Igor Dodon promised the leader of the Left Bank to solve problems with communication and criminal cases against Tansdniestrian officials
Yesterday Igor Dodon met with the head of Transdniestria Vadim Krasnoselsky at the presidential residence in Golerkany for the first time in 2019. The expert community has divergent opinions on its possible outcome: some have not expected any breakthroughs from the contacts of the two leaders for a long time, while others hoped that this time there will be results.
Both points of view were supported by the general political context, which had changed markedly since the last meeting between Dodon and Krasnoselsky. On the one hand, the President and his Party of Socialists formed a ruling coalition with the ACUM bloc in June, getting real levers of power. On the other hand, the Transdniestrian settlement is now experiencing a serious crisis: there are almost no meetings of experts and political representatives of Chisinau and Tiraspol, and the round of negotiations in the 5+2 format actually turned into a failure.
In addition, recently Igor Dodon has repeatedly stated the need to start negotiations on the political status of the Left Bank, as well as talked about some settlement plans agreed by international partners. Naturally, these words caused a strongly negative reaction of Tiraspol officials, who insisted on working on the agenda agreed in previous years. It includes social and economic issues, like normalization of work of the Romanian schools in the Transdniestrian territory or ensuring entrance of motor transport of the region to the EU.
Despite Dodon’s past rhetoric, the briefing with the leader of Transdniestria, to surprise of analysts, was still devoted mainly to these issues, which constitute the so-called “Berlin+” package (a set of agreements between Chisinau and Tiraspol, recorded in the protocols of the 5+2 meetings in Berlin, Vienna and Rome).
Thus, despite attempts to turn the ‘chessboard’ of the negotiation process towards discussions on the status of the region, Chisinau, apparently, returns to the Berlin approaches, that is, the solution of everyday problems for the population and business.
Moreover, the President made a number of promising statements for Tiraspol. He not only expressed banal readiness to negotiate, but also announced specific terms for addressing problems in the field of telecommunications (by the end of the year), as well as the exact number (38) of criminal cases against Transdniestrian officials, which Chisinau plans to close. In addition, Igor Dodon agreed to hold consultations on the banking sector, as well as to implement joint infrastructure projects with Tiraspol – for example, to build a trolleybus line between the Transdniestrian Bendery and the Moldovan village of Varnita.
The positive results and context of the meeting are seen by many experts as a significant adjustment of the position by the Moldovan leader, which has shifted back to the long-term policy of confidence-building measures. Also, it seems that the unexpected compliance of Chisinau did not leave out the Bratislava Protocol. Apparently, the Moldovan side is ready to sign it with compromise language.
Such a shift of the President may be explained by ‘convincing requests’ from the outside. The leading players were clearly discouraged by the failure of the negotiations in Bratislava, and, apparently, laid the blame for it on Chisinau. In these circumstances, the President, obviously having a decisive influence on the Transdniestrian settlement process, was entrusted with the mission of saving the negotiations. Igor Dodon clearly could not refuse: like other Moldovan politicians, he owes much to international partners. Moreover, the head of state is now actively rebuilding his image in the eyes of the West and he does not need unnecessary obstacles.
However, some experts see the actions of the Moldovan President as elements of a tactical game. A certain desire to take revenge on Tiraspol for past public statements (previously Krasnoselsky with emphasized hostility said that meetings with Dodon are meaningless because of his lack of powers) may play a role here. But first of all, the head of state wants to once and for all get rid of the image of a ceremonial character, who people meet out of respect or at the request of Moscow. Now the political capital of Igor Dodon and the Party of Socialists is much more solid and enables them to solve certain issues. Especially on the Transdniestrian track, which is overseen by his ex-adviser and ally Vasile Sova.
At this stage, it is extremely important for Dodon to have a stable dialogue with Tiraspol. The presidential elections are next year, and he must run with a positive agenda. Judging by the huge attention to Transdniestria, the Moldovan leader intends to look for it on the left bank. Therefore, experts see a kind of invitation to the Tiraspol leaders to dialogue and a ‘deal’ in the unexpectedly favorable background of the meeting with Krasnoselsky. After all, the low probability of the starting political settlement in 2020 and the further strengthening of confrontation with the Transdniestrian leaders may become decisive factors that will deprive Dodon of a real chance for a second presidential term.
The fate of Dodon’s promises will make it clear whether Chisinau is ready to improve relations with Tiraspol. Moreover, the President himself announced specific deadlines for their implementation, which in the context of the ‘bumpy’ negotiation process with Tiraspol is quite a bold move. If the problems with telecommunications and criminal cases are resolved before the end of the year, the Moldovan-Transdniestrian dialogue can really go at a completely different pace.
However, in our opinion, it is too early to make optimistic predictions. The past months have shown that there are more contradictions and reproaches in the relations of the parties than ever. And there is every reason to believe that they will be resolved not by Dodon, but, as usual, by Chisinau’s partners in the West and East.
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