Reintegration in the Time of Cholera

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Sergiu CEBAN Chisinau decided to take advantage of the pandemic to “toughly” reintegrate Transdniestria considering quarantine restrictions as a unique window of opportunity to make the left bank more accommodating. Tiraspol, in turn, actively resists stifling Moldavian “hug”. Even the raging around the world Covid-19 is not apparently able to stop the rapid events development around the Transdniestrian dossier and relations clarification between the two banks of the Dniester. Daily news reports are full of bright headlines and recriminations. The Transdniestrian settlement, gradually sneaking into the top Moldovan information agenda, seemed to have completely be replaced by the coronavirus infection fight theme in the near months. Most likely, international participants in the negotiation process got very surprised at how Chisinau and Tiraspol decided to “cross swords” to put it mildly, at the most inappropriate moment. The frequent online conferences of Cristina Lesnic with foreign partners, the alarmed non-governmental sector and the Moldovan expert community - all this is designed to create the entourage of a forced reaction Chisinau authorities is to pay to illegal actions of the Transdniestrian administration. Meantime, it looks somehow unconvincing. Everything is clear with the left bank, but development partners can make quite reasonable complaints with the central authorities about current situation management. It will be difficult for them to understand why resources including diplomatic ones, which are so necessary in the conditions of the epidemiological crisis, are diverted to the need to stop the next “squabble” on the Dniester. The country's leadership does not lose hope to take advantage of the situation in its favor and to redraw the matrix of relations with Tiraspol. During the yesterday interview, the Moldovan negotiator Cristina Lesnic hastened to explain the meaning of Chisinau’s latest actions. She stated that closing the Moldovan-Ukrainian state border’s central section is “a well-developed and tested model for launching individual reintegration mechanisms - primarily through export-import trade and economic operations of the region”. The new reality, emerged over the past two weeks, has allowed the central authorities assess the scale and specifics of the Transdniestrian imports and the degree to which economic agents understand the left bank rules and procedures in accordance with Moldovan legislation. New circumstances for the Transdniestrian business were designed to eliminate possible roughness and demonstrate how painlessly the introduction of the second phase of the joint Moldovan-Ukrainian control at the Kuchurgan checkpoint and the implementation of import operations in strict accordance with Moldovan law can occur. Of course, Transdniestrian politicians will actively oppose such central Moldovan authorities’ plans. Therefore, at the current stage, Chisinau has an important task, that is to convince the left-bank economic agents of the benefits that they can gain if working according to general Moldovan rules. To solve this important task in a pandemic, one must act in a wise, extremely prompt and prudent way, step by step demonstrating humanistic principles of the Moldovan government. Regional business on the left bank should see Chisinau’s democratic European profile, which in extreme crisis conditions provides significantly more benefits and opportunities for business and public than the leadership of an unrecognized republic. It is useful to offer Transdniestrian preferential conditions and other simplified regimes, thereby attracting their sympathies and reinforcing the understanding of full work benefits within a national legal field. Actually, being given such a chance is a rarity. However, our politicians succeeded again to do it as they always do. Already the first steps in this direction have shown that the government does not have a systematic plan of work with Transdniestria in a pandemic and acts fairly straightforwardly. The experience of working with the pharmaceutical segment of Transdniestria is a vivid example of how one can’t work with business, since all ingenious ideas can be completely buried even by technical delays in importing a socially significant category of goods. Just what has ultimately happened. In a few weeks, Chisinau, through bureaucratic delays, did not only fail to gain the trust of Transdniestrian entrepreneurs but also presented Tiraspol with a whole bunch of additional arguments to be used in future settlement negotiations. The Tiraspol administration does not lose time anyway and is actively barricading from the rest of the Moldovan territory establishing more than ten additional posts and barrage structures. Thus, the public complaints and the Moldovan negotiator’s demands to ensure free access to Transdniestria for various categories of Moldovan citizens and officials under general quarantine emphasize the presence of a de facto border and of a full control over the region by the Tiraspol administration. What consequences will the current situation on the banks of the Dniester have? There are all reasons to believe that both Chisinau and Tiraspol clearly understand: the post-pandemic period will radically differ from the conditions of recent years and further coexistence will have to be built in completely different regional and global circumstances. That is why each of the parties tries to win back the most advantageous positions that are to determine the trajectory of further Transdniestrian settlement process.