Why Did the Authorities Urgently Need a Strategy to Reintegrate the Country?

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Sergiu CEBAN
Apparently, at the urging of international partners, the authorities are forming a common vision of the Transdniestrian settlement model, which will be put into practice as early as next year
Yesterday it became known about the extension for the next month of the energy contract with the MGRES that will supply at the same price 86% of the necessary monthly demand of the right bank. Thus, Chisinau and Tiraspol, despite the regular squabbles during this year, still close it with a mutually beneficial deal, hoping, apparently, at least in winter to provide stability for the economy and the population. But, as they say, energy is not the only thing. In spite of the approaching holiday period, a serious intrigue is playing out politically around the Transdniestrian issue. Almost every week there are various information volleys that seem to be intended to draw public attention to this topic. There is a sense that our authorities are hastily preparing for something. For example, a few weeks ago, Deputy Prime Minister Oleg Serebrian announced that a strategy for the reintegration of the country was in the making. The general concept has allegedly already been presented to the chairman of the parliament, the presidency, and relevant experts. It seems to be another attempt to formulate a common vision for the Transdniestrian settlement, which international partners have long been urging. And at the end of last week, Serebiyan told the public that a reintegration plan was already being prepared. According to him, there have been more than ten such plans in thirty years, but none of them has obviously been successful. By all accounts, the zeal of our officials, who at the end of the year rolled up their sleeves and began to map out a model for resolving the Transdniestrian conflict, looks very suspicious. The Parliament is also doing its part, improving national legislation in parallel. Thus, the Criminal Code will soon contain new notions, such as separatism, self-proclaimed power, creation of illegal structures, conspiracy, espionage, etc. Gagauzia may be the main target of the amendments, but they are taken personally in Tiraspol, which sees in them an attempt of Chisinau to put pressure on the administration and residents of the region. In principle, the deputies did not invent anything new, but merely implemented the old “formula of Oazu Nantoi”, in which he proposed that the leaders of Tiraspol either find their place in the Moldovan Constitution or in the Criminal Code. By the way, Nantoi has not abandoned his views even today, saying the other day that he sees no point in conducting any negotiations with Tiraspol, and instead, together with international partners, should develop a conflict resolution plan and ultimatum to put it on the table. And then those in the region who accept it will be forgiven, and all those who disagree will have to leave. Many criticized the experienced politician for such a harsh and uncompromising position, and even his own party disowned his remarks, ritually confirming that it would pursue reintegration through diplomacy. Still, it could also be a special good-cop-bad-cop-style, where Tiraspol is hinted that if it will not negotiate amicably, it could always be involved in much less pleasant scenarios. We must not forget that the background of the Transdniestrian settlement, as always, has a correlation with the Gagauz case. Although the latter is considered to be closed, but Comrat will certainly continue to look for any reason to play up the dissatisfaction and “to fish out additional powers in troubled waters”. Therefore, the potential status negotiations with Tiraspol will be surely perceived there as a “window of opportunity”, which the Gagauz politicians will try to use to the maximum. Our leadership definitely feels all these risks and is aware of what a “Pandora’s Box” will open at the moment of resuming both internal and external consultations on the status of the left bank. Apparently, these political phobias are at the root of the calls, heard in Chisinau, not to be ceremonious with Comrat, accompanied by threats to the Gagauz leadership not only to ignore their wishes, but also to deprive the region of the autonomy status altogether. In theory, the publicizing of all these processes suggests that there is a reconciliation of the position on the further territorial-political organization of Moldova going on in the depths of the power. Obviously, so far, we have heard only echoes of the radically adjusted politicians, but in the near future the power representatives too will throw light upon the plans. At the same time, Ukraine, which is interested in closing the Transdniestrian case to some extent even more than we are, still believes that we have no special opportunities or desire to change anything drastically in the established balance of relations with the Transdniestrian administration. But it is the general movement around the Ukrainian conflict that will certainly create good conditions for the emergence of new options and acceleration of work on the resolution of the long-standing conflict already on our territory in the future. So far, there is no reason to believe that the authorities will decide to take an adventure and, together with Kyiv, play out a scenario of suppression of the Tiraspol regime by force. An attempt at a joint peace initiative is much more likely. For example, Ukrainian diplomats announced that a peace conference will be held under the aegis of the United Nations at the end of February. No details are yet reported, but it is not excluded that the event will cover security of the whole region in addition to Ukraine proper, and the Transdniestrian settlement will also be in the focus of attention. Given this, as well as a radical change in the geopolitics of the continent, our leadership is trying to find a more acceptable negotiation format for Transdniestria with the strengthening of the role of traditional partners and the involvement of new players. This can explain Oleg Serebrian’s words about waiting for Kyiv with expertise, because Ukraine is a party to the settlement process: “It is our most important neighbor in the negotiation process. Romania does not participate directly, but through the OSCE or the EU. But I think that Romania’s role has to increase, as does the role of the EU.” Maybe now we really should think thoroughly about convening an international conference on the Transdniestrian issue, too, inviting a wide range of participants, including Romania. In addition, we can consider the possibility of creating a new international format, in the depths of which a model for the reintegration of the country will be forged. Such an option might appeal to the authorities also from the point of view that Tiraspol would fall out of the negotiating equation, which would not be able to drag out the process further. At the same time, it is important to maintain the position that the reunification of the two banks is possible only peacefully, in order to avoid unnecessary disturbances both on the part of the Tiraspol administration and some foreign players.