Why Would PAS Break the Economic Ties of the Two Banks of the Dniester?

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Anton Șveț
By keeping on economically cutting off the left bank from the rest of Moldova, the ruling party not only triggers financial losses for the country, but also risks destroying the main basis for a peaceful settlement of the Transdniestrian conflict
Yesterdayin an interview, the Speaker of the Parliament, Igor Grosu, expressed doubts about the possibility of reintegration of the left bank of the Dniester in the near future, even called it dangerous. According to him, “Transdniestriashould actively enter the legal field of Moldova, including in terms of the economy, the use of Moldovan rules and regulations.” It is difficult to say how sincere Grosu is in his reasoning, but they match reality in no way. In fact, there is a systematic destruction of economic ties between the two banks of the Dniesterat the moment which has recently gathered threatening pace. And Natalia Gavrilita’s government appointed by parliament bears evenlarger share of responsibility for this, than the separatist administration of Tiraspol, which has long been prone to a certain pragmatism when it comes to production, transport and international trade. It turns out that it is the right bank that isnot currently capable of becoming a reliable partner in these key issues for the welfare of the population. And the point here is not only and not so much that the authorities had not appointed a deputy prime minister for negotiations with Tiraspol for a long time or ignored Transdniestria’s calls for the so-called “top level” negotiations. The point is that even Oleg Serebrian’s appointment two months ago did not particularly improve the situation – the parties weren’t capable of normal interaction, and they still cannot do it. Take, for example, the notorious transport issue. The work of the offices for issuing so-called “neutral-design”license plates is still blocked by Tiraspol due to the arrest of blanks with Transdniestrian symbols. But their activities give rise to the legal relationship of accountable Transdniestrian vehicles, as well as their owners with the Moldovan state – exactly what Igor Grosu is talking about. Nevertheless, as we can see, no one hurries to solve this issue –the respective working groups that previouslyheld regular meetings don’t even seem to meetthis year. It seems that PAS has once again got involves into a story from which there is simply no good way out. And while some of our officials are showing off formal principles, the reintegration of the transport industry of the left bank of the Dniester is on pause. Probably, it is not even worth mentioning such trifles as the fact that the procedure for switching Pridnestrovian cars to neutral numbers is a paid service and brings income to the budget of the Public Services Agency. Another example is the alarming situation of OJSC Moldova Steel Works in Ribnita. According to the plantmanagement, the production of rolled metal was suspended exactly a month ago. And this is under unprecedented demand in Western European countries for the plant’s products and insane steel prices. Even last year, at lower prices, the company’s supplies provided almost half of the Transdniestrian region’s exports. The reason for the shutdown of the plant is the lack of raw materials. Scrap metal from the European Union, primarily Romania, has not been received since last autumn – due to the ban of the European Commission, implemented on the basis of the Environment Ministry’sappeal, sent back in 2019, when Maia Sandu was prime Minister. The current Government is not making serious efforts to somehow improve the situation. On the contrary, a month ago, deliveries of scrap collected on the right bank’sterritory to the enterprise were prohibited. Political outsiders from the Dignity and Truth Platform, as well as unsavory individuals who decided to participate in the market division vacated by Metalferos, contributed to this decision. And this is despite the fact that Moldova Steel Works demonstrates maximum openness by allowing a Moldovan inspection and requesting our environmental permits. Wasn’t it Igor Grosu’sdesire? As a result, catastrophic damage affects our trucking companies, forced to stand idle; scrap collectors due to a colossal decline in demand and a corresponding drop in raw material prices by almost half; as well as the construction industry, deprived of a stable source of rolled metal and wire rodsupplies. The final shutdown of the enterprise will become a problem for both banks of the Dniester, but no serious dialogue on this matter, apparently, is being under way. Due to the military operation in Ukraine and the completely stopped railway communication in the eastern direction, the State Enterprise "Railway of Moldova" is virtually about to collapse. The situation could be somewhat improved by the supply of scrap metal from Romania and petroleum products to the Transdniestrian region by rail, but ... no negotiations in that regard are also under way. The situation with electricity supplies from the Cuciurgani GRES remains uncertain. Only a short-term contract for one month was reportedly concluded. Pridnestrovian representatives demand to resolve the issue of converting Moldovan lei paid for electricity consumed. The problem exists due to the lack of normal interbank cooperation. We would also benefit from resolving this problem, given the shortage of national currency in the domestic financial market, but for Tiraspol this issue is even more fundamental. This seems to be the reason why Moldovan authorities have more than once ignored the calls of the Transdniestrian administration. Apparently, to think in terms of mutual benefit, without ideological dogmas and prejudices is simply beyond the ruling party's capabilities. Transdniestria, meanwhile, imposed a 100% duty on the export of a number of cereals, oilseeds and industrial crops from the republic, including to Moldova. The right-bank consumers and transporters of these Pridnestrovian goods will suffer considerable financial damage, leading to possible difficulties with food security. Tiraspol, in turn, systematically complains about its cargo being detained. It's not just about raw materials for MMZ or car numbers. In recent weeks, detentions of medicines, mineral fertilizers and pesticides, gasoline and diesel fuel, raw materials and equipment for a number of local enterprises have been reported. What prevents us from agreeing on the normal mutual passage of goods, at least on a temporary basis, amid the military actions in Ukraine?! All this raises serious questions to the government and the deputy prime minister for reintegration - whether he shares the publicly voiced opinion of Igor Grossu, and if so, why there has been no progress in the settlement since his appointment, and the situation is growing only worse. The authorities should understand that their actions lead to the destruction of economic ties that have developed peacefully between the banks of the Nistru River for years. This trade and customs linkage has remained a characteristic feature for many years, favorably distinguishing the Transdniestrian problem from other frozen conflicts in Europe. It helped build cooperation and stay hopeful that a mutually beneficial peaceful settlement of the conflict is possible. However, Natalia Gavrilita's short-sighted government, imprisoned by ideological attitudes and influenced by Bucharest, fails in fact deliberately to organize economic cooperation with the left bank. Apparently, the PAS appointees truly don't understand that if a corridor through the Odessa region results from a special operation against Ukraine, only serious economic interdependence between the two banks will help prevent the forceful border fixing along the Dniester. And no one but the current government will be liable for the alienation of the territory and the failed negotiations.