“Irrelevant Settlement”. Why the Post of Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Remains Vacant

Home / Analytics / “Irrelevant Settlement”. Why the Post of Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration Remains Vacant
Vladislav Kulminski’s resignation vacated the post of Deputy Prime Minister for reintegration. But the government seems to be in no hurry to appoint a successor, even amid the deteriorating situation in negotiations with Transdniestria. Why so?
Vladislav Kulminski, despite his short-term tenure as Deputy Prime Minister for reintegration, proved to be all-rounded and, unlike many colleagues, even managed to shine on the bright side. He played a significant part in resolving the gas crisis with Moscow. His negotiating skills, well-known pragmatism and expressed promises convinced the Kremlin-backed Gazprom PJSC and the Kremlin itself that it is possible and necessary to deal with the country’s current leadership. Yet, his subsequent resignation implies that those promises may well remain unfulfilled. And, by the way, something similar is likely to happen in the Transdniestrian settlement. There, the ex-deputy Prime Minister quite actively communicated with his Transdniestrian counterpart Vitaly Ignatiev. At the same time, it is obvious that at these meetings both sides “accumulated” obligations to each other as well as to the international partners involved in the settlement. For example, Vladislav Kulminski was willing to help solve the region’s vehicle problems that arose after Ukraine banned Transdniestrian cars from entering its territory. Kulminski also stood in solidarity with Tiraspol about holding a Permanent Conference meeting in the 5+2 format. But the round was first postponed, and then put on indefinite hold. Apparently, the course implemented in the settlement turned out to be ideologically incorrect, and it became much easier to eliminate the figure than to deal with the quickly piled heap of promises and ties that many responsible decision-makers might not like. Underhand intrigues and professional jealousy impacted Vladislav Kulminski’s career misfortunes, while he tried to promote pragmatic solutions and a non-conflict course of dialogue with Tiraspol and Moscow. But the resignation is not only related to dissatisfaction with his performance. Even the differences in patrons and professional background between him and the rest of the government team, including the influential Andrei Spinu, can hardly be considered critical. I think that the main reason is that at this stage the authorities do not need a high official in the Transdniestrian direction at all. We don’t need someone who will sit at the negotiating table with representatives of Tiraspol on a weekly basis and sign papers. Of course, someone will be involved in the process, but from the shadows, without stepping up and taking responsibility for any decisions. Or everything will continue in the shouted messages across the Dniester, which the newly created parliament commission on the Transdniestrian settlement can perfectly handle. In this sense, Vladislav Kulminski’s dismissal fits perfectly into the logic of a temporary freezing in negotiations. As the colleagues have already noted, the ruling party seems to be willing to suspend the process and disengage from direct communication with another side. Instead, information confrontation and attempts to enlist the support of Brussels, Washington and Kiev may be intensified in order to present the creation of a parliamentary group as the start for defining the region’s future status as part of a united Moldova. Tiraspol will have no choice but to count on Moscow’s help in its pursuit for independence and removal of a number of barriers in trade and economic activity. Therefore, despite Mihai Popsoi’s announcement on the upcoming appointment of a new deputy prime minister for reintegration, there have been no credible rumors about the candidate so far. This proves the idea that for the time being the chief negotiator with Tiraspol will not be appointed, since there is no special need for this. The refusal to appoint Vladislav Kulminski’s successor can be formally explained, including to foreign partners, for example, by the banal absence of applicants for a vacant position. Similar inquiries about hundreds of unclaimed vacancies have already been made by the government. In addition, it is always possible to caution against rash appointments, because none of the last five political representatives remained in this position for more than a year. On the other hand, the absence of an authorized person, in practical terms, coincides with the short-term strategy of the country’s leadership which envisages no concessions for the breakaway region, and, therefore, there is not much to talk about. Moreover, starting from January 1, a full-fledged joint border and customs control of Ukraine and Moldova is planned to be launched in Cuciurgan, which aims at bringing the Transdniestrian imports under Moldovan jurisdiction based on the same model as it was with exports 15 years ago. Certainly, this process causes an extremely negative reaction from Tiraspol which in the current context will not even be able to channel it to a certain official from the government. As we can see, Chisinau is not interested now in holding a permanent conference meeting where all participants have an equal voice and specific decisions must be adopted. On the contrary, negotiations being stalled is beneficial for introducing regimes that do not suit Tiraspol and/or Moscow. After all, the 5+2 format can potentially stop any aggravation. Yet, it cannot function without a political representative of Chisinau, one of the parties to the settlement. And if the format is not functional, then there is no one to manage the conflict. The inevitable deterioration can then be used for their own purposes to cover up failures in socio-economic policy, unsuccessful reforms and so forth.