The Black Sea Trust for Regional Cooperation
Institute for Public Policy
Synthesized vision over the Transnistrian issue
14 April 2009
In this document the events that took place during 27 November 2008 – 14 April 2009 are analyzed.
From the beginning it has to be mentioned that the events that took place during this period of time run counter to cornerstone principles of the “Package Deal” on the grounds of which, from the fall of 2006, the Republic of Moldova leadership intended to solve the problem of the Transnistrian conflict.
On 5 December 2008, in Helsinki, took place the XVI-th Meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council. Andrei Stratan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and European Integration of the Republic of Moldova in his statement reiterated the appeal to all involved actors for an active participation in discussions on replacement of the military contingent from the Security Zone with a multinational civil mission under international mandate. Andrei Stratan restated the Republic of Moldova stand on complete, immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all military forces and ammunitions of the Russian Federation from the territory of the Republic of Moldova, in compliance with the obligations undertaken in the framework of the OSCE Summits, thus, setting up the necessary foundation for the ratification by the Republic of Moldova of the Adapted CFE Treaty.
Due to the stance of the Russian Federation it was impossible to adopt either the Ministerial Declaration, or a Declaration on Moldova for the sixth consecutive year.
1. Problem of holding elections to the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova in the eastern region of the Republic of Moldova (Transnistria) and participation of the Republic of Moldova citizens with permanent residence in Transnistria, in 5 April 2009 elections.
Eugen Shtirbu, Chairman of the Central Election Commission (CEC), on 3 December 2008 declared that in Transnistia would be opened 500 polling stations for holding elections to the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova (5 April 2009). It is necessary to mention that the elections to the State Duma of the Russian Federation on 2 December 2007 and elections of the President of the Russian Federation on 2 March 2008 took place in Transnistria as on the territory of Russia.
In fact, the Tiraspol administration did not allow opening of any polling stations on the territory of Transnistria. Vladimir Iastrebceak, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Transnistria, on 11 December 2008, declared that the Republic of Moldova could establish polling stations in Transnistria only as an electoral district abroad. For that official institutions of Moldova had to address to the Transnistrian MFA and CEC as if to institutions of another state. Thus, it would have meant that the Republic of Moldova had recognized that Transnistria was a subject separate from the Republic of Moldova. Therefore, on 5 April 2009 citizens of the Republic of Moldova de facto were deprived of the right to participate in the elections for the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova. On the election day the Transnistrian militia did everything in order to impede the citizens of the Republic of Moldova, residing in localities from Transnistria to go to the polling stations established in localities under the jurisdiction of the Republic of Moldova.
Another difficult issue in relations between Chişinău and Tiraspol is Corjevo village. Chişinău considers it a settlement under the Chişinău jurisdiction. Accordingly, it means that on 5 April, in Corjevo were due the elections to the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova. Moreover, Corjevo village is the native village of President Vladimir Voronin.
In its turn, the Tiraspol administration considers Corjevo a “mini-quarter” of Dubăsari town and part of the territory of the “tmr”. Thus, Tiraspol considers that in Corjevo cannot be hold any elections to the “Parliament of the neighbor state”. Finally, the Tiraspol administration did not allow holding of elections in Corjevo village and did everything possible to make the citizens of the Republic of Moldova residing in Transnistria feel humiliated, frustrated and deprived of the possibility to take part in the elections on the 5th of April 2009.
These events have demonstrated that the Tiraspol administration continues to have a tough position in relations with the Republic of Moldova and that negotiations of Vladimir Voronin with Kremlin have not brought any positive change.
2. Negotiations process
The events that took place in the examined time frame clearly contravene to the logic of the “package deal”, through which the Republic of Moldova leadership intended to obtain the settlement of the Transnistrian problem, from the beginning of the fall of 2006. We remind that the “package deal” is based on the following fundamental elements:
1. Settlement of the Transnistrian problem had to be achieved without a modification of the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova, based on the Law on fundamental regulations of the special legal status of settlements on the Left Bank of the River Nistru (Transnistria), adopted on 22 July 2005 by the Parliament of the Republic of Moldova;
2. Settlement of the Transnistrian problem had to be achieved in the framework of Chişinău – Kremlin dialogue, without involvement and request of opinion of the Transnistrian administration;
3. Republic of Moldova had to recognize the property rights over economic assets in Transnistria, previously illegally privatized by Russian public and private capital only after a political settlement of the Transnistrian conflict.
First of all, Moscow refused to negotiate with the Republic of Moldova leadership on settlement of the Transnistrian conflict and brought Chişinău back to the negotiation table with Igor Smirnov. Thus, Vladimir Voronin was forced to come back to direct contacts with Igor Smirnov, on terms dictated by the latter.
Vladimir Voronin – Igor Smirnov meeting
The meeting on 24 December 2008, took place in Tiraspol and unfolded in accordance with a scenario prepared by Igor Smirnov’s team. First part of the meeting took place in an open format, in the presence of about 50 mass-media representatives. Igor Smirnov took this opportunity for launching a propagandistic attack on the Republic of Moldova and particularly on Vladnimir Voronin. Already in a traditional manner Igor Smirnov accused the Republic of Moldova of “nonobservance of previously agreed arrangements” and asked Vladimir Voronin to express his attitude towards the draft “Treaty on friendship and cooperation between TMR and RM”, handed over to Vladimir Voronin during 11 April 2008 meeting. Igor Smirnov refused to answer Vladimir Voronin’s question about the readiness of Transnistria to come back to the negotiations process in the “5+2” format, declaring that this format is a consultative one and that real negotiations should take place “between TMR and Moldova”.
The second part of the meeting took place with closed doors. After the two came to the press Vladimir Voronin declared that “the very fact of the meeting is a performance in itself”. Within the same meeting on 24 December 2008 Vladimir Voronin handed over to Igor Smirnov the fundamental proposals for the demilitarization of the Republic of Moldova and Transnistria, as well as a draft Law on Transnistria autonomy.
Igor Smirnov, in his turn, handed over to Vladimir Voronin official results of 17 September 2006 “referendum” and the package of documents, where it has been developed key elements of how to apply the principle of non use of force in the framework of Moldovan-Transnistrian settlement. Therefore, the stands of “parties” fixed in these draft documents were traditionally incompatible.
The only issue on which the sides had a common ground was their intention to meet again in March 2009. This common position of both leaders could have been interpreted as a proof that Vladimir Voronin still hoped achieving a progress in the problem of Transnistrian conflict, as a result of the expected meeting in the „2+1” format (Dmitrii Medvedev + Igor Smirnov – Vladimir Voronin). Probably, due to the same reason the CPRM group in the Parliament did not adopt the decision on fixing the parliamentary elections day on 5 March 2009, contrary to many politicians’ expectations.
On 16 February 2009, during a press briefing Alexandr Malearciuk, „deputy foreign minister” of Transnistria presented the Transnistrian position on the documents handed over to Igor Smirnov by Vladimir Voronin on 24 December 2008. Tiraspol bluntly rejected the draft Law of the Republic of Moldova on the status of Transnistria and the Joint Political Declaration. Arguments put forward had a traditional nature – the Republic of Moldova ignores the “will of Transnistrian people, expressed in 17 September 2006 referendum”; the Republic of Moldova tries to impose unilateral decisions, ignoring TMR as an equal part of the settlement process etc.
„2+1” format meeting
From the perspective of 18 March 2009 meeting Vladimir Voronin gave an interview to the Russian newspaper „Kommersant”. From the interview can be drawn the following conclusions:
- Vladimir Voronin considers the expected Moscow meeting as “consultations on steps to be undertaken in order to resume the negotiations”.
- Vladimir Voronin wants to hear from Russia the assessment of the Law of 22 July 2005 on the special legal status of the Transnistrian region, which “until now has not been officially stated neither by Russia, nor by Transnistria”.
- Voronin declares that he has nothing to propose for signing during the tripartite meeting.
- Vladimir Voronin compares the “Eastern Partnership” Program initiated by EU with a sort of CIS-2 which resembles to a cordon (belt) around Russia.
- Talking about the desirable for the CPRM result of 5 April elections, Vladimir Voronin declares that CPRM strives, in an ideal situation, for a constitutional majority, because “from the Transnistrian conflict settlement perspective it will be necessary to introduce serious amendments to the fundamental law”.
From this interview a number of conclusions can be drawn. First of all, it is to be mentioned that the Republic of Moldova expects an “assessment of the Law on the status of Transnistria” at least from 22 June 2007 when Vladimir Voronin had a meeting Vladimir Putin. During that meeting, which lasted three hours Vladimir Voronin had a possibility to present in details all elements of the “package deal”. Lack of any feedback from Kremlin is a clear answer of Kremlin – Moscow does not accept the “package deal”. Moreover, also after 22 June 2007 the Russian MFA on several occasions made official declarations, from which it was clear that Russia insisted on “observance of all previously signed arrangements”. First of all, it refers to the Memorandum on normalization of relations between the Republic of Moldova and Transnistria, signed on 8 May 1997, in Moscow. However, in the Memorandum there are a number of provisions which imply that the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict should be achieved by creating a confederative “common state” of two equal in rights parties – the Republic of Moldova and Transnistria. Additionally, the firm rejection by Transnistria on 16 February 2009 of the documents drafted by the Moldovan side was, for sure, coordinated with the Russian Federation.
This means that Vladimr Voronin’s affirmation that he expects an assessment from Russia of the Law on fundamental regulations of the legal status of settlements from the Left Bank of the River Nistru, adopted on 22 June 2005 is in clear contradiction with the position of Russia, which is absolutely categorical and incompatible with the Republic of Moldova sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The “Eastern Partnership” Program assessment by Vladimir Voronin is, probably, part of a number of declarations of this political figure determined by immediate circumstances. In prospect of the Moscow visit and 5 April elections Vladimir Voronin wanted to position himself for the Kremlin adminsitration as a pro-Russian politician. The Republic of Moldova chairmanship of CIS, assumed after the CIS November 2008 Chişinău Summit is part of the same scenario.
Here can be pointed out that just due to the involvement of EU, the EU Border Assistance Mission was set up. It has had a deep impact on the situation in the Transnistrian region. On 4 June 2005 within a working meeting of Vladimir Voronin with the Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko was signed a joint letter addressed to the President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, calling for EU support in control of the Moldovan-Ukrainian border. Beginning of the EU Border Assistance Mission activities on 3 March 2006 was interpreted by the Russian Federation as an “economic blockade” etc. Inclusively, for the prevention of a “humanitarian catastrophe” to Transnistria were sent convoys with “humanitarian aid” etc. These actions in partnership with EU were undertaken by Vladimir Voronin when he positioned himself as a pro-European leader. On the other hand, on the eve of 5 April 2009 elections retention of power by the CPRM, in Vladimir Voronin’s opinion, needed a display of rapprochement with Russia.
Vladimir Voronin’s statement that “from the Transnistrian conflict settlement perspective it will be necessary to introduce serious amendments to the fundamental law” is in evident contradiction with key elements of the “package deal”. Indeed the “package deal” envisaged a separation of competences between Chişinău and Tiraspol more characteristic to a federative state rather than a unitary one (de facto federalization of the Republic of Moldova). Yet, the “package deal” does not contain the notion “federation” (de jure federalization). Therefore, the “package deal” did not envisaged amendment of the Constitution. Moreover, Article 142 of the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova provides that “Provisions regarding the sovereignty, independence and unity of the state, as well as those regarding the permanent neutrality of the State may be revised only by referendum based on a majority vote of registered voting citizens”. It means that an eventual federalization of the Republic of Moldova can be carried out only through a referendum, even if such a modification would be voted by the Parliament.
There is only one vulnerable point left, fixed in the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova i.e. prohibition of foreign military presence on the territory of the Republic of Moldova. It could be assumed that talking about a “serious modification” of the Constitution Vladimir Voronin meant abrogation of point 2 of Article 11 – “The Republic of Moldova will not admit stationing of any foreign military troops”. Abrogation of this point formally does not affect the status of permanent neutrality of the Republic of Moldova and implicitly does not need its approbation through a referendum. At the same time, this modification of the Constitution will allow permanent presence of the Russian Federation troops on the territory of the Republic of Moldova, as envisaged by the Kozak Memorandum.
18 March 2009 meeting, in a tripartite format resulted in signing of a Joint Declaration meaning that, as long as in his interview of 27 February Vladimir Voronin denied that there had been any draft document for signing, it was imposed by the Russian Federation. The content of this document is fully in accordance with the Russian Federation stand. The Republic of Moldova and Transnistria as “parties” declare their intention to continue direct contacts in order to reinvigorate the negotiations process; declare that they will set up conditions for an earliest resumption of activities in the „5+2” format, possibly in the first half of 2009 etc. In point 4 of the same Declaration “the parties mention the stabilizing role of the present peacekeeping operation in the region and proceed from the advisability of transforming it into a peace guaranteeing operation under the aegis of the OSCE following a Transdniestrian settlement”.
This Declaration entirely runs counter the cornerstone principles of the “package deal” and brings no progress to the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict. Point 4 of the Declaration one more time confirms the legitimacy of the existing peacekeeping format, thus, confirming the legitimacy of the Transnistrian regime paramilitary troops. This Declaration categorically contradicts the position of the Republic of Moldova, stated by Mr. Andrei Stratan during the XVI-th OSCE Ministerial Council. Probably, this approach is part of the Chişinău policy to shape its position depending of the geographical location where it is expressed. Vladimir Vononin’s commitment, in his capacity of President of the Republic of Moldova to transform the same format of the peacekeeping operation with the same Transnistrian paramilitary troops into a “peace-guaranteeing” operation as a result of the settlement of the Transnistrian conflict raises question marks about the legal form of the supposed settlement. It is certain that continuous presence of the Transnistrian paramilitary troops after the settlement of the conflict is incompatible with the notion of reintegrated state (even if federative).
After the 18 March “2+1” meeting there was announced another meeting between Igor Smirnov and Vladmir Voronin, planned for 25 March. However, on the eve, on 24 March, Igor Smirnov announced that EU Special Representative in Moldova Kalman Mizsei, USA Ambassador in Moldova Asif Chaudhry and Czech Ambassador in Moldova Petr Kypr were declared persona non grata in Transnistria.
On this background the meeting between Igor Smirnov and Vladimir Voronin, scheduled for 25 March 2009 was cancelled by the Moldovan side.
3. Energy security of the Republic of Moldova
On 23 December 2008 Cuciurgan Heat and Power Plant (CHP), as a subunit of the Russian “Inter RAO ES” Company concluded a contract on delivery of electric power to the Republic of Moldova with “Energocom” Joint-Stock Company, from 1 January 2009 to 31 March 2010. The volume of contacted power (250 million kWt x hour) covers the entire consumption of the Republic of Moldova, which meant that the Republic of Moldova discontinued electric power supply from Ukraine.
On its turn, on 25 December 2008, State-Owned Company „Ukrinterenergo” offered “Energocom” Company to buy in 2009 electric power at a price of 52 USD per 1 Mwt x hour, comparing to 56 USD offered by the Cucuirgan CHP. Yet, Chişinăul has not cancelled the contract with the Cucuirgan CHP. As a result of this policy the Republic of Moldova discontinued power supply from Ukraine and has become dependant on power supply form Transnistria. In the conditions of the 2009 gas crisis Cuciurgani CHP had no gas. Subsequently, in order to produce electric power in volumes contracted by customers Cuciurgan CHP was forced to switch over to coal and fuel oil. However, in the situation when Ukraine banned export of fuel oil on the background of the conflict with „GAZPROM”, Cuciurgan CHP had no safe functioning perspectives.
On 24 December 2008 a meeting between Igor Smirnov and Deputy Chairman of „GAZPROM” Management Committee Valerii Golubev took place. During the meeting it was declared that in the first half of 2009 it was foreseen a structural reorganization of „Moldova-Gaz” and separation of „Tiraspoltransgaz-Transnitria” into a separate unit. Similarly, it was announced that in 2009 the Transnistrian debt to „GAZPROM” would mount to 2 billion USD. Tiraspol refuses to discuss the problem of transferring the debt for the Russian gas consumed in Transnistria from „Moldovagaz” to the Transnistrian administration.
The steps undertaken by the Republic of Moldova leadership in the analyzed time frame (27 November 2008 – 14 April 2009) have not resulted in consolidation of the Republic of Moldova position in the problem of settlement of the Transnistrian conflict;
The Russian Federation and Tiraspol attitudes prove a complete and unambiguous rejection of the “package deal” based on which, from the fall of 2006, the Republic of Moldova leadership intended to solve the problem of the Transnistrian conflict;
The Joint Declaration signed on 18 March 2009 in Moscow is a serious concession of the Republic of Moldova leadership concerning the principles of implementation of the peacekeeping operation and is in clear contradiction with the previously announced position of the Republic of Moldova.;
The situation in the energy field is a clear and serious threat to the Republic of Moldova national security. The agreements signed in this field are not transparent and what can be concluded from available information – do not have an economic support. It is not clear how the problem of the Transnistrian debt to “GAZPROM” is going to be solved (about 2 billion USD).
Dr. Arcadie Barbaroşie, Executive Director, Institute for Public Policy
Oazu Nantoi, Program Director, Institute for Public Policy
Dr. Igor Boţan, Executive Director, Association for Participatory Democracy
Dr. Anatol Gremalschi, Program Director, Institute for Public Policy
Vlad Lupan, Independent Expert
Dr. Viorel Cibotaru, Executive Director, European Institute for Political Studies of Moldova
Eugen Revenco, Moldovan-Lithuanian Foundation “European Integration Studies Center”
Dumitru Mînzărari, Researcher on foreign policy and security issues IDIS „Viitorul”
Radu Vrabie, Program coordinator, Foreign Policy Association (APE).