Phobias of Chisinau: For Whom and Why Will the Moldova’s Federalization Be a Verdict?

Home / Analytics / Phobias of Chisinau: For Whom and Why Will the Moldova’s Federalization Be a Verdict?
Sergei Isaenko The appointment of Dmitry Kozak as Russia’s special representative for the development of relations with Moldova has become a local sensation. Kozak’s name is associated with the plan for the asymmetric federalization of Moldova that Chisinau failed in 2003. It is not surprising that local and foreign experts saw some symbolism in this personnel decision of Moscow and began to discuss the probability of the ‘Kozak Plan 2.0’, which in the end they called low. Analysts pay attention to the fact that the circumstances have changed seriously for 15 years, which means that it will not be possible to repeat the legendary plan in its pure form. Both the parliament and the Moldovan government adhere to this position quite officially. In addition, Chisinau consistently rejects the very idea of federalization, and it is not entirely clear whether the Moldovan authorities and political elites see the possibility of resolving the conflict in such a way as to preserve the territorial integrity of the country and to take into account the interests of the residents of Pridnestrovie. This week, Moldovan President Igor Dodon again returned the topic of the referendum on the status of Transdniestria as part of the Republic of Moldova to the information space. Like a year and a half ago, Igor Dodon is confident that such a plebiscite can be held after the 2019 parliamentary elections scheduled for February 24. The refusal of one of his predecessors (and former party leader) Vladimir Voronin to sign the Kozak Memorandum in 2003 is seen by the current president as a ‘missed opportunity’, to which there will be no return. In a recent interview, he also said that much has changed in Moldova, and therefore a new plan is needed that will take into account the opinion of all branches of power. After 2003, the idea of federalization was consistently discredited by the official Chisinau and 15 years later became one of the popular phobias in the local political and expert environment. It perpetuated in the minds of Moldovan politicians inclined to nationalism and their ideological servants represented by loyal experts and journalists as a synonym for the process of ‘transdniestrianization’ of Moldova that is giving ‘pro-Russian’ Transdniestria administrative and legal levers of influence on Moldovan policy. In this regard, the reaction of the President of Foreign Policy Association of Moldova Victor Chirila to the proposals of Igor Dodon on the referendum on the Transdniestrian issue is indicative. The expert believes that the Republic of Moldova can cease to exist if it agrees to federalization. On his Facebook page, he predicts the following fatal results:
  1. The end for the society of the Republic of Moldova, born on August 27, 1991. To devitalize/destroy the state is not enough to burn the Declaration of Independence, it is necessary to introduce military occupation, radically change the dates of birth, rewrite constitutional foundations, form a new identity, replace/program new principles, values and civilizational prospects;
  2. The victory of the Russian-Orthodox civilizational model represented by Transdniestrian separatism, Russian-speaking minorities and Moldovans nostalgic for the USSR, over the Western/liberal model presented by the Republic of Moldova, because on 27 August 1991 Moldovans chose not only independence but also Western/liberal model of civilizational development of their society and state;
  3. Deprivation of the ethnic majority of their state, which they created and for which they sacrificed themselves, and the inclusion of this majority in a new artificial nation without nationality, based on the conservative, antiliberal perception of the Russian Orthodox civilization;
  4. Territorial, political and economic fragmentation of the new state based on ethnolinguistic criteria according to the model of Bosnia and Herzegovina, thus creating a weak, inefficient, manipulable state incapable of making important decisions, incapable of cooperation and solidarity;
  5. The final end of European integration and the reintroduction of the entire territory between the Dniester and the Prut into a geopolitical space dominated by Russia, which will in its own way create a new state, artificial and powerless.
  Will such an artificial state strengthen regional and European security? Personally, I have great doubts, because federalization will not eliminate the structural deficiencies, which currently undermine the functioning of the Republic of Moldova, but, on the contrary, will further exacerbate them.   As is known, phobias are irrational, and this case is no exception. After the incident of 2003, to be safe Chisinau officially confirmed the impossibility of a federation in any form, by adopting in 2005 a law on the special status of Transdniestria. It gives Tiraspol façade political autonomy as part of an integrated Moldova. No matter how one treats the Left Bank, this law in general does not guarantee a fair division of powers between the center and autonomy: neither in the field of culture, language or education, nor in matters of property and other basic spheres of life. Under the same conditions, Gagauz autonomy is functioning in Moldova, and the prose of life is that even the “autonomous” rights of Gagauz enshrined in the law are simply not ensured. In fact, Moldova does not have both the framework and prerequisites for creating a viable federation. The problem of the coexistence of nationalities has not been resolved for 25 years and only exacerbates. The Moldovan society has not defined either the development vector – ‘Russia or Europe’, or in general the future of the country – ‘independence or unification with Romania’. And language barriers, as noted in last year’s report of the Council of Europe on the protection of minority rights in Moldova, only strengthens the already pronounced division of society. The same document speaks of the absence of a single civil identity in the country that respects diversity, and of the prerequisites for its emergence. One third of the country’s residents – a million people – speak Russian on a permanent basis. More than two million can speak Russian fluently. At the same time, Russian schools have been closed down in the country, and the language is purposely excluded out of all spheres of life by the authorities. The long-standing conflict of identities, the social contradictions over the strategic vector of Moldova’s development, the absence of framework to ensure the rights and freedoms of other national-ethnic groups in a strictly mono-national state, shadow management of the country by the oligarchic elites, mass violations of the law and rampant corruption are generally recognized problems of Moldova. Thus, everything is extremely prosaic – the political elite of Moldova do not have sufficient competence, motivation and banal patriotism to unite the country and guarantee rights to all its citizens. An attempt to build a balanced federation will be a verdict for the current political class of the Republic of Moldova, as it will show a complete non-compliance of the country and its leadership with the generally accepted norms of democracy and human rights in the modern world. In the current situation, when there are already many questions to all branches of the Moldovan authorities, they will not pass the federation test. That’s why they deny the idea of federation. In this context, the criticism of federalization at the public level, including through the experts, is an attempt to build and support a coherent rationale for the harm and danger of any project of Moldova’s reintegration. Especially for Western partners, the rejection of federalization is explained by the desire to maintain a course toward rapprochement with the EU and NATO. This position is generally understood by the main international development sponsors of Moldova – the United States and the European Union (especially Romania), especially against the backdrop of geopolitical confrontation with Russia. However, the status quo in the Transdniestrian issue is convenient for Chisinau, since it allows speculating on the themes of the ‘Russian threat’ and ‘occupation of the legal territory of the Republic of Moldova’. At the same time, the emergence of a real and successful formula for settling the conflict is impossible until the systemic rehabilitation of Moldova.