Western partners push Moldova to rigidly mark its borders, despite the possible negative consequences in the form of an escalated Transdniestrian conflict and aggravated relations with Moscow
This April, the UN Interregional Crime and Justice Research Institute conducted an EU-backed large-scale study on illegal financial transactions in Moldova. According to the report, the main types of crimes are tax evasion, major financial fraud, smuggling, corruption, drug trafficking, trafficking in persons and illegal goods, and cybercrime. According to expert rough estimates, our country loses annually about 13% of GDP, or about 1 billion dollars, due to illegal activities.
Whether a coincidence or not, but the document appeared this spring when the parliamentary crisis was at its peak, and quickly grew into a kind of “banner” for the current president. Based on the catastrophic indicators in the report, Maia Sandu and a political formation close to her have easily charged the electoral program with meaning by proposing the electorate a radically new national course and a team of “decent people” ready to challenge the current state system.
The central (Transdniestrian) section of our border with Ukraine as one of the most vulnerable cross-border places for Moldova traditionally stands apart. The head of state regularly articulates that the issue of traffic in this region is one of the key issues for the country’s security. For this reason, the central segment is included in the list of priority topics in negotiations with the Ukrainian president, on whom Sandu pins special hope in resolving a complex of transboundary problems.
As known, one of the possible formulas is a joint border control which is growing in demand every year, and Chisinau is gradually coming to realize this. It is for this reason that the acting Prime Minister Aureliu Ciocoi said in winter that the practice of extending the preferential regime for the import of goods by economic agents from the left bank across the eastern border should be stopped and that the current legislation should function in full.
It must be noted that Kyiv in principle has long been ready for more decisive measures. It demonstrated a sufficient degree of solidarity with Chisinau during the active phase of the pandemic when the functioning of all checkpoints on the Transdniestrian border section was suspended, except for the Cuciurgan section where a joint control mechanism is implemented.
Western development partners have long made attempts to convince Chisinau that the integrated control of Moldova and Ukraine over a common border is not only a key to trade and economic stabilization in the region, but also, in a sense, a catalyst for the Transdniestrian settlement. Therefore, efforts, primarily by the European Union, in the area of border management will only be increased, especially in the event of a convincing victory by pro-Western forces on July 11.
Regardless of the pre-election context, efforts in this area are one way or another already underway. Last week, the EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) hosted the meeting of the SBU and NIB representatives who agreed to build up the potential for jointly combating cross-border crime on the Moldovan-Ukrainian border. The main result of the meeting was an agreement to exchange operational information on a regular basis which will increase the efficiency of responding to the challenges faced by both states. EUBAM management, in turn, expressed its readiness to provide strategic, analytical and operational support to the interaction between the two security services.
That the issue of effective control and cross-border interaction between Chisinau and Kyiv is in Brussels’ focus is also confirmed by the fact that earlier this month the Deputy Director-General of the Directorate General of the European Commission for Neighborhood and Enlargement Negotiations Katarina Mathernova visited the Moldovan capital and informed Maia Sandu that Brussels allocates 600 million euros subject to an active fight against corruption and other factors that negatively affect the development of Moldova. The European official paid a separate visit to the EUBAM office in Odessa, where she discussed the Mission’s efficiency, the current mandate and implementation of the Integrated Border Management concept in the region, as well as initiatives implemented jointly with the customs and border services of Moldova and Ukraine in the field of the Transdniestrian settlement.
Also, in early June, the head of the OSCE Mission to Moldova held a meeting with the Polish General Slawomir Pichor, who leads the EUBAM. This is an additional indicator of a possible enhanced role of the border mission, especially given the upcoming OSCE chairmanship of Poland next year.
Thus, a noticeable intensification of the border consolidation issue is apparently designed to become another important element of strengthening the potential of the future Moldovan government and a space for additional political achievements of the Moldovan president. It will have a particular impact on the Transdniestrian settlement.
The EU seems to believe that the conflict resolution in the current conditions is not possible through negotiations and therefore has decided to change the paradigm by strengthening the position of one of the parties and giving it the opportunity to dictate its will to the other. The “border club” that eventually ended up in Chisinau’s hands seems to be an effective tool in a conversation with Tiraspol. At the same time, this tool is generally repressive, and therefore the issue of border control on the Transdniestrian sector since its inception has significantly fueled relations between the two banks of the Dniester.
One should admit that Moscow’s stance is even a more significant factor, since Russia does not plan to change the status quo around the region at the current stage. Therefore, the Kremlin is unlikely to sit idly by, watching the ongoing processes, especially if its allies in Moldova lose in early elections. This was confirmed by yesterday’s statement by the State Duma, unanimously adopted by Russian parliamentarians, about the inadmissibility of pressure on Transdniestria and measures to increase support for this territory.
Apparently, Chisinau understands the multidimensional nature of the problem associated with the presence of an uncontrolled section of the state border, without risking a radical solution here and now. Therefore, the Cabinet of Ministers yesterday resolved to again postpone the introduction of the second stage of customs and border control in Cuciurgan to a later date.
It is curious indeed that this time the delay was shorter than usual, which can be interpreted as a certain signal to external forces that Chisinau does not intend to delay this problem endlessly. In the end, Western partners simply won’t let Moldovan authorities do this. Most likely, they will continue to encourage Moldova to rigidly mark the borders in order to finally close the state perimeter and thereby create conditions for the country’s further transformation. The possible negative consequences, namely the escalated Transdniestrian conflict and aggravated relations between Chisinau and Moscow, are apparently considered quite acceptable, and perhaps even desirable.
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