Will Moldova and Transdniestria Develop a Settlement Plan in 2019?

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Dorin Mocanu End of the year is the time for people to summarize, analyze and evaluate the work done and set plans for the near future. The year 2018 turned out to be intense in the relations between Moldova and Transdniestria, even despite the soon election race, which usually slows down the negotiations between Tiraspol and Chisinau. By the end of the year, hints on discussions about the formula for political settlement of Chisinau-Tiraspol relations suddenly appeared in the public space. The RTA expert Dorin Mocanu writes about it.   Dorin Mocanu, RTA: It is important to remember that international players regularly articulate their official positions regarding the prospects for political dialogue between Tiraspol and Chisinau. Usually, this is done by the mediators and observers in the 5+2 negotiation format – the OSCE, the European Union, the United States, Russia and Ukraine. This time, which is very interesting, certain signals began to come directly from the epicenter of events, that is, from the parties to the conflict themselves. In Moldova, almost simultaneously, President Igor Dodon and the government of Pavel Filip took up the issue of a political settlement of the conflict. The leader of the Socialists began to present his ideas for a settlement among political partners in Moscow and even Washington. Vice Prime Minister Cristina Lesnic, who is negotiating from Moldova in the 5+2 format, presented the governmental position at the end of the year and said that next year contacts with the Transdniestrian side would be maintained on all three baskets, including political issues. Thus, Chisinau seems to demonstrate its determination to discuss the issue of a final settlement model and not to be limited to economic or social issues, as has been the case in the recent 5 years. For fairness’ sake, it should be noted that approximately the same statements appeared from Moldovan politicians over the past decades, and the loudest sounded precisely during election periods, that is, as it is now. As you know, there is often a huge divide between political declarations and real affairs, and the Moldovan profile only confirms this. An important marker of Chisinau’s true attitude to the transition in relations with Tiraspol to serious political issues is the constant public statements of Moldovan politicians about the “vision” of the Transdniestrian problem settlement model common for the government and the president, which no one has ever seen. It seems that before the elections, various political forces are trying to demonstrate to international partners and their voters the unshakable will to finally solve this long-standing issue as the main root of all evil that happened to Moldova. They even hint that they know how to do it. However, there are a number of signals that suggest that this trend is not only related to the Moldovan internal political calendar. In response to the information ‘adjustment fire’ by Chisinau, Tiraspol paid back in its own coin as its leaders quite unexpectedly began to probe Chisinau for readiness to go beyond the notorious 2005 law on the status of Transdniestria. According to experts, this law imperatively adopted 13 years ago by the Moldovan parliament by definition sets a dead end for dialogue, limits the powers of Moldovan negotiators, prevents full-fledged negotiations and makes substantive dialogue on settlement impossible. There is a common opinion that Chisinau passed this law to up the stakes, that is, to use the opportunity to cancel it in political bargaining with the unrecognized republic. However, years have passed, and still there has been no serious bargaining. The Tiraspol’s maneuver with regard to the notorious law is understandable – it is a test of Chisinau’s readiness to make legislative decisions to agree on a format for resolving the conflict. By asking this question at a high level at a meeting of two leaders, Tiraspol kicked the ball to the Moldovan side of the field. The ball, apparently, is “hot”: to talk vaguely about a political “vision” is one thing, but to take responsibility for abolition of the organic law of Moldova is another. Further changes to foundations of the State, including joint with Tiraspol development of a new Constitution is a completely different task, and experience shows that there may be the most serious consequences of such a political breakthrough for its initiators. For obvious reasons, we should not expect progress in the negotiations of the parties during the election campaign in Moldova. However, when the election fever is over and the new-old configuration of the Moldovan authorities is formed, political negotiations are quite likely. In addition, as the experience of recent years has shown, even the most chronic contradictions can be solved with the presence of mutual political will. Experts believe that in 2019 the parties may begin to work on the topic of a political settlement.