Why Chisinau and Tiraspol Are at Odds Again

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Sergiu CEBAN Transdniestrian authorities accused Chisinau of intentionally blocking the import of pharmaceuticals into the region. Amid the pandemic, the situation is as bad as possible. Who is right and who is to blame? Currently, almost the whole world is fighting against the coronavirus infection and joining its efforts in the search for best practices and mechanisms to minimize the consequences of the pandemic, while the best minds of the country are struggling to mitigate the negative effects and the rapidly approaching economic crisis. Buried under a pile of new ones, the old problems are still here, and a new dispute between Chisinau and Tiraspol has proved that. Last week, as it was reported, the left-bank pharmacological products suppliers complained to the Tiraspol administration about the difficulties encountered in importing medicines. Local media informed that several cars with medicines had for some reason been delayed at the Moldovan-Ukrainian border for about a week. The issue was resolved only after politicians and negotiation process participants intervened, and cars finally entered the region. Importing pharmaceuticals is known to have been a cause for mutual criticism of the parties for several years already, mainly as part of the Chisinau-Kiev project to introduce a chain of joint checkpoints on the common border, including the Transdniestrian segment. Scarce updates from the negotiation process fields inform that each river bank has over the years developed its own “consumer basket” of medical products, very beneficial to the population. As practice shows, if a Transdniestrian resident needs modern European drugs, he goes to the right bank to buy them, while the right-bank population goes to Transdniestria to get budget drugs produced in the CIS countries. Many experts are post factum asking about the reasons that contributed to new complications in relations between Chisinau and Tiraspol. When the all-republican quarantine was introduced and borders were closed, many wondered how exactly the Moldovan authorities would be able to ensure territorial isolation, taking into account the apparently conditional control on the Transdniestrian section of border with Ukraine, and whether they would strengthen control measures in the security zone. As a result, all Ukrainian checkpoints on the Transdniestrian section of the state border were closed by March 16 – most likely, after consultations with Kiev. Thus, the probability for coronavirus infection to penetrate from an uncontrolled section of the border was minimized, and Tiraspol was once again shown “who runs the house”. When epidemiological safety issues were tackled, it is most likely that due attention was not given to side effects. As a result, all left-bank imports were reoriented to several checkpoints in the south and north of the country. However, apparently, neither the central authorities nor the regulatory framework were ready for the flow of goods to Transdniestria, since it was difficult to apply current Moldovan legislation to it. As a result, the Commission for Emergency Situations led by Prime Minister Ion Chicu was forced to take several decisions and imperatively introduce them in derogation from the existing regulatory framework. However, due to the time factor and lack of understanding how to respond to the situation, the Moldovan authorities incurred reputational costs that could have been avoided. There is a perception that the plot with medicines can become only the first “black swan”, and the problems around Transdniestrian imports will only increase, distracting Chisinau from the main epidemiological problem and forcing authorities to regulate them manually. One gets the feeling that hastily taken political decisions without proper expert analysis can end up causing a rather large amount of damage to the country. There is no doubt that Tiraspol will certainly take advantage of this situation. For example – in order to present the consequences of the Moldovan-Ukrainian customs control on the Transdniestrian section of the state border to all participants in the negotiation process in the right light and at the right angle. It turns out that Chisinau, failing to figure out its actions in advance, only strengthened the position of the region’s administration. The latter has intensely criticized the joint control project, which has been implemented with difficulties for three years already. Another aggravation in relations between the two Nistru banks shows the flaws and imperfection of the Moldovan system, which is not able to absorb Transdniestrian imports. In such circumstances, only the boldest can talk about the takeover of the region as a whole at this stage. Most likely, the authorities, expert and scientific community of Moldova have a lot of work to do to solve organizational and technical conditions within the transitional legislation framework, and then formulate a common understanding of Moldavian society about the place that needs to be provided to the left bank in the general political, socio-cultural, financial and economic space.