Chisinau has big plans for the Transdniestrian settlement
Moldova meets the end of this week with a new government. It took a few days for the socialists to nominate Igor Dodon’s adviser Ion Chicu as the new Prime Minister, and for him to put together a team of ‘technocrats’ and present a program for the next year.
Chicu’s ministers are jokingly referred to as ‘Dodon’s advisers government’, which is very close to the truth – many of the employees of the presidential administration indeed moved in the chief executive authority. It is interesting that the reverse transfer occurred only in the Transdniestrian direction – Deputy Prime Minister for reintegration in the government of Sandu Vasile Sova returned to the office of the head of state.
Many experts consider the resignation of Sova a landmark moment, indicating the desire of Chisinau to see a completely different dynamic in relations with the left bank. It has long been known that the Transdniestrian topic is one of the favorite pet subjects of the President. Dodon from the very start of his term began to get his hands on the settlement process, and in general declared the unification of the country one of his priorities.
At the same time, relations with Tiraspol have frankly deteriorated recently, which was largely facilitated by the aggressive tactics of Vasile Sova in dialogue with representatives of the regional administration. During these five months, the Moldovan-Transdniestrian negotiation process has almost reached an impasse, which resulted in the failed 5+2 meeting in Bratislava and the inconclusive conference on confidence-building measures in Bavaria.
This strongly contrasted with the meeting between Igor Dodon and Transdniestrian leader Vadim Krasnoselsky in late October, which unexpectedly took place in a rather friendly and compromise manner on the part of Chisinau. Dodon promised to solve several acute problems complained by politicians of the left bank, and soon it became known about the closure of a number of criminal cases against Transdniestrian officials. Tiraspol also made some concessions on the infrastructure project linking the Transdniestrian town of Bendery and Moldovan village of Varnita.
Probably, this is the picture of relations with Tiraspol Igor Dodon would like to see in the next election year. So, the appointment of Deputy Prime Minister for reintegration Alexandru Flenchea looks logical. Flenchea is a pretty experienced political staffer and expert, has long been involved in negotiations of Chisinau and Tiraspol. Unlike Sova, he is not a politician, moreover, without the heavy negotiating baggage of his predecessor. Such a candidate much more fits to be a technical executor who will ensure predictability on the Transdniestrian track.
This castling does not look spontaneous. On the contrary, Igor Dodon, as always, has concrete plans for a dialogue with Tiraspol.
The new government of Moldova faces difficult tasks in all areas. The new Cabinet at least needs to show results within the next year, in principle, to justify its fast birth on the wreckage of the young ACUM-PSRM coalition. Socialists need to explain that everything was not in vain, and criticism of the pro-Europeans was for a good reason. In addition, the new government will have to create a positive background before the next elections and give President Dodon enough trumps for re-election to his post. For which he will have to fight with Maia Sandu herself.
Today, the fundamental problem for the new government in Moldova may be legitimization in the eyes of its international partners. Moscow, Brussels and Washington were creating what the socialists and democrats have now destroyed and replaced. Now Igor Dodon and his colleagues need not only to explain what actually happened, but also to win the favor of external partners. It is no coincidence that some experts predict new problems with the European financing of Moldova with the coming to power of the socialist government, while others wonder about Moscow’s attitude to the bold steps of its long-time protege.
In these circumstances, the Transdniestrian direction could generate some positive for the new government and be a chance for the favor of international ‘friends’. If Igor Dodon manages to finally take over the dialogue with Tiraspol and within a short time to achieve a solution to a number of key problems in relations between the two banks, the new government will have something to show the voter and how to confirm its consistency to the external participants of the Moldovan-Transdniestrian settlement.
The removal of uncompromising Vasile Sova from the post of Deputy Prime Minister for reintegration and unexpected constructive dialogue of Igor Dodon with the left bank leader Krasnoselsky perfectly fit in this logic. It cannot be ruled out that the President of the Republic of Moldova decided to prepare the ground for compromises with Tiraspol in advance, even before all power passed to the PSRM. A technical executor in the person of Alexandru Flenchea as the chief negotiator from Chisinau is a guarantee that Chisinau will be able to consistently generate positive news in the reintegration area, take into account the wishes of international mediators and avoid unnecessary exchanges with the Transdniestrian authorities.
In the light of such transformations, I cannot exclude that Chisinau will try to make 2020 a time of unprecedented breakthrough in the Transdniestrian direction. The only question is how stable the power created by the socialists will be, and whether Igor Dodon will be able to keep contacts with Tiraspol in a more or less peaceful way.
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