Books on Moldova
Update No: 314 - (22/02/07)
Metamorphosis of a communist
President Vladimir Voronin of Moldova, a former Soviet general, came to power as
a Communist leader determined to make his divided, dirt-poor country into
another Cuba, perhaps even joining Russia and Belarus in their union state.
But he soon turned into a moderate social democrat, suspicious of the Kremlin
with good cause, and determined to push Moldova to the West, a course for which
the West has given him shamefully little support, although there are signs that
this may change now that Moldova borders the EU since the accession of Romania
on January 1st.
Recent events have accentuated the alienation from Russia, as Moscow last year
imposed a trade embargo on staple exports from Moldova, namely fine wines and
brandies. The wine sector accounts for around 25% of Moldova's GDP and 80% of
its production was exported to Russia. This was lifted in November. Russian
habitués of Moldovan products were complaining. But the million Moldovans in
Russia are being harassed by petty restrictions. Relations could scarcely be
Confidential Russia-Moldova bilateral negotiations falter
The time is hardly ripe for a major breakthrough on points in the dispute
between the two countries. From September 2006 until late January, Moscow and
Chisinau were engaged in confidential bilateral talks on a political settlement
of the Transnistria conflict. This channel operated outside the official, 5 + 2
negotiating framework (which consists of Chisinau, Tiraspol, Russia, Ukraine,
the OSCE, the European Union, and the United States). However, the Moldovan
officials who conducted those bilateral talks -- top presidential adviser Marc
Tcaciuc and Reintegration Minister Vasile Sova -- duly informed Moldova's
Western partners about the course of the talks at every stage. Nor did they keep
Ukraine's Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the dark.
In all, the Moldovan officials made five known visits to Moscow between
September 2006 and the end of January. The fact that the visits were taking
place was being announced (sometimes post facto) in one-paragraph communiqués,
but the content of the talks was not. On the Russian side, Security Council
Deputy Secretary Yuri Zubakov ran this channel, with Deputy Minister of Foreign
Affairs/State Secretary Grigory Karasin also involved at times.
Chisinau engaged in this effort as part of an all-out, multidimensional effort
to persuade Russia to lift its economic embargoes against Moldova and to explore
a possible package solution on Transnistria. The Moldovan side was careful to
separate the issue of conflict resolution from the trade embargo and energy
supply issues, which were being discussed elsewhere, so as to reduce Moscow's
direct economic leverage in the Transnistria negotiations.
Moldovan proposals re Transnistria
The Moldovan side came to the table with proposals for Transnistria's
political status and full withdrawal of Russian forces. The proposals envisaged,
in essence, autonomy for Transnistria, short of "federalism;" no role
for Tiraspol in shaping the policies of Moldova's central government (thus
leaving the latter free to pursue a Western-oriented course); social-protection
guarantees for various categories of civil-administrative and uniformed
personnel in Transnistria; replacing Russian "peacekeeping" troops
with international, mainly unarmed, peacekeepers; and the continuing neutrality
of Moldova (no change in that regard).
The proposals were in line with Moldova's 2005 organic law on the principles of
Transnistria conflict-resolution, one of the key ideas of which rules out any
"external guarantees" of the settlement, such as Russia proposes to
maintain, with its troops in place.
Chisinau held out two incentives for Moscow to go along: Firm assurances that
Moldova would not join any military alliance (meaning NATO) and that it would,
as part of the settlement package, legalize Russian companies' property
takeovers in Transnistria. At present, Russia's Unified Energy Systems, Gazprom,
and steel producers control massive assets unlawfully acquired in this part of
Russian objections to them
In the final session of talks, held in Moscow at the end of January, the
Russian side summed up the objections that it had all along voiced to Chisinau's
Moscow insists on the concept of "external guarantees," including
military ones with Russian troops, and does not recognize any obligation to
withdraw its forces from Moldova's territory. And it gives Tiraspol full
latitude to determine what would constitute an acceptable political and even
military settlement (while at the same time encouraging Tiraspol to stonewall).
Russia continues to demand that any negotiations proceed from the
"understandings reached earlier" [ranneye dostignutyie dogovoryonnosti],
a sacramental formula that Moscow equally insists upon in negotiations on the
conflicts in Georgia. This formula refers to documents signed during the 1990s
under Russian duress, though never legalized in any form, by Moldova or Georgia.
In Moldova's case, these include the 1997 Primakov Memorandum and a 1998
document authorizing Tiraspol's authorities to conduct external trade. In
essence, these never-ratified documents place Chisinau and Tiraspol on an equal
footing as "parties to the conflict" and define Russia (again without
any legal basis) as "mediator" and "guarantor," although
Russia itself is by all criteria engaged in interstate conflicts against Moldova
In the same final session, Russian side reproached the Moldovans for
"working with the West behind Moscow's back" and orchestrating
"pressures" on Moscow through the OSCE. On these pretexts, the
Russians asserted that they are taking an indefinite "time-out" from
On the following day, January 30th, Russian Vice-Foreign Minister Karasin
received Tiraspol's "foreign minister" (and a Russian citizen from
Russia itself), Valery Litskay, in Moscow demonstratively. In Tiraspol on the
same day, Supreme Soviet chairman Yevgeny Shevchuk, in unison with Moscow,
criticized Chisinau's refusal of "guarantees by the guarantor
countries" and its abandonment of "understandings reached
earlier," from among which Shevchuk singled out the 2003 Kozak Memorandum
[never "reached," however].
In Chisinau, President Vladimir Voronin and Parliament Chairman Marian Lupu
received the European Union's Special Representative in the negotiations on
Transnistria, Dutch diplomat Adriaan Jacobovits de Szeged, on the occasion of
completion of his two-year mission. Voronin and Lupu called for extension of the
European Union's Border Assistance Mission on the Transnistria sector of the
Moldova-Ukraine border, resumption of negotiations in the 5 + 2 format,
upgrading the U.S. and EU roles from observers to full participants in that
format, withdrawal of Russian troops, and their replacement by
internationally-mandated civilian and military observers
A round of the 5 + 2 negotiations was tentatively scheduled for February 15-16
after a year-long hiatus
Yes to special EU aid, but subject to MEPs' conditions
The International Trade Committee has given the go-ahead for EU
macro-financial aid to Moldova, one of Europe's poorest countries. Forty-five
million euros will be provided to support the balance of trade and payments of
the country, which has a frontier with the EU since the accession of Romania on
1st January 2007.
However, in giving the green light to this proposal by the Council, MEPs laid
down several conditions for the payment of the funds.
The macro-financial aid, which was approved in a report by Béla Glattfelder (EPP-ED,
HU) adopted in committee on January 24th, is intended to help with the
deterioration in Moldova's trade balance following the rise in energy prices and
the embargo imposed by Russia in 2006 on imports of Moldovan wine and spirits.
More generally, Moldova's economy remains highly dependent on agriculture
(notably fruit, vegetables and tobacco) and is lacking in natural resources.
MEPs want to make the payment of successive tranches of aid subject to progress
in the transparency of Moldova's public finances, the application of
macroeconomic and budgetary priorities advocated by the International Monetary
Fund and respect for human rights, including minorities.
The report also underlines the "exceptional" nature of an instrument
such as macro-financial aid. The rapporteur believes it is "unjustifiable
that such an instrument lacks a regular legal basis and continues to be based on
ad hoc Council decisions". He calls for future financial aid to be governed
by "a co-decided framework regulation" on macro-financial assistance,
i.e. with decisions taken by Parliament and the Member States, which is
necessary "to enhance transparency, accountability, monitoring and
This aid should prompt Moldova to implement reforms under the EU-Moldova Action
Plan agreed as part of the European Neighbourhood Policy. And MEPs want the
Memorandum of Understanding and the Grant Agreement that the Commission will
agree with the Moldovan authorities to be submitted not only to the Council but
also to Parliament.
Moldova, Romania ready to ink political, border treaties
Moldova and Romania are preparing to sign a basic political treaty and a border
delimitation treaty in the near future, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin and
Romanian President Traian Basescu said at a meeting in Chisinau on January 16.
"A draft basic political treaty has already been drawn up, and it is
necessary now to consider and sign it," Voronin said following the meeting.
Voronin also said his Moldovan counterpart and he had discussed the signing of a
border delimitation treaty between the two countries. "Moldova and Romania
have inherited this border from the Soviet era, and, since it has not been
changed, lawyers will have to consider possibly formalising these inheritance
rights," Voronin said. Basescu also said he did not see the need to delimit
the borders anew. "What is more important is not the border issue itself,
but the way in which the border is crossed," he said.