ has appeared for the EUBAM, too.. During the last year only, the following events and activities have taken place:

  • On 7-9 September 2011, during the OSCE Conference in Bad Reichenhall (Germany), the EUBAM presented its rail-customs proposals;
  • On 11 November 2011,  Customs dialogue resumed in Odessa;
  • On 11 November 2011, in the EUBAM HQ (Odesa, Ukraine), Customs and Railways services from Chisinau and Tiraspol (+ Odessa Railway as observers)  have met for the first time since 2001;
  • On 26 April  2012, after six years of interruption, rail freight traffic was fully resumed according to joint customs protocol in line with EUBAM proposals; 
  • On 21-25 May 2012, Joint Customs Training, Building trust and raising awareness on EU best practices was conducted. [30]

One more important contribution of the EU to the conflict settlement is providing financial support to different projects and initiatives. After Ukraine, earlier seen as a regional leader among countries included into the EU Eastern Partnership Programme, following the presidential elections of 2010 and victory of Victor Yanukovych and his Party of Regions, turned out deeply compromised and raised a great disappointment because of neglecting democratic standards and rule of law, EU interest in Moldova has grown considerably. This is confirmed not only by statements of the EU officials, including EuP President Jerzy Buzek,[31] but also in the size of financial assistance: for 2010–2011, Moldova  received EUR 90 ml in mac­ro-financial support, or twice as much as it had over 2007–2008.[32] In March 2010, the European Commission and the World Bank held an international donors’ conference, as a result of which Moldova was given support in the amount of EUR 1.9 b for the upcoming four years; the EU share is more than 25% of this aid.[33] These steps, increasing Moldova’s weight and authority in the region, are of vital importance in terms of prospects for the country’s re-integration; as Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat acknowledged during negotiations with the EU on the Association Agreement, one of the pathways to resolve the conflict is to increase the appeal of right bank Moldova for the residents of Trans­nistria.[34]

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Recently, the EU is actively encouraging a gradual rapprochement of the two sides of the conflict by supporting and funding the CBMs, also through humanitarian and social projects, business development projects, and community and civil society capacity-building. Over 2009–2011, EUR 3.7 ml was allocated for such projects. For 2012–2013, the aid will be significantly increased, a new package amounting to EUR 12 ml. Currently, even more generous decision has been taken, namely, now it is planned to provide EUR 28 ml for only the support of CBMs. The EU provides also assistance and expertise for all of the WG, including those on banking sector and education.

This positive dynamics has also become possible only after power change in Transnistria. A telling illustration of the previous leadership attitudes towards the EU is the following quotation from a speech of the then ‘president’ Igor Smirnov: “the incursion and entrenchment of the West in the region, the formation of a pro-western elite and a new generation of young leaders in various areas is one of the main threats to the long-term development of Transnistrian so­ciety.[35] The only kind of cooperation with the EU that Transnistria’s leadership had then accepted was humanitarian aid: social security, medical services, environmental matters etc. In its turn, the EU policy was cautious enough for not proposing any political components in joint proj­ects in order to escape further antagonising Tiraspol de facto authorities. Although it should be emphasised that in the most principal matters the EU position remained unwavering, namely, the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic is always regarded a part of Moldova, which means that separate initiatives between the EU and TMR, such as an Action Plan or Association Agreement, are out of question.

The former Transnistrian authorities were also very suspicious of the EU propositions regarding cooperation and assistance for the activities of the joint Working/Expert Groups. Especially hostile was their attitude towards education-related issues; as a consequence, among the then established eight WGs there was no group dealing with education, whereas now, as was indicated above, already eleven WGs are regularly meeting and engaged in cooperative work, and only that on demilitarisation and security is still inactive.

On 12 January 2010, in Chisinau were launched negotiations on the Association Agreement with the EU (succeeding the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement), a core element of which is a Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). Moldova began negotiations on DCFTA on March 18, 2012; it expected to be signed in 2013, and bring benefits to the country, along with major challenges. Some of the latter relate to Transnistrian enterprises; if covered by the Agreement, their inspections by central authorities (which are now denied) ought to become inevitable. Nevertheless, if a way is found to include Transnistrian business into the negotiation process, this would be beneficial to all parties and to an eventual resolution of the conflict.[36]

Another promising step on the part of the EU was launching of the EU-Republic of Moldova Visa Dialogue in June 2010. In January 2011, the European Commission presented to the Moldovan authorities the Action Plan on Visa Liberalisation (VLAP); since then, it has been regularly reporting to the European Parliament and to the Council on the progress made by the Republic of Moldova in taking the necessary measures to fulfil the benchmarks identified under the four blocks of the first phase of the VLAP.

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Obviously, this EU-Moldova Dialogue engendered expectations that in case of the successful implementation of the VLAP, Moldova gets a visa-free regime with the EU, and by all means, this will upgrade the prestige of the RM and attract even more residents of Transnistria to acquire Moldova’s citizenship, thus equipping Chisinau with ever growing leverage over Tiraspol.

Indeed, in the third and final progress report on first phase of the VLAP, Commission presented a consolidated assessment of the progress made by the Republic of Moldova in meeting the first phase benchmarks of the VLAP related to the establishment of the legislative, policy and institutional framework, and reached quite positive conclusions. In particular, it is said that “The EU-Republic of Moldova Visa Dialogue has proved to be an important tool for advancing reforms, not only in the Justice and Home Affairs area, but also beyond. The progress made by the Republic of Moldova under the various areas covered by the four blocks of the VLAP has been constant and effective in the last two years, showing the important commitment and the efforts put by the Moldovan authorities in making the implementation of the VLAP a priority in its legislative and administrative agenda.

The legislative measures requested by the VLAP under the first phase have been eventually adopted. Their assessment, carried out by the Commission services, the European External Action Service (EEAS), as well as by the Member States’ experts, shows that they are in line with the benchmarks identified in the four blocks of the VLAP”. And, finally: “Building upon the outcome of the continuous monitoring and assessments mentioned above, the Commission considers that the Republic of Moldova has eventually met all benchmarks of the first phase of the VLAP and that the assessment of the benchmarks under the second phase of the VLAP can therefore be launched”.[37]

B) A role of Russia

Throughout the whole period of the Transnistrian conflict, including its gradual development, bloody ‘acute phase’ in 1992, and ceasefire agreement followed by the protracted ‘frozen’ stage, Russia was recognised as the main supporter of the separatist forces on the left bank and later on, of the authoritarian Tiraspol regime headed for over 20 years by Igor Smirnov. In fact, it is sometime argued that Russia itself is a party of the conflict and therefore, could not play a role of an impartial mediator and ‘guarantor’. Such views are not fully unsubstantiated; for example, the main document that stopped the war of 1992 was then signed not by the ‘sides of the conflict’– the Republic of Moldova and its rebellious eastern region – but by the two presidents – those of the RM and RF.

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Also, it is important to recall the decision of the ECHR of 8 July 2004 on the case of “Iliascu and Others v. Moldova and Russia” (no. 48787/99), which recognised Russia’s greater responsibility for human rights violations of the applicants than that of Moldova. In particular, in Court’s decision it was said that: “The Russian authorities had therefore contributed both militarily and politically to the creation of a separatist regime in the region of Transdniestria, part of the territory of the Republic of Moldova. Even after the ceasefire agreement of 21 July 1992 Russia had continued to provide military, political and economic support to the separatist regime, thus enabling it to survive by strengthening itself and by acquiring a certain amount of autonomy vis-à-vis Moldova. In the Court’s opinion, all of the acts committed by Russian soldiers with regard to the applicants, including their transfer into the charge of the separatist regime, in the context of the Russian authorities’ collaboration with that illegal regime, were capable of engaging responsibility for the consequences of the acts of that regime.

The Russian army was still stationed in Moldovan territory in breach of the undertakings to withdraw them completely given by Russia at the OSCE summits in 1999 and 2001. Both before and after 5 May 1998, when the Convention came into force with regard to Russia, in the security zone controlled by the Russian peacekeeping forces the “MRT” regime continued to deploy its troops illegally and to manufacture and sell weapons in breach of the agreement of 21 July 1992. All of the above proved that the “MRT” remained under the effective authority, or at the very least under the decisive influence, of Russia, and in any event that it survived by virtue of the military, economic, financial and political support that Russia gave it”.[38]

Concerning the financial support, it was calculated that in 2007–2010 only, it amounted to $55.5 ml in a form of humanitarian aid. In summer 2010, transactions were stopped because of doubting its proper use by the Smirnov’s regime; they resumed in summer 2011, and the region received about $10.5 ml more. The next ‘lag-phase’ occurred after the presidential elections in Transnitria of December 2011, signifying, evidently, Russia’s dissatisfaction with its outcome: victory of Yevgeny Shevchuk (instead of Moscow’s favourite Kaminsky). This put the new government, facing empty treasury and budget deficit of 72%, into the extremely difficult situation. Payment of salaries and pensions were significantly delayed, invoking great disturbance of the population and threatening to undermine authority of the Shevchuk-led government in its struggle with the Supreme Council of the PMR, where the majority is constituted by the political rival, ‘Renewal’ (Obnovleniye) Party controlled by the local monopolist ‘Sheriff’ firm. After numerous claims and appeals from Shevchuk, Russia decided to restart its financial assistance, and on 17 July 2012, a transaction of 508.8 ml of Russian roubles was received by Tiraspol.[39]

The uncompromising position of Russia towards Transnistrian issues seemed somehow remitted in 2010 following Merkel-Medvedev meeting in Meseberg (near Berlin) and signing of a joint Memorandum. The main issue at stake was a proposal to establish the EU-Russia Political and Security Committee (ER-PSC); as a test for Russia’s readiness to cooperate in joint endeavours relating to security issues, resolving of the Transnistrian conflict was included into the text. Exact wording of this point of the Memorandum is as follows: “4. With due respect to ongoing efforts (i.e. Russia-Ukraine Declaration of 17 May 2010 and Statement by High Representative C. Ashton of 17 May 2010) the EU and Russia will cooperate in particular towards a resolution of the Transnistria conflict with a view to achieve tangible progress within the established 5 + 2 format (Russia, Ukraine, Moldova, Transnistria, OSCE, EU, US). This cooperation could include a joint EU-Russia engagement, which would guarantee a smooth transition of the present situation to a final stage”. In such a way, in return for cooperating to settle this conflict, Russia could receive a major role in European security affairs, with the access to EU decision-making processes via the proposed committee.[40]

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After a pause, in 2011 Russia indeed exhibited its interest in the proposal, but rejected any time framing or a direct link between setting up the ER-PSC and Russia’s commitment towards the conflict (including the assumed withdrawal of Russian stockpile of ammunition and military contingents). However, it was re-confirmed that “We [Russia, EU, Moldova] see the ultimate goal exactly in the same way: a special status for Transnistria in the framework of a united Moldovan state and of Moldova’s territorial integrity” – a progress evident if compared with a rather rare mentioning of Moldova’s territorial integrity over the preceding years.[41] Russia also agreed to undertake certain steps aimed at resumption of a ‘frozen’ official negotiation process in the ‘5 + 2’ format which was effectively blocked by Moscow and Tiraspol since 2006. This was an important achievement in view of the previous activities within the ‘2 + 1’ format, namely, bilateral meetings and talks between the heads of the two parties to the conflict (in those years, between President of the RM Vladimir Voronin and Transnistrian leader Igor Smirnov), coordinated and brokered by Russia.[42] However, despite vivid preliminary talks and preparations, the meeting of all of the actors in Moscow on 21 June 2011 did not eventuate in the desired results.[43]

Another attempt on the part of the EU to engage Russia in joint activities in Transnistrian direction occurred during a trilateral meeting between French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and Russian President, Dmitry Medvedev on October 18-19, 2010 in Deauville, France. The participants issued a joint Declaration which, however, contained only a general statement regarding the search of solutions for ‘frozen’ conflicts, without the direct reference to or some specification concerning the Transnistrian problem.[44]

The positive developments briefly mentioned above were, unfortunately, marred by the revealed intentions of Moscow to reanimate the idea of federalisation of the RM in the form of a proposal often defined as ‘Kozak-2’ plan, that continued to be unacceptable for Chisinau and threatened to destroy all efforts invested into the re-launching of the negotiation process.[45]

Another unexpected move, demonstrating Russia’s intention to strengthen its grip over the breakaway region, was the appointment on 21 March 2012 of Dmitriy Rogozin – until recently, Russian ambassador to NATO, then a deputy prime-minister responsible for military-industrial complex – Special Representative of the Russian President for Transnistria (not for ‘conflict settlement in Transnistria’), and also co-chair of the Russian-Moldovan intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation.[46]

Therefore, the endeavours aimed at approximation of the positions of the EU and Russia with regard to developing a common approach to solving the Transnistrian problem have brought, up to date, rather modest results. The lack of substantial progress could also be explained by the then continued political crisis in the RM, still struggling to elect its president, and a growing intrigue around the forthcoming presidential elections in Transnistria in December 2011. The outcome of this event, in contrast to all previous election campaigns, by no means promised to be as predictable as earlier, i.e., simply re-confirming the undisputed, absolute power of the incumbent ‘president’ Igor Smirnov. But the main obstacle to finding a common ground has been the Russia’s unyielding position with regard to such sensitive issues as converting the military peacekeeping mission into some kind of international civilian one, and demilitarisation of the region in general: according to the responsible Russian authorities, all this could become possible only after political solution, defining the status of Transnistria within the reunited Moldova, is found and accepted by all participants of the negotiation process.[47] Moreover, recently Russia has sent a rather disturbing message to its European and American counterparts and interlocutors: the reports on the bilateral meeting between Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin and Nina Shtansky, the ‘foreign minister’ of Transnistria, has shown Russia’s unwillingness to discuss the issue of its military peacekeeping operation in Transnistria with EU and US representatives. Karasin and Shtansky asserted during the meeting that the question of Russia’s peacekeeping format may only be addressed by the official participants of the conflict resolution process – Russia, Moldova, Transnistria, and Ukraine – and does not fall under the mandate of the wider ‘5+2’ format.[48] Russia’s hard position against any re-formatting of the existing peacekeeping operation in Transnistria was recently reconfirmed by Karasin during his visit to the place for taking part in celebrations, dedicated to the beginning of the peacekeeping operation in Transnistria.[49]

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And last but not least, recently President Putin presented his own vision of solving the Transnistrian problem. Answering the question about Transnistria by a participant of the forum “Seliger-2012”, Putin stated that “only Transnistrian people, the people inhabiting Transnistria, can define its destiny. Whereas international community, including Russia, shall respect its choice”.[50]
 
This remark in fact renounces all the official rhetoric about Russia’s recognising and supporting state sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova, and nullifies the efforts applied in order to find a solution acceptable for all stakeholders and actors involved. Moreover, if taken seriously, this might be perceived as a hint that in case of the Transnistrian administration’s decision to run a referendum on independence, similar to that of September 2006, this time, the old/new Russian leadership might accept its results (with the consequences akin to those concerning South Ossetia and Abkhazia in 2008).
 

C) A role of Ukraine

Ukraine is the only country bordering Transnistria, therefore, it has a strong incentive for this conflict to be resolved. Especially so because it already experienced its direct negative impact: because of Ukraine’s immediate vicinity to the breakaway region, during bloody clashes in spring 1992, tens of thousands of refugees trying to escape the conflict-ridden area, rushed to Ukraine’s territory. Having been in need of urgent help and accommodation, they then received a temporary status of asylum-seekers. There is also a sizable Ukrainian minority, constituting almost 30 percent of the Transnistria’s population, whose situation is a matter of concern for Ukraine as their kin-state.

Since Ukraine’s interest and significance are sometimes neglected by such major players as the EU, US, and Russia, Foreign Minister Konstyantin Gryshchenko has reminded, responding in London to the question about the German-Russian initiative on Transnistria: “I would point out that Transnistria is between Moldova and Ukraine, not between Germany and Russia”.[51]

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Ukraine was officially included into the negotiation process as a mediator and ‘guarantor’ in 1995; in 1998, ten Ukrainian military observers joined those from Moldova and Russia.  For a long period following this step, its role was insignificant and position hardly different from that of Russia. Ukraine’s passivity over those years was described in a following way: “Ukraine is just a spectator in the Transdniester negotiations… Ukraine was included in the so-called tripartite mediation mechanism at the initiative of Yevgenii Primakov when he was foreign minister of Russia. The aim was that this mechanism, categorically dominated by Russia, looks less Russian. Kyiv has neither the will nor the capacity to compete with Russia for political influence in Transdniester”.[52] A ‘breakthrough’ expected after the triumph of ‘Orange Revolution’ in 2005 hadn’t been achieved in the full measure, although Ukraine did succeed in supporting such important developments as establishing of the EUBAM; it also developed and presented its own plan of settlement known as ‘Yuschenko plan’. Although met with a wide scope of reactions from different stakeholders and actors, this plan served as the main reference point for Moldova’s law on the principles of solving the conflict that would provide, inter alia, a high level of autonomy for Transnistria within the Republic of Moldova.[53]

Another important move was establishing on 3 March 2006,, after a certain delay, of a new customs regime for Transnistrian economic agents that were urged, from that time onwards, to register and get licenses from central authorities of the RM. However, this very step, declared by Transnistria and Russia as an ‘economic blockade’, was actually used as a pretext for interrupting official negotiation process in ‘5 + 2’ format for almost six years.[54]

Presidential elections-2010 in Ukraine resulted in victory of Victor Yanukovych, leader of the Russia-oriented Party of Regions, and removal from power of ‘Orange team’ headed by the pro-Western President Victor Yuschenko. This outcome invoked in Moldova certain worries (actually, quite justified) as to the prospects of Ukraine’s further political developments, relating, in particular, to its course on European integration to be reversed in favour of Russia’s ‘Eurasian’ initiatives such as Customs Union and integration into the Eurasian space. Ukraine-Moldova bilateral relations and the Transnistrian problem have become a matter of special concern.[55] However, in this particular area of foreign policy the worst scenarios did not materialise; on the contrary, in many spheres bilateral interstate relations gradually improved rather than deteriorated, and quite a few of previously unresolved contentious issues were successfully settled.[56]

It should also be noted that facing no more Russia’s support at the noon of the elections in December 2011, Transnistrian leader Igor Smirnov was trying to get it from elsewhere, in particular, from Ukraine. By doing so, he hinted on the possibility of Transnistria joining Ukraine; while these statements provoked certain invigoration of discussions on the topic, they didn’t impress much either public opinion or the official position of Ukraine with regard to state sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova.[57]

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During preparation for the resumption of the negotiations in 2010 and the first attempts to realise this intention in 2011, Ukraine’s position astonished many of those who had anticipated that the new Ukrainian government led by President Yanukovych would slid from the more pro-active stance to the lack of its own and trailing instead behind Russia, while backing up and following all of the Russia’s proposals. For example, analysing the failed attempt to re-start official negotiations in June 2011, it was said that The only silver lining on this meeting is Ukraine’s position, largely due to its senior negotiator Ihor Kharchenko. In tune with the EU-US joint draft, the Ukrainian draft called for negotiations without preconditions; supported explicitly Moldova’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders; and specified that Transnistria’s status should be as a part of Moldova. The Ukrainian document even omitted any mention of Russia and Ukraine as Moldova’s “guarantors,” thus undermining Russia’s own claim, and consigning Yevgeny Primakov’s invention of Russo-Ukrainian “guarantees” to the archives”.[58]

Moreover, in 2010 – 2011, there were quite a few comments and considerations about Ukraine acquiring a leading role in the settlement process instead of that traditionally belonging to Russia.[59] Although deepening political and economic crisis in Ukraine effectively prevents it from exercising such a role, recent developments have shown its substantial input into the negotiation and conflict settlement processes. In a recent analysis provided by the Romanian expert Stanislav Segrieru, the following positive trends were pointed out:

  • Increasingly constructive and pro-active position;
  • The efforts applied for building closer relations with Yevgeny Shevchuk;
  • Facilitation of a dialogue between Tiraspol and Chisinau;
  • Agreement to prolong the EUBAM mission until 2015;
  • Providing support for demilitarisation and internationalisation of peacekeeping mission; (in particular, after the tragic incident in the Security Zone on 1 January 2012[60]);
  • Presenting useful proposals during talks in Dublin and helping to overcome obstacles;
  • Pushing Transnistria to join the “Euroregion Dniester”.

Such a stance is to be explained by a number of factors, including:

  • Many problems of bilateral relations with Moldova being eliminated;
  • Uneasy relations with Russia (gas talks, pressure to join the Customs Union etc.)
  • A possibility to improve its image in the EU while being subjected to severe criticisms for backslide on democracy and human rights,
  • Strengthening its position in view of taking the OSCE Chairmanship in 2013;
  • Aggressive statements of the newly appointed Russian presidential envoy to Transnistria, Dmitriy Rogozin, on issues of Sevastopol and Tuzla;

and in general,

  • Regarding the continued presence of the impoverished, not controlled by any legitimate authorities, and still heavily ‘sovietised’ and militarised enclave along its eastern border as a threat to national security.[61]

Taking into account Ukraine’s deep and long-standing knowledge of the situation in Transnistria, and high interest in peaceful and sustainable resolution of this conflict, new opportunities to enhance its role in negotiations and conflict settlement processes may appear in 2013 due to OSCE chairmanship. As Ambassador of Ukraine to Moldova Serhiy Pirozhkov recently stated, the Transnistrian problem will become one of his country’s priorities; he expressed hope that good chances exist for achieving a substantial progress.[62]

D) A Role of Romania

By all means, relations between Romania and the Republic of Moldova have been complicated and far from ordinary interstate relations between neighbouring countries throughout the whole period of the existence of ‘two Romanian sovereign states’, as certain politicians, political analysts, and officials from both Romania and Moldova sometimes characterise the situation.[63] Actually, special relations between Moldova and Romania deserve a separate research[64] which is beyond a scope of the given paper. But in fact, Romania, although having close historic, linguistic and cultural links to the right-bank Moldova (Bessarabia), as the EU member state bordering Moldova, has – or, rather, should have – a strong interest in an economically viable and politically stable Moldova with the Transnistrian issue resolved.

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It should also be recalled that the Transnistrian conflict turned out the first challenge for the Moldovan-Romanian relations. The support provided by Romania to the Republic of Moldova during the war of 1992, although mostly a moral one and expressed through diplomatic means, paved the way to strong anti-Romanian passions of the Transnistrian population, and launched consistent fears and apprehensions – regularly fuelled by local and Russian media – of Moldova’s unification with Romania. Indeed, quite a few Romanian politicians and their Moldovan counterparts – the so-called ‘Unionists’ – increasingly often resort to discussions and statements about the prospect of Moldova’s (re)unification with Romania. Media, and not only Transnistrian and Russian, but also from some other countries, including  a few experts, bloggers, and journalists from Ukraine, often present this scenario as almost a ‘fait accompli’.[65]

Earlier, the situation was further confused by the sudden appearance of the “Belkovsly plan’ for settlement; it was proposed by Russian well-known political analyst Stanislav Belkovsky and first presented in Bucharest in June 2004. The essence of his proposal, shortly, consisted of “Moldova joining Romania and in such a way, the European Union, leaving Transnistria aside” (implicitly, under Russian protectorate).[66]

Later on, even more radical version of ‘Great Romania’ or, rather, ‘Great Moldova’ was developed by Russian influential anti-Western ideologist and ardent ‘Eurasionist’, Prof. Aleksandr Dugin. Considering Orthodoxy as a firm enough ground for common identity, he would even accept unification of the three entities – Moldova, Transnistria, and Romania – into a single state, but under strict condition: “If Chisinau wants to be together with Bucharest and Tiraspol in one state, we do not mind and even support. But a necessary condition must be met: Romania should get out of NATO. After that all options can be considered. Obviously the exit from NATO is not a joke. But Russia is not a joke also. Some recently began to forget this. We would not like to remind this…”[67]

Although the influence of ‘Unionist’ political forces in the RM has never reached any critical point allowing to consider such a possibility in practical terms, a new wave of anxieties about the future of Moldova’s sovereignty was raised due to significant ‘warming up’ of mutual relationship, and certain concrete steps for establishing closer collaboration between Moldova and Romania after the now governing AEI removed from power the long-lasted communist rule in 2009. These developments equipped Transnistrian authorities and, especially, political rivals of the new administration, with a seemingly strong argumentation for rejecting any option of joining a ‘failed state’. Rumours and speculations on this topic continue despite the actual proceedings showing that bilateral relations are focused mainly on technical and economic issues and the assistance given by Romania in order to ease Moldova’s course on European integration.[68] In particular, Romania has offered €100 ml of direct aid to Moldova, and provides organisational support for meeting EU norms and regulations.[69]

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In general, Moldova’s merging with Romania is considered highly unlikely by the high-level political analysts and EU diplomats, in particular, because of the obvious fact: it is merely not possible for the RM to realise both ‘integration scenarios’ – the one with Transnistria and eventual entering the EU, the other uniting with Romania. Nevertheless, this prospect, continuing to be vigorously discussed, has become one of the major obstacles to develop realistic and sustainable settlement plans based on common future of the two sides of the conflict; thus, such kind of rhetoric is very detrimental for solving the Transnistrian impasse. Moreover, recently the vision of Moldova’s imminent joining Romania has become the tramp card and the main argument against re-integration of Transnistria with the RM.[70]

Since current political crisis in Romania has not been terminated by the failed referendum to impeach President Basescu, it is difficult to predict its impact on bilateral relations and on the prospects of RM re-integration with Transnistria. Because this political crisis has occurred simultaneously with deepening economic crisis, the issue of Transnistria, as well as “Unionist’ activities, might become not in the focus of foreign and domestic politics of Romania.[71]

Possible Scenarios of Conflict Settlement[72]

1. Status quo maintained

For the short and middle-term, the ‘status quo scenario’ seems the most feasible. By saying so, I mean mostly that finding eventual political solution for the settlement – the one that would be agreed upon by all the actors involved, accepted by both sides of the conflict, and enjoy enough level of support ‘from below’ – is rather unrealistic over this period. Long-term prospects can be seen, however, as more encouraging than they have been throughout the existence of this conflict.

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The reasons for certain (cautious) optimism are based upon the much greater flexibility and willingness to collaborate with different subjects of the negotiation process that is demonstrated by the newly elected leader of Transnistrian administration Yevgeny Shevchuk. In contrast to his predecessor Igor Smirnov, whose authoritarian rule lasted for over 20 years, and whose rigid and sometimes too unyielding position started to annoy even Moscow, used to regard Transnistrian administration as its obedient ‘vassals’, Shevchuk, after declaring the policy of ‘small steps’ for a gradual rapprochement of the conflicting sides, proved being able indeed to achieve some positive results in moving things forward in certain concrete spheres that had been blocked earlier.

Currently, however, there are too many reasons for not expecting quick and decisive steps aimed at changing the status quo situation. One of them is the very low interest and engagement of the residents of both banks of the Nistru River. People there just get accustomed to this unhealthy and uncomfortable situation, and see their priorities in other, more urgent, spheres, like extremely low living standards, unemployment, lack of social security etc. The Barometer of Public Opinion, issued by the Moldovan NGO Institute of Public Policy and regularly publishing the results of sociological surveys, has shown that the most criti­cal problems for Moldovans (on the right bank) are poverty, the future of their children and the high level of corruption, while for Transnistrian respondents, less than 1% considered the resolution of the conflict their top priority.

Besides, the distrust felt by Transnistrians to their right-bank counterparts has a number of additional components: being brought up and educated in the environment created by the very specific propagandist machine of Tiraspol, inhabitants of the left bank gradually developed a belief – or at least pretended to – that they constitute a ‘people’, a separate ‘nation’ endowed with a right to the external self-determination, i.e., to having their own independent sovereign state.[73] This by no means complies with a necessity to find a common ground for developing Moldovan national (‘political’ or ‘civic’) identity. Moreover, introduction in 2006 of the new customs rules for Transnistrian economic agents, agreed upon with Ukraine, endorsed by the EU and implemented with the assistance from the EUBAM, was declared ‘economic blockade of Transnitria’ and at that time, promoted consolidation of local authoritarian regime and helped its leader Igor Smirnov to win, once again, the presidential elections in the unrecognised republic, also run successfully a referendum on Transnistrian independence (with a prospect of joining the RF in the future).

The Transnistrian media throughout the period of this frozen conflict created and maintained extremely negative stereotypes of the Republic of Moldova. Such local informational resources as, for example, Olvia Press, and Lenta PMR, a news agency and local broadcast company controlled by the Transnistrian regime, often referred to Moldova as a ‘neighbouring enemy country’ and ‘fascist regime’ developing vicious plans to ‘conquer’ the Transnistrian Moldovan Republic (PMR); in such a way, perception of the ‘external threat’ has been successfully created.

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Beginning from 2009, the prospects of re-integration were also complicated by the internal political uncertainty in the RM and its repeatedly failed attempts to elect a president. This crisis has ended only on March 16, 2012, when Nicolae Timofti, the candidate backed by Moldova's ruling pro-Western Alliance for European Integration, was at last elected. This outcome has become possible due to voices of the three lawmakers, formerly part of the Communist opposition, and one independent deputy.[74]

A negative impact on prospects of reunification exert also fears that the Republic of Moldova would eventually become a part of Romania – the fears that are continuously fuelled by media in Transnistria, Russia, and sometimes in Romania and the RM itself.

Citizens of the right-bank Moldova, on their part, also mistrust Transnistrians, regarding them as too deeply ‘sovietised’, Russia-oriented, not sharing European values and not supporting the aspirations to join the European Union.

However, the results of a 2009 sociological survey on both banks have shown that 56% of Transnistrians think that separation harms each side, while 82 percent on the right bank felt the same. 82% of Transnistrians and 93 percent on the residents of Chisinau thought a solution was either ‘important’ or ‘very important’.[75] These data were confirmed by the participants of the six focus groups (three on each side) and interviews within the framework of a comprehensive research conducted in 2010.[76]

It could be added that the status quo scenario is not without its own advantages: while not forced or forcing for the premature reunification, the leaders of both parties, only recently having established direct regular contacts, as well as ordinary people on both banks of the Nistru River, are getting a chance to gradually move closer to each other, to appreciate the advantages of living in a single, legitimate, internationally recognised state, and to share more widely the aspirations for European integration prevailing on the right bank.[77]

2. Re-integration of the Republic of Moldova

There are quite a few factors hampering the prospects of reintegration. Some of them have already been mentioned: these are an entrenched habit of the left-bank population to live in a poor, not at all comfortable, not recognised but ‘their own state’, and a very low level of interest in the settlement process, and Transnistria problem in general, among residents of the right bank, as is evidenced by numerous and regularly conducted sociological surveys.

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Another reason relates to long-lasted ‘wait and see’ policy of the West and the lack of ‘speaking in a single voice’ by the EU as a party potentially the most interested in the success of negotiations, and also the least mistrusted by the sides of the conflict. In this context, bilateral initiatives taken together by Germany and Russia (‘Meseberg process’), or trilateral as the one in  Deauville, although positive by themselves, bear a threat to undermine or at least slow down further endeavours in elaborating consolidated position of the EU as a coherent entity.

Further challenges concern such seemingly undoubted achievement of the reanimated negotiation process as the widely supported and greatly appreciated Confidence Building Measures and joint working/expert groups.[78] Indeed, their joint activities provide a positive example of addressing together a number of topical issues in certain spheres of mutual interest and aiming, in general, at gradual approximation of the two sides. Risks and challenges of this approach may be found in the excessive focusing on the CBMs as such, because they are regarded as not endangering the negotiation process to be interrupted once again. This makes the principal, key purpose of the negotiations – eventual solution for the sustainable conflict settlement – not only a rather remote prospect, but also not so much significant and needed, especially if financial support from the EU and other donors would indeed lead to certain improvement of the everyday life of people on both banks of the Nistru River. Such a development may result in the conservation of a status quo situation by providing no impetus for tackling the issues of major political importance.

One more problematic aspect is linked to the prospects of Moldova’s European integration and its chances of joining eventually the EU. Whatever remote, they remain a priority for Moldovan leadership – the now ruling Alliance for European Integration (‘AEI-2’), and rather popular among the ordinary citizens. In view of these prospects, Transnistrian problem becomes sometimes seen as an obstacle to further progress on this pathway, a burden complicating the badly needed reforms rather than a necessity to settle this frozen conflict as a precondition for the EU membership. In this regard, the case of Cyprus divided into two states, one of which successfully joined the EU in 2004, whereas the other, mostly unrecognised internationally Northern (Turkish) Cyprus, has recently started to receive its share of financial support directly, not through the Republic of Cyprus – the case sometimes presented and popularised as a positive example of conflict settlement – is in fact sending a message not at all conducive for the idea of reintegration of the Republic of Moldova.

But the most complicated and controversial problems of reintegration are those concerning the conditions on which the two sides could agree to come together, and administrative arrangement of the reunited state.

tiraspol-stolica.narod.ru

For a long period preceding and following the Kozak plan of 2003, Transnistrian authorities declared that any other conditions of joining Moldova except doing it on equal footing and establishing a confederative entity with equal constitutional rights and guarantees, are unacceptable. In its turn, Moldova rejected any scenarios based not only on the ideas of confederation, but on milder forms of federalisation, as well.[79] Today’s position of the ruling AEI keeps seemingly intact a ‘red line’ not to be crossed: reintegrated Republic of Moldova will be a unitary state with special status provided for the Transnistrian region, and endowing the latter with wide autonomy rights (according to still valid law of 2005). Taking into account abbreviated and in general, not successfully realised scope of competencies of the autonomous territorial unit Gagauz-Yeri established yet in 1995, such a prospect has no appeal for Transnistrian political and economic elites. Nowadays, they often refer to Kozak plan of federalisation as the missed chance of the Russia-brokered reintegration that, being lost, remains in the past and not to be revived.

However, beginning from 2010, the idea of federalisation gained a new impetus – not as a clear-cut plan containing detailed provisions but, rather, as a proposal suggested, this time, not by Russia directly but through her heavyweight ‘allies’ within the EU – such as Germany[80] and, to some extent, France.  Although nothing has been said or declared openly, and Moldovan officials usually deny any discussions of these sensitive matters with their counterparts and high-level European bureaucracy,[81] rumours and fears of the actual Germany-EU intention to impose exactly this scenario for putting the end to such a headache as unresolved frozen conflict at its own borders, penetrate Moldovan society and raise feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. The fact that both main actors behind this implied intention – Germany and Russia – are themselves federated states add to such worries a certain element of credibility.[82]

However, the last visit of Angela Merkel to Chisinau on August 22, 2012, while confirming continued interest of Germany in resolving the Transnistrian conflict, did not evidence the plan of finding a solution through federalisation of Moldova. Remarkably, this time, cooperation with Russia on this issue (‘Meseberg process’) hasn’t been mentioned by Chancellor, nor the Russian side has been consulted with – or even informed about – the forthcoming visit.[83]

At the same time, left-wing political opposition in the RM is in favour of such a transformation, thus deepening splits and divisions among Moldovan politicians and yet unstable and rather disillusioned society at large.[84]

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For deeper understanding of Moldova’s seemingly ‘irrational’ resistance to the very idea of federalisation, it should be noted that this attitude is rather widespread among the new states emerged as a result of disintegration of the USSR and the SFRY. Explanation for this phenomenon can be found in the new rules on international recognition of those new states, based on the Declaration on the Guidelines on the Recognition of the New States in Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union, issued by the EC Foreign Ministers meeting on 16th December 1991[85] and accompanied by a Declaration on Yugoslavia. These two documents, having lead to the recognition of fifteen former republics of the USSR and (potentially) six republics of the SFRY, significantly modified previous standards related mostly to the compliance of claimants with the main attributes of statehood.[86]

Implementing the principle of uti possidetis[87] as having general application, international borders of the new states were defined as coterminous with those of the federal units. Respectively, international recognition was denied to any territorial entity with a status below that of a federal unit (i.e., autonomous republic, province, kraj, oblast etc.). Accordingly, a number of interpretations admitted that: “It can indeed only operate where there is an internal border or administrative line... The more unitary the state, the weaker the presumption ... the more entrenched a particular administrative line may be, the stronger the presumption. In the case of federal states ... the presumptions would be at its least assailable.”[88] Moreover, it was noted that the so-called ‘Badinter Borders Principle’ declassifies federal states internationally into ‘second class unitary states,’ and that this decision is likely to “dissuade governments in the region either from entrusting minorities with a broad measure of local autonomy or from entering into federal arrangements as a method of regulating interethnic relations. In the event of a severe crisis, in which it is judged by an outside authority that the state is in the process of dissolution, the sub-state units of government so created may be considered as vested with a right to separate statehood,[89]

3. Transnistria gained its independence and state sovereignty

Although this scenario seems rather unlikely, it is not yet excluded from the political agenda of the Transnistrian de facto authorities, and remains especially prominent in their rhetoric and public speeches. Moreover, even mentioning of a possibility to re-unite with the RM on any terms results in violent accusations of the ‘betrayal’ followed by the immediate attempts to ‘rehabilitate’ themselves on the part of those who dared to commit such a ‘sin’ (as it has happened, for example, with Mikhail Bergman appointed by Shevchuk his special representative in the RF).[90]

Moreover, Transnistrian claim for independence is being met with a certain degree of sympathy and understanding by some of the western experts. As an example, a Finnish political analyst and blogger Ari Rusila can be named; he usually presents the Transnistrian de facto statehood in quite a positive light, admitting, in particular, that “Transnistria called my attention first because of its quite ready statehood elements[91] without outside recognition, second because of changed circumstances in respect for international law after Kosovo unilateral declaration of independence and thirdly because I predicted  that Trandnistria could be the next tinderbox of separatism between Georgian conflict and coming troubles in Ukraine”.[92] He believes that Transnistria, if compared with Kosovo, has had in fact much more reasons to be recognised internationally. Also, as recently as in 2011, considerations and statements can be found such as the following: “… we would argue that both the time factor and the quest for recognition have contributed to pushing Transnistria away from being a “black hole” and “racketeer state,” and toward developing something akin to full-fledged statehood (minus official recognition)”; “…over time, the Transnistrian “racketeer state” has gradually evolved into a more full-fledged state with an identity of its own”.[93]

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Apart from the ‘evident elements of statehood’, an argument that “historically, Transnistria has never been a part of Moldova”, is often being used.[94] Also, there is a belief that Transnistrian population, coming through short but bloody war and the next 20 years of living in quasi-independent state, developed certain common identity: “History has supposedly moulded together a unique Transnistrian identity which differs markedly from that on the right bank”; “the Transnistrian nation is to provide the ethnic communities of the de facto state with a common identity”.[95] This, implicitly, allows regarding this ‘separate people’ or a ‘nation’ as having at least some moral right to political self-determination. Conclusions about the existence of Transnistrian separate ‘national identity’ seem to rely upon interviews taken mostly from members of the Transnistrian administration, and some well-controlled representatives of ‘civil society’. They persist despite a number of the in-depth legal analyses denying such a right for Transnistrians[96] (whose identity resembles that of artificially created ‘Soviet people’ or “Yugoslavians’ rather than providing a more substantial basis for claiming any distinct – in particular, in ethnocultural terms – identity).

Taken together, these deeply entrenched perceptions, stereotypes and expectations of the inevitability of future recognition of Transnistrian statehood, inherent in the mentality of the Transnistrian political elites and shared, at least to some extent, by ordinary people, should be addressed and considered seriously and attentively, instead of being ridiculed and just laughed at. Such changes of attitudes would certainly contribute to the success of the reintegration project.

4. Joining either Russia or Ukraine

Despite the appearance, once and again, of publications discussing such topics, and statements of some of the (often marginalised) politicians in both countries, chances for such kind of the outcome are so negligible that they will not be considered in this paper. The same applies to the sometimes arriving, although only rarely, scenario of establishing a certain kind of international protectorate over Transnistria.[97]

Discussion and Conclusion

In general, Transnistrian conflict, especially if compared with other ‘frozen conflicts’ in Europe, can be considered as the one having all chances to be eventually solved in a peaceful and sustainable way. Moreover, the only realistic (and badly needed in terms of regional security and stability) scenario of its settlement consists in re-integration of the TMR with the Republic of Moldova; this view, based on the never officially disputed sovereignty and territorial integrity of the RM, is widely shared by all major stakeholders (except certain representatives of the Transnistrian de facto authorities and political class), and supported by international community. Therefore, all recommendations, also projects and programmes designed for the region, should contribute exactly to the re-integration scenario.

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New positive trends and developments have been widely recognised and appreciated. In particular, the OSCE is now quite optimistic about the prospects of settling the conflict. According to the OSCE Secretary General Lamberto Zannier, “There is a positive attitude on both sides on attempts to move to progress.”[98] Also, as Ambassador Erwan Fouéré, the Special Representative of the Chairperson-in-Office for the Transnistrian settlement, stated after the last talks in Vienna, “We need to build on this positive momentum and move forward, on a basis of mutual trust and understanding, to address concrete issues as agreed by all participants. It is the aim of the Irish OSCE Chairmanship to encourage progress in the next weeks and months in all areas, to bring us closer to a comprehensive settlement of the Transnistrian conflict.”[99]

Indeed, the new opportunities to make a real progress in solving the Transnistrian conflict should not be missed. For this, a coherent strategy must be developed and widely discussed by the major stakeholders and participants of the negotiations in ‘5 + 2’ format. In this respect, while creation of a stable and reliable foundation for all further proceedings depends, by all means, on ensuring a maximal success of the CBMs as a necessary prerequisite, no more time should to be lost for preparing a comprehensive strategic vision of a final solution, and of the means for how it can be reached. Engagement in this process of not only governmental but also independent experts from both banks of the Nistru River, and wider academic (international) community dealing with this and related issues, is highly desirable. In such a way, more openness and transparency in the Working/Expert Groups activities would have an added value of preventing and dissipating rumours, fears and anxieties often engendered by the lack of access to reliable and timely delivered information.

Since the EU is supposed to play an ever-growing role in further proceedings, the best way for it to perform successfully would be establishing certain rules and mechanisms relating to the decision-making on the issue of Transnistrian conflict. This would allow presenting thoroughly prepared and thought over proposals not as individual initiatives of separate EU states but reflecting instead a consolidated position of the EU as an entity. The EU External Action Service (EEAS) created in 2010 seems to be the most appropriate EU body to tackle such a task. The newly appointed Managing Director for Europe and Central Asia (Former Slovak foreign minister Miroslav Lacjak) has both to lead Association Agreement negotiations and be the representative in the ‘5+2’ negotiations. However, for compensation of the abolishment in early 2011 of the post of the EU Special Representative (for Transnistria) and his office, “to achieve an active role on Transnistria, the EEAS needs [additional] adequate staff resources”.[100]

Although up to date, the EU did not undertake any clearly articulated move to upgrade its status in the negotiation process now limited to being merely an ‘observer’, this ‘lack of ambitions’ seems no more complying with its actual and potential influence and existing resources, also with the hopes invested by those who see the EU as a leader and the main moving force of the settlement process. Therefore, changing its current status to that of a full-fledged participant of negotiations would be the next logical step on the part of the EU, beneficial for the process itself and parties to conflict, in particular.

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Despite certain cynicism expressed sometimes by both Transnistrian officials and NGOs who tend to regard the EU as a ‘milch cow’,[101] continued and increased economic, social and financial support would be of vital importance for changing their traditionally ‘anti-Western’ mindset. Also, this could raise awareness of democratic standards and best practices as attractive models for people dreaming to improve the environment they live in. Importance of the EU for the business sector of Transnistria is already evident because the EU member states are the main trading partners, and their share in the Transnistria’s export exhibits clear trends to increase.[102] In this context, it should also be recalled that Russia is spending on Transnistria much more than the EU and other Western donors; according to available information, the overall sum amounts to over US $2 b provided in the form of subsidies for fuel and bonuses to pensions and wages.[103] Thus, increased input on the part of the EU would counter-balance the unilateral influence of Russia that remains the major source of financial/economic aid.

However, important support of the EU and other donors in humanitarian, social and economic spheres should be conditional, targeting the impoverished populations of both banks and in such a way, contributing to the process of reunification of the country. This means, in particular, avoiding temptation of promoting development of the emerging civil society of Transnistria solely, by even small but locally-oriented grants without engaging people and NGOs from the other side. In this particular case, the widespread practice of ‘developing local democracy’ may prove counterproductive by preserving Transnistrian ‘separateness’ instead of encouraging more and more ‘people-to-people’ horizontal contacts between different NGOs, professionals, economic, cultural agents and other actors representing civil societies of both RM and the TMR. For promoting such integrative processes, the CBMs designed and implemented ‘from above’ could be supplemented by the ‘bottom-up’ activities at the grass-roots level, thus ensuring irreversibility and maybe slow, but consistent rapprochement movement, creating a solid basis for further reunification. Getting used to take part in joint activities, their participants could easier identify common interests, understand the advantages of ‘win-win’ strategies without obvious losers and winners, and eventually, develop a sense of common destiny as not something alien, imposed, and threatening, but as a quite normal and desirable way out of the uncomfortable situation of permanent uncertainty, suspicions, and imagined threats, thus gradually overcoming the syndrome of ‘besieged fortress’.

Since Russia has always played a special role at all stages of the conflict, and continues to be seen by the left bank population as their main supporter and protector, engaging Russia into the EU-initiated projects, and persuading it to join efforts in pursuing the common policy instead of demonstrating somewhat confrontational position, would be of crucial importance. Securing a genuine political will among Russian high authorities to embark, together with the EU and US, on this common pathway is actually quite a viable option: today’s ‘observers’ have had enough resources and levers to achieve such a goal if it is their purpose indeed.

Such advancement would have much more chances for a success if the decision-making occurs at the level of central EU institutions representing all of the member states, or is the responsibility of some specialised agency such as EEAS. Although risking to make the whole bureaucratic process even more protracted and complicated, it certainly would gain in legitimacy and therefore, provide more motivation to be observed.  Attractive proposals – like that by Angela Merkel concerning the ER-PSC but so far giving no tangible results – would look more convincing and more realisable if presented as an official proposal of the EU as a whole, and may thus become even more appealing for Russia. This, in turn, could compel Russia to make its own informed decision in line with those proposed by the EU-US.

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The most problematic Russia’s position concerns such sensitive issues as peacekeeping operation and demilitarisation in general, including further existence of the Security Zone (no more justified by the present realities),[104] functioning of the Joint Control Commission etc. “Window of opportunity” here is linked to Russia’s belief (to be yet developed) that this step is to be done not under the pressure from outside but following its own voluntary choice dictated by Russia’s best national interests. This decision would also meet the needs (first and foremost, for free, secure and unimpeded movement of people and goods) of no more antagonised residents of the RM and Transnistria, and signify a real breakthrough in conflict resolution. Since formally, there is no overt rejection by Russia of transforming the peacekeeping operation into internationalised civilian/police mission – only the argument that this should be postponed until a final political solution is found – these circumstances makes it easier for Russia to accept such a turn without further, currently unrealistic, preconditions while not ‘losing the face’.

Moreover, such a move could be quite beneficial for Russia’s image and reputation, because the provisions of the peacekeeping operation, signed in 1992 in the absence of international mandate, actually contravene all norms and standards of international law, UN and OSCE documents that require impartiality of peacekeeping forces, non-involvement in operations of the fighting parties, multi-national character of forces, and temporary character of the operation.

Addressing not less sensitive issue of the administrative arrangement of the reunited state, extreme caution should be observed for not destabilising the RM as it regularly occurred whenever this or that version of federalisation appeared on the negotiation table or behind the curtains. Although nowadays this idea is acquiring quite a few supporters in Moldova and abroad, many political analysts and jurists consider it too dangerous, in particular, for prospects of the Moldova’s European integration, and posing a risk to induce a process of ‘Transnitrianisation‘ of the RM. Well-known political analyst Vlad Socor believes that “the benefits of such a step would be null, and the risks would be absolute. Any kind of federalisation of Moldova means the dissolution of the state. It would transform the Republic of Moldova from a state in practically non-governed states, divided in small feudal principalities”.[105] Less radical assessments also admit that “…principles must basically guarantee a functioning Moldovan national state and exclude a symmetrical federation. But such an agreement would presuppose that Tiraspol’s maximum demands in particular would be excluded, which aim either at its own independence or at the unification of two member states of equal status. [Constitutional guarantees]…cannot give Transnistria veto power against the institutions of the nation state”.[106]

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Taking into consideration the arguments above, Moldovan negative reactions to federalisation are no wonder, although it should be stressed that the greatest fears are caused by the prospect of establishing exactly symmetrical, more or less ‘traditional’, federation. Whereas recent analyses have emphasised that other models, more suitable for the Moldovan/Transnistrian case, also exist. Named ‘multiple asymmetric federacy arrangement’, this type of state structure was suggested as the most appropriate solution whenever central governments are reluctant to federalise country as a whole.[107] Explaining the meaning of the term, Stefan Wolff noted that: “A federacy arrangement constitutionally entrenches extensive self-rule for specific entities. It does not necessitate territorial sub-divisions across the entire state territory. In other words, federacy arrangements are a feature of otherwise unitary states. Examples include the Åland Islands (Finland) and South Tyrol (Italy), as well as Gagauzia (Moldova) and Crimea (Ukraine). They can apply to multiple entities in an existing state which need not have the same status or identical level of competences...[108]

As a conclusion, it should be pointed out that the attempts to reach a quick final solution for the Transnistrian conflict by forcing premature reunification of the country bear too many risks and challenges to be currently pursued. The way should first be paved, and for this, raising the attractiveness of the RM for the left bank inhabitants is an important factor. Accelerating the pace of the reforms necessary for realising the European integration course should thus become a priority, because irreversibility of the RM ‘Europeanisation’ will create the most favourable conditions for the implementation of its second integration project, i.e. that with Transnistria. Its success, however, is largely dependent on the external international actors, especially Brussels and Moscow: “It is their willingness to reach an agreement that will be most crucial to the potential results of the 5+2 negotiations.”[109]

Recommendations

To all participants of the ‘5 + 2’ negotiation process:

  • Engage in common efforts to develop a long-term strategy of conflict resolution;
  • Intensify financial, organisational and informational support for the CBMs, making the process more open and transparent; encourage its strengthening and empowering via involvement of the independent expert community;
  • Discuss and assess together not only benefits but also the costs of reunification (including Transnistrian gas debt amounting to over 2 bn USD);
  • Undertake, under the OSCE guidance, revision of all previous agreements, decisions, and proposals that were signed and stamped but neither implemented nor formally renounced, considering a possibility to re-start negotiations with  a ‘blank charter’.

To the OSCE:

  • For current Irish OSCE chairmanship, to work closely with Ukraine on Transnistrian issues in order to ensure cohesive and continued policy aimed at strengthening recent positive trends;
  • Undertake, in cooperation with other participants of the negotiation process, all possible measures to complete withdrawal of the OGRF’s arms, ammunitions, equipment, and troops;
  • Promote further demilitarisation of the region through reduction of armed forces on both banks of the Nistru River.

To the EU:

  • Establish the mechanisms ensuring that the EU speaks on issues of Transnistrian conflict ‘in a single voice’;
  • Consider, together with the US, a possibility of upgrading the current negotiation status of an ‘observer’ to that of a full-fledged participant, thus transforming ‘5 +2’ format into’7’;
  • Encourage wider involvement of the Transnistrian personnel into the EUBAM-organised activities such as providing on-the-job training, workshops, seminars in line with EU best practice etc.;
  • Make all possible effort to engage Russia in pursuing common policy for solving the Transnistrian problem, in particular, persuading Russian leadership that this is in Russia’s best long-term economic and political interests which are more important than maintaining troops in the region, and that withdrawing troops would be in line with Russia’s apparent goal to rely more on “soft power” to maintain its influence in the post-Soviet space.

To Russia:

  • Exhibit political will and commitment to join ranks with the EU and US for ensuring a viable, sustainable settlement of the Transnistrian problem;
  • Reconsider the current position on issues of demilitarisation and transformation of the peacekeeping operation into international civilian mission not waiting for a ‘final solution’ to be found;
  • Use own political weight and authority for persuading Transnistrian administration to abandon somewhat obstructionist position in addressing such sensitive issues as language/education and demilitarisation/security;

To Government of the RM:

  • Regard success in European integration as a primary precondition in terms of prospects for the Transnistrian conflict settlement;
  • Stimulate public interest in Transnistrian issues through media and informational campaigns;
  • Promote development of the direct contacts with counterparts in Transnistria at all levels;
  • While keeping a ‘red line’ on issues of federalisation, make certain concessions in such areas as property rights, guarantees of security, introducing some amendments to the law of 2005 on basic principles of conflict settlement (with possible involvement of the other side into preliminary discussions);

To the de facto authorities of Transnistria:

  • Put the end to the obstructionist position with regard to prospects of reunification;
  • Assess and recognise the advantages of reunification, in particular, in economic and social spheres;
  • Accept as a reality that neither state independence nor joining Russia are viable projects having the slightest chance for international recognition/endorsement;
  • Continue active participation in the CBMs and Working/Expert Groups and extend a scope of their activities.

To the authorities of the RM and TMR:

  • Consider engagement of independent experts and other actors of civil society into the activities of Working/Expert Groups and monitoring of their results/impact;
  • Consider a possibility to address together the known cases of human rights violations, taking into consideration a high percentage of people kept in detention on the left bank.[110]

To the authorities and politicians of the RM and Romania:

  • Appreciating and furthering Romanian support for Moldova’s European integration, restrain from the ‘unionist’ rhetoric and activities as very harmful for the prospects of conflict settlement.

To Government of Ukraine:

  • Provide active support for the CBMs and promote broadening the scope of people-to-people contacts between the sides of the conflict, in particular, at ‘neutral territory’ of Ukraine;
  • Make every effort to ensure a breakthrough in the negotiation process by using the unique chance of Chairmanship in the OSCE in 2013;
  • Together with other participants of the official ‘5 + 2’ negotiations, initiate/stimulate wider public discussion on strategies and scenarios of conflict resolution in search of common ground;
  • Use the opportunity of the OSCE Chairmanship for promoting further demilitarisation of the region and transformation of the (outdated) military peacekeeping operation into international civilian peace-guaranteeing mission.

To civil societies of the RM and Transnistria:

  • Engage in common projects, widening the scope of joint activities and people-to-people contacts.

To civil society of Ukraine:

  • Establish regular contacts with the Moldovan/Transnistrian counterparts on permanent basis;
  • Upgrade participation in joint projects and other activities while strictly observing principles of impartiality and equally respectful treatment of representatives of the two sides, thus contributing to CBMs and promoting further rapprochement of different actors of the divided society of Moldova;
  • Share experience of good practices and mechanisms of conflict prevention/settlement, in particular, in the Autonomous Republic of Crimea.

To national and international donor & sponsor organizations:

  • Establish a clearinghouse for better coordination of programmes, projects, and planning of different forums in order to avoid duplication and sometimes even “rivalry” for partnership and cooperation with a still limited number of Transnistrian NGOs involved in democratisation and integration activities.

 

 


[1] As the best examples of such an approach, see: “Transnistria Assessment Mission Report, Transnistria Crisis: Human Dimension” by Alexander Bogomolov, Igor Semyvolos, and Victor Pushkar. July 2009, available at: http://gppac.net/uploads/File/Programmes/EWER/MERP/transnistria_final4%5B1%5D.pdf, and “Routes across the Nistru” by John Beyer. SAFEWORLD, May 2011, available at: http://www.saferworld.org.uk/downloads/pubdocs/Routes%20across%20the%20Nistru%20English.pdf. No comprehensive research has yet appeared after the political and social changes in Transnistria, resulting from the elections of December 2011.

[2] The history of this conflict has been widely covered by numerous research and analytical papers, comments, and media reports. For a more detailed history of Moldova and its Transnistrian region, see, for example: “Moldova and the Transnistrian Conflict” by Marius Vahl and Michael Emerson. In: Europeanization and Conflict Resolution: Case Studies from the European Periphery, Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe, Special Focus, Issue 1/2004, available at: http://ecmi.de/jemie/specialfocus.html. See also the two reports and sets of recommendations prepared by the International Crisis Group: “Moldova: Regional Tensions over Transdniestria”. Europe Report Nº157 17 Jun 2004, available at: http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/europe/moldova/157-moldova-regional-tensions-over-transdniestria.aspx, and “Moldova's Uncertain Future”. Europe Report N°175 17 Aug 2006, available at: http://www.crisisgroup.org/en/regions/europe/moldova/175-moldovas-uncertain-future.aspx. For more detailed and updated analysis see: “Transnistria Assessment Mission Report, Transnistria Crisis: Human Dimension” by Alexander Bogomolov, Igor Semyvolos, and Victor Pushkar. July 2009, available at: http://gppac.net/uploads/File/Programmes/EWER/MERP/transnistria_final4%5B1%5D.pdf, and “Routes across the Nistru” by John Beyer. SAFEWORLD, May 2011, available at: http://www.saferworld.org.uk/downloads/pubdocs/Routes%20across%20the%20Nistru%20English.pdf. No comprehensive research has yet appeared after the political and social changes in Transnistria resulting from the elections of December 2011.  

[3] Gagauz, a people of Turkish origin but Orthodox believers, constitute 3.5% of Moldova’s population. In 1995, the Gagauz Territorial Administrative Unit was established, granting this ethnic group considerable administrative and cultural autonomy and thus settling peacefully the separatist conflict erupted in 1991.

For the comprehensive analysis of the Gagauz conflict, see: “Gagauzia and Transdniestria: The Moldovan Confederation Conundrum” by Stephen R. Bowers, Marion T Doss, Jr., and Valeria Ciobanu. Chisinau, 1998.

[4] For more details, see: “CONFLICTING SECURITY CONCERNS ACROSS THE UKRAINE-MOLDOVA BORDER” by Natalya Belitser, available at: http://miris.eurac.edu/mugs2/do/blob.pdf?type=pdf&serial=1036428146569.

[5]  See “Security Concerns in Post-Soviet Moldova” by Trevor Waters. Conflict Studies Research Centre, April 2001.

[6] For a more detailed information on the impact off the Transnistrian conflict on manifestations of separatism in Ukraine, see: “Influence of Transnistria on separatism in Ukraine” by Natalya Belitser, in: “Transnistrian problem: A View from Ukraine” (Serhiy Gerasymvhuk, ed.), pp. 147 – 155, available at: http://www.gsbs.org.ua/wp-content/uploads/December_2009.pdf.

[7] “Moldova and the Transnistrian Conflict” by Marius Vahl and Michael Emerson. In: Europeanization and Conflict Resolution: Case Studies from the European Periphery, Journal on Ethnopolitics and Minority Issues in Europe, Special Focus, Issue 1/2004, available at: http://ecmi.de/jemie/specialfocus.html.

[8] See “Desintegrating States” by P.Terrence Hopmann (Brown University), pp. 13 – 25, at: http://www.ccpdc.org/pubs/zart/ch6.htm .

[9] Ibid.

[10] At that time, Yevgeniy Primakov, widely believed to be the author of the text, had a position of the Russian Foreign Minister.

[11] See “About the mirage of the so-called “common state” between Transdniestria and Moldova” by Gheroghe Cojocaru, available at http://www.cipdd.org/cipdd/_States%20in%20tranzition/cojcaru.htm.

[12] See Basic Documents in Pridnestrovyan Conflict Resolution (Friedrich Ebert Stiftung; Kiev, 2000).

[13] “Moldova and Transnistria” by Dov Lynch. In: SECURITY-SECTOR REFORM AND TRANSPARENCY BUILDING: Needs and Options for Ukraine and Moldova, HARMONIE PAPERS # 17, The Centre for European Security Studies, 2004, pp. 111 – 122.

[14] For the in-depth analyses of this draft agreement see Vladimir Socor, ‘Federalization Experiment in Moldova’, Russia and Eurasia Review, Vol. 1, Issue 4, July 16, 2002, available at http://russia.jamestown.org/pubs/view/rer_001_004_001.htm, and Comments on the draft agreement on Federalisation of the Republic of Moldova (text of July 2002) by Bruno Coppieters and Michael Emerson, 8 August 2002, available at http://www.ipp.md/libview.php?l=en&idc=154&id=394

[15] “Protracted Moldova/Transdniestria Conflict: Recent Developments and Prospects of Settlement via Federalisation of the Republic of Moldova” by Natalya Belitser. A Paper presented to the Second International Conference on Regional Autonomy and Ethnic Minorities, June 10 – 13, 2004, Uppsala, Sweden.

[16] See Russia’s Self-Serving Plan for Moldova’s Federalization by Michael Shafir. RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 7, # 221, 24 November 2003, END NOTE.

[17] “Moldova and Transnistria” by Dov Lynch. In: SECURITY-SECTOR REFORM AND TRANSPARENCY BUILDING: Needs and Options for Ukraine and Moldova, HARMONIE PAPERS # 17, The Centre for European Security Studies, 2004, pp. 111 – 122.

[18] RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 7, # 223, Part II, 26 November 2003.

[19] “Moldova and Transnistria” by Dov Lynch, in: SECURITY-SECTOR REFORM AND TRANSPARENCY BUILDING: Needs and Options for Ukraine and Moldova, HARMONIE PAPERS # 17, The Centre for European Security Studies, 2004, pp. 111 – 122.

[20] Victor Yuschenko was newly elected President of Ukraine; the plan named by him, although recognised as having contained many important points, was actually prepared in a non-transparent way and without proper consultations with the expert community. For its analysis, see, for example, “The Plan for the Transnistrian Conflict Settlement Proposed by Ukraine - pros and cons” by Oazu Nantoi, Institute for Public Policy, Chişinău, 30th of May 2005.

[21] See “MOLDOVAN LAW COMPLETELY CHANGES THE LOGIC OF SETTLEMENT ON TRANSNISTRIA” by Vladimir Socor. Eurasia Daily Monitor, July 26, 2005 -- Volume 2, Issue 144. 

[23] See: George Bălan, Place of the Confidence Building Process in the Policy of Solving the Conflict in the Eastern Region of Moldova: Case Study, Institute for Public Policy, Chişinău 2010, 9-17,  available at: http://www.ipp.md/public/files/publication/Balan_EN.pdf

[24] According to the Government Decision nr.1178 of October 31, 2007, eight WGs were then established.

[25] “CONFIDENCE BUILDING MEASURES IN THE TRANSNISTRIAN SETTLEMENT PROCESS – RECENT EVOLUTIONS AND PROSPECTIVES”, Presentation by George Balan, Head of the Bureau for reintegration, Republic of Moldova. Odesa, 27 July 2012 More detailed information is available (in Russian) on the web site of the Bureau on reintegration, see http://www.gov.md/slidepageview.php?l=ru&idc=615.  

[26] Ibid.

[27] See also: “Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention in Moldova: the role of the EU” by Roxana Cristescu and Denis Matveev, available at: http://www.eplo.org/assets/files/2.%20Activities/CSDN/Member%20State%20Meetings/Romania/CSDN_Romania_CaseStudy_Moldova.pdf

[28] SCENARIOS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE TRANSNISTRIA CONFLICT: CHALLENGES TO EUROPEAN SECURITY. This report was prepared by an expert group consisting of:Alyona Getmanchuk, Sergiy Solodkyy, Yevhen Yenin, and Kateryna Zarembo. Kyiv, 2011, Institute of World Policy.

[29] For more detailed information on the EUBAM history and its operation until 2010, see “Role and Significance of the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM)” by Natalya Belitser. In: Transnistrian problem: A View from Ukraine..

[30] “EUBAM technical contribution to the Transnistrian issues”. Presentation by Rosario De Blasio,

Operational Quality Control Coordinator Technical Advisor to the Head of Mission. Expert Dialogue on Confidence Building Measures, Odesa, 27 July 2012.

[31] “European Parliament President says Moldova may be model within Eastern Partnership,” Söderköping Process, February 10, 2011, available at  http://soderkoping.org.ua/page28970.html.

[32] It is also interesting to note that in contrast to Ukraine, which is funded by the EU mostly in the form of a loan, Moldova gets micro-financial support as a straight grant. (See SCENARIOS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE TRANSNISTRIA CONFLICT: CHALLENGESTO EUROPEAN SECURITY).

[34] See: “Conclusion of Association Agreement with EU is a priority objective for Moldova, Filat”. February10, 2011. http://www.allmoldova.com/en/moldova-news/politics/1249049576.html

[35] Smirnov, I., The West has launched an information and psychological war against Transnistria, New Region, Transnistria, 01.09.09. http://www.nr2.ru/pmr/247291.html

[36] See: “Routes across the Nistru” by John Beyer, p.6. SAFEWORLD, May 2011, available at: http://www.saferworld.org.uk/downloads/pubdocs/Routes%20across%20the%20Nistru%20English.pdf.

[37] REPORT FROM THE COMMISSION TO THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND THE COUNCIL on the Implementation by the Republic of Moldova of the Action Plan on Visa Liberalisation. EUROPEAN COMMISSION, Brussels, 22.6.2012, COM(2012) 348 final.

[38] See GRAND CHAMBER JUDGMENT IN THE CASE OF ILAŞCU AND OTHERS v. MOLDOVA AND RUSSIA. Press release issued by the Registrar, # 349, 8.7.2004.

[39] For more details, see Kommersant-Moldova, 18.07.2012, available at http://kommersant.md/node/9208 (in Russian).

[40] “Meseberg Process: Germany Testing EU-Russia Security Cooperation Potential” by Vladimir Socor. Eurasia Daily “Monitor, Vol. 7, Issue 191, October 22, 2010, available at: http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=37065.

[41] “Moscow Signals Interest In Berlin Initiative On Transnistria” by Vladimir Socor; Eurasia Daily Monitorm Vol. 8, Issue 63, March 31, 2011, available at: http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=37728.

[42] “Russia Agrees to Re-Launch Negotiations On Transnistria After Five-Year Breakdown” by Vladimir Socor. Eurasia Daily Monitor Vol. 8, Issue 176, September 26, 2011, available at: http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=38450&cHash=6e7c1b276080e7dba2da3b2f57f87424.

[43] “Moscow Meeting Fails to Re-Launch 5+2 Negotiations On Transnistria Conflict” by Vladimir Socor. Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 8, Issue 120, June 22, 2011, available at: Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vlad’s Corner, Home Page, Foreign Policy, Moldova , Russia

http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=38083&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=512.

[44] The Paris-Berlin-Moscow Axis and the "Transnistrian Coordinate" by Denis Cenusa, 25 October 2010, available at http://www.azi.md/en/comment/14268.

[45] “Lavrov Squashes Hope For Constructive Restart Of Transnistria Negotiations” by Vladimir Socor. Eurasia Daily Monitor ,Vol. 8, Issue 216, November 29, 2011, available at:

http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=38709&cHash=8dfd7085624316b3601c676f11e2db6b. See also: Why isn’t federalization available for Republic of Moldova?” By Corneliu Ciurea, 05.07.2012, available at: http://www.viitorul.org/doc.php?l=en&id=3974&idc=352, and (Comment) Federalization of Moldova – between relationships and speculations. 7 July 2012, available at: http://tribuna.md/en/2012/07/07/comment-federalization-of-moldova-%E2%80%93-between-relationships-and-speculations/.

[46] For the detailed analysis of this appointment, its meaning and possible consequences, see: “Dmitry Rogozin Appointed Special Presidential Representative For Transnistria” by Vladimir Socor. Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 9, Issue 59, March 23, 2012, available at: http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=39172&cHash=758b2c8f98faf1e0bf7b58a231b8da32, and “Rogozin’s travails in Moldova” by Nicu Popescu. 2 April 2012, available at: http://ecfr.eu/blog/entry/rogozins_travails_in_moldova,

[47] Ibid., see also: TRANSNISTRIA AND THE FUTURE SECURITY ARCHITECTURE IN EUROPE by Manfred Grund / Hans Martin Sieg / Kristin Wesemann. KAS INTERNATIONAL REPORTS, 9/10|2011, available at http://www.kas.de/wf/doc/kas_28726-544-2-30.pdf?110908155532.  

[48] See: “The Kremlin Politically Fortifies Its Military Presence in Transnistria” by Dumitru Minzarari. Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 9, Issue 114, June 15, 2012, available at: http://www.jamestown.org/programs/edm/single/?tx_ttnews[tt_news]=39502&cHash=487137fc5a1f9c7350022811b2d19632. Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Home Page, Foreign Policy, Moldova

[49] “People’s will or diplomatic combination?” by Sergey Markedonov (in Russian). 02.08.2012, available at: http://www.politcom.ru/14296.html.  

[50] “Putin: only Transnistrian people itself can decide its destiny” (in Russian). 31.07.2012, available at http://pan.md/news/Putin-Toliko-sam-pridnestrovskiy-narod-mojet-opredeliti-svoyu-sudibu/25349

[51] Chatham House address: Ukraine’s Foreign Policy under the New Government, 6 September 2010.

[52] See: “Ukraine/Moldova: Lack of Action on Transdniester Affects Both Nations” by Eugen Tomiuc. RFE/RL, 13 November, 2003.

[53] For a detailed analysis of these and other relevant events of 2005, see: “Why “Yuschenko plan has failed” by Natalya Belitser (in Ukrainiaan). In: EuroAtlantica, 2010, Issue 1, pp. 32 – 43, available at: http://www.euroatlantica.info/assets/files/magazine/No.1-10.pdf.  

[54] For more details, see: “Role and Significance of the European Union Border Assistance Mission to Moldova and Ukraine (EUBAM)” by Natalya Belitser. In: Transnistrian problem: A View from Ukraine (Serhiy Gerasymchuk, ed.), Kyiv, 2010.

[55] See, for example, Will Moldova Be The Next Ukraine? by Vlad Spanu. July 30, 2010, http://www.rferl.org/content/Will_Moldova_Be_The_Next_Ukraine/2114358.html; “In Chisinau, there are fears that economic blockade of the region will be abolished” by Svetlana Gamova (in Russian). 2010-05-13, available at: http://www.ng.ru/cis/2010-05-13/1_pridnestr.html; and “MEDVEDEV AND YANUKOVICH TO OPEN TRANS-DNIESTER REGION” By Svetlana Gamova. Nezavisimaya Gazeta, May 13, 2010. 

[56] See, for example, MOLDOVAN-UKRAINIAN RELATIONS AT RELOADING STAGE. INFOTAG-ANALYTICS, No 61, March 3, 2010; publication of 18.08.2010, available at: http://euroatlantica.info/index.php?id=2285; THE REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA AND UKRAINE – A PACKAGE APPROACH FOR THE EU OR EACH WITH ITS OWN WAY? By Veaceslav Berbeca. Foreign Policy Statewatch, Issue 9, August 2010; . 09 July 2011,  http://www.pravda.com.ua/news/2011/07/9/6372540/; UKRAINE WILL SHARE ITS RESERVE NATURAL GAS WITH MOLDOVA. Infotag (Moldova), Jan. 20, 2012; “THE RESET OF MOLDOVAN-UKRAINIAN RELATIONS AFTER 20 YEARS: NOTHING IS AGREED UNTIL EVERYTHING IS AGREED” by Leonid Litra. Moldova’s Foreign Policy Statewatch, Issue 41, March 2012, and a number of other publications in national and international media.

[57] See, for example, 14 November 2011, http://un.ua/ukr/article/358938.html,

[58] “Moscow Meeting Fails to Re-Launch 5+2 Negotiations On Transnistria Conflict” by Vladimir Socor. Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 8, Issue 120, June 22, 2011, available at: Category: Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vlad’s Corner, Home Page, Foreign Policy, Moldova , Russia

http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews%5Btt_news%5D=38083&tx_ttnews%5BbackPid%5D=512.

[60]Referring to Vadim Pisari, 18-year-old civilian from the village of Pirita, Dubasari district, who was killed on 1 January 2012, having been shot in the back by an officer from the Russian ‘peacekeeping force’.  

[61] „Transnistrian Dossier: Trilateral perspective” by Stanislav Segrieru. Presentation to the First Ukrainian- Romanian Forum, Bucharest, 24 – 25 May 2012.

[62] “Transnistrian Question will Become a Priority during Ukraine’s OSCE Chairmanship – Ambassador Pirozhkov” (in Russian). Zinaida Gurskaya, Chhisinau, 21 August 2012, available at: http://www.ukrinform.ua/rus/news/pridnestrovskiy_vopros_stanet_prioritetnim_vo_vremya_predsedatelstva_ukraini_v_obse___posol_pirogkov_1444217.

[63] Detailed analysis of the Romania-Moldova relationship can be found in: THE JOINT MEETING OF THE REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA AND ROMANIA GOVERNMENTS - EVOLUTION OF MOLDOVAN-ROMANIAN RELATIONS DEPENDING ON THE POLITICAL FACTOR by Ion TĂBÎRȚĂ. MOLDOVA’S FOREIGN POLICY STATEWATCH Issue 43, April 2012, www.viitorul.org

[64] See, for example, “EU’s Dilemma and Russia’s Plan B for Europe” by Irina Severin, 8.09.2011, available at: http://www.uaobserver.com/2012/06/eus-moldovan-dilemma-and-russias-plan-b.html; and THE JOINT MEETING OF THE REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA AND ROMANIA GOVERNMENTS - EVOLUTION OF MOLDOVAN-ROMANIAN RELATIONS DEPENDING ON THE POLITICAL FACTOR.

MOLDOVA’S FOREIGN POLICY STATEWATCH, Issue 43, April 2012, www.viitorul.org. .

[65] See, for example, Moldova Favors Reunification with Romania.  Nezavisimaya Gazeta, 28/03/2012, available at : http://en.ria.ru/papers/20120328/172445271.html.

[67] “Russia and Great Moldavia” by Aleksandr Dugin. 17.08.2010, available at: http://konservatizm.org/konservatizm/geopolitika/160810235400.xhtml (in Russian).

[68] „Transnistrian Dossier: Trilateral perspective” by Stanislav Segrieru. Presentation to the First Ukrainian-Romanian Forum, Bucharest, 24 – 25 May 2012.

[69] Ibid.

[71] “Romania's president survives impeachment referendum” by Matthew Day. 29 Jul 2012, available at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/romania/9437356/Romanias-president-survives-impeachment-referendum.html; 21.08.2012,http://kommersant.md/node/9716; “Hot Issue — Voice of Russia Campaigns for Removal of Romanian President Basescu” by Vladimir Socor. August 20, 2012, available at: http://www.jamestown.org/single/?no_cache=1&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=39790&tx_ttnews[backPid]=13&cHash=49254a614e192428fe9d2747fdf8dd4b.

[72] Those scenarios have been analysed in detail by a think tank from Kyiv, see: SCENARIOS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE TRANSNISTRIA CONFLICT: CHALLENGESTO EUROPEAN SECURITY. This report was prepared by an expert group consisting of:Alyona Getmanchuk, Sergiy Solodkyy, Yevhen Yenin, and Kateryna Zarembo. Kyiv, 2011, Institute of World Policy.

[73] See, for example, "From Secessionist Conflict Toward a Functioning State: Processes of State- and Nation-Building in Transnistria" by Helga Blakkisrud and Pål Kolstø. Post-Soviet Affairs, 2011, v.27, n.2, pp. 178–210.

[74] MOLDOVAN PARLIAMENT ELECTS PRESIDENT, ENDING THREE-YEAR DEADLOCK. RFE/RL, March 16, 2012.

[75] New Age (Transnistria) and CBS-AXA (Moldova): The perception of Moldova’s and Transnistria’s residents towards Russia, the West and each other, Chisinau (2009), p 25.

[76] “Routes across the Nistru” by John Beyer. SAFEWORLD, May 2011, available at: http://www.saferworld.org.uk/downloads/pubdocs/Routes%20across%20the%20Nistru%20English.pdf.

[77] For more advantages of such a scenario, see also “Why isn’t federalization available for Republic of Moldova?” By Corneliu Ciurea, 05.07.2012, available at: http://www.viitorul.org/doc.php?l=en&id=3974&idc=352.

[78] See more in: “Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention in Moldova: the role of the EU” by Roxana Cristescu and Denis Matveev, available at: http://www.eplo.org/assets/files/2.%20Activities/CSDN/Member%20State%20Meetings/Romania/CSDN_Romania_CaseStudy_Moldova.pdf

[79] See: “People’s will or diplomatic combination?” by Sergey Markedonov (in Russian). 02.08.2012, available at: http://www.politcom.ru/14296.html.  

[80] Merkel’s Agenda in Moldova: Federalization? Europeanization? Available at:

http://ponarseurasia.org/blog/2012/07/merkels-agenda-in-chisinau-federalization-europeanization/.

[82] See more in: “Why isn’t federalization available for Republic of Moldova?” By Corneliu Ciurea, 05.07.2012, available at: http://www.viitorul.org/doc.php?l=en&id=3974&idc=352.  See also: Voice of Russia: Angela Merkel will propose a federalist model for the resolution of the Transnistrian problem. August 15, 2012, Moldova.org > Politicom, available at: http://politicom.moldova.org/news/voice-of-russia-angela-merkel-will-propose-a-federalist-model-for-the-resolution-of-the-transnistrian-problem-232417-eng.html.     

[84] See, for example, “Socialists propose federalization of the RM”, Privesc.eu, 11/04/2012, and “Leader of socialists: federalisation is the only realistic solution for the Transnistrian problem”, available at  http://www.actualitati.md/lider-sotsialistov-moldovyi-federalizatsiya-yavlyaetsya-edinstvennyim-realnyim-resheniem-dlya-pridnestrovskoy-problemyi/.

[85] http://ejil.oxfordjournals.org/content/4/1/36.full.pdf+html.

[86] For more details, see: “Recognition of States: The Collapse of Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union” by Rich Roland. European Journal of Law, 1993, 4 (1). Available at http://www.ejil.org/article.php?article=1207&issue=67.

[87] uti possidetis – literally, as you possess (from Latin).

[88] Shaw, M. N. (1997). “Peoples, Territorialism and Boundaries”, European Journal of International Law, 8 (3).

[89] For more details, see: “Territorial Autonomy in Eastern Europe – Legacies of the Past” by Miordag. A. Jovanovij, and quotations and references therein. JEMIE, Issue 4/ 2002.

[91] Referring to "Peacekeeping in Transnistria: Cooperation or Competition?" by Dov Lynch. The International Spectator 4/2006, available at: http://www.eu-consent.net/library/deliverables/D82_Lynch.PDF.

[93] “From Secessionist Conflict Toward a Functioning State: Processes of State- and Nation-Building in Transnistria" by Helga Blakkisrud and Pål Kolstø. Post-Soviet Affairs, 2011, v.27, n.2, pp. 178–210.   

[94] See, for example, “The unexpected after-life of the ‘Soviet people’? The ‘Pridnestrovskaya Moldavskaya Respublika’ as a political fact and legal anomaly. A case-study” by Bill Bowring, available at available at: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1981954.. .

[95] Ibid., see also Helga Blakkisrud and Pål Kolstø. 2011.

[96] See, for example, “Thawing a Frozen Conflict: Legal Aspects of the Separatist Crisis in Moldova.” Association of the Bar of New York., 2005, available at: www.nycbar.org/pdf/report/NYCity%20BarTransnistriaReport.pdf.

[97] For more details, see: SCENARIOS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE TRANSNISTRIA CONFLICT: : CHALLENGESTO EUROPEAN SECURITY. Report by Alyona Getmanchuk, Sergiy Solodkyy, Yevhen Yenin, and Kateryna Zarembo. Institute of World Policy.  Kyiv, 2011.

[98] RIA NOVOSTI, July 01, 2012. 

[99] No significant changes after the second round of “5+2” talks on Transnistrian conflict settlement. July 13, available at:  http://politicom.moldova.org/news/no-significant-changes-after-the-second-round-of-52-talks-on-transnistrian-conflict-settlement-231699-eng.html

[100] “Routes across the Nistru” by John Beyer. SAFEWORLD, May 2011, available at: http://www.saferworld.org.uk/downloads/pubdocs/Routes%20across%20the%20Nistru%20English.pdf.

[101]  “Let the EU give us money. Transnistria will continue to strengthen its position, but there can’t and won’t be any reintegration.” A quote from: SCENARIOS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE TRANSNISTRIA CONFLICT:: CHALLENGES TO EUROPEAN SECURITY, Kyiv, 2011.

[102] According to Transnistrian Customs Service, Transnistria’s main trading partners in the EU are Germany, Italy, Romania, Poland, France, and Slovakia. According to the EUBAM data, Transnistria’s main partners include Romania, Italy, Germany, Slovakia, Finland, and Sweden. See also “Routes across the Nistru” by John Beyer. SAFEWORLD, May 2011, available at: http://www.saferworld.org.uk/downloads/pubdocs/Routes%20across%20the%20Nistru%20English.pdf.

[103] SCENARIOS FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE TRANSNISTRIA CONFLICT:: CHALLENGES TO EUROPEAN SECURITY, Kyiv, 2011.

[104] See the updated in-depth analysis: “SECURITY ZONE FROM REPUBLIC OF MOLDOVA: MANAGEMENT OF A DISPUTED JURISDICTION” by Eduard Ţugui. In: IDIS Study: "Why the federalization is not valid for Moldova?" 05.07.2012, available at: http://www.viitorul.org/doc.php?l=en&id=3974&idc=352.

[105] Vlad Filat: The statute of Transnistria to be identified in “5+2” talks.  July 05, 2012, Moldova.org > Politicom.

[106] TRANSNISTRIA AND THE FUTURE SECURITY ARCHITECTURE IN EUROPE by Manfred Grund / Hans Martin Sieg / Kristin Wesemann. KAS INTERNATIONAL REPORTS, 9/10|2011, available at http://www.kas.de/wf/doc/kas_28726-544-2-30.pdf?110908155532.

[107] “Towards a Settlement of the Transnistria Conflict?” by Stefan Wolff. Presentation to the workshop on 11 May 2012.

[108] Ibid.

[109] TRANSNISTRIA AND THE FUTURE SECURITY ARCHITECTURE IN EUROPE by Manfred Grund / Hans Martin Sieg / Kristin Wesemann. KAS INTERNATIONAL REPORTS, 9/10|2011, available at http://www.kas.de/wf/doc/kas_28726-544-2-30.pdf?110908155532.

[110] According to official data, the average number of people in detention in the region amounts to 62.8 per 10,000 people, whereas the average in the Council of Europe’s member states is 10.5 detainees. See Liberty and Security of the Person in Regions of Conflict, Promolex Report 2009, available at: http://guinpmr.narod.ru/index.htm.

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