Reintegration or Isolation: What are the Real Plans for Transnistria?

Home / Analytics / Reintegration or Isolation: What are the Real Plans for Transnistria?
Christian RUSSU
When analyzing the long-term infrastructure plans of the current government, I have an impression that they are aimed at isolating the eastern regions of the country as much as possible and reducing the existing social and economic ties between the two banks of the Dniester
The road from Chisinau to Tiraspol that was repaired before the EPC Summit raised many questions and ridicule because of the sharp break of the newly paved asphalt in the middle of Bulboaca Village. Several politicians from left-wing parties, including Igor Dodon, criticized the authorities for this mismanagement, symbolizing the neglect of the Transnistrian Region. Perhaps it is just a coincidence, and the relevant authorities, together with construction companies were indeed tasked to repair the road only on the route of official delegations; and no one thought about the landscapes towards the east and the accompanying political speculation. In fact, the road to the former president’s residence in Condrita was paved in the summer of 2020in a similar way, up to the split road. This small and even amusing episode is interesting from the point of view that it largely reflects the general trend. When analyzing the long-term infrastructure plans of the current government, we are convinced that the main goal for the next few years is the maximum isolation of the eastern regions of the country and the reduction of existing social and economic ties. Apparently, the authorities have decided that the policy of creating attractive living conditions on the right bank in order to change the opinion of Transnistrian residents toward living in a unified state is not justified. After all, this is a very long and labor-intensive process, and it is difficult to accelerate it as much as possible: the entire power structure, from the grassroots to the very top, needs maximum commitment, which is rather utopian in our realities. But there is another option, i.e. to gradually isolate itself from the left bank, worsening its position, and at the same time opening up for itself great prospects for personal gain in the process of energy and infrastructure diversification. In this case, it is probably possible to achieve more quickly that the showcase of a European right bank Moldova will look much more attractive than the separatist enclave under the Russian influence, whose situation will be deteriorating year by year. This is probably the plan of the authorities, according to which the processes of European integration and reintegration will run in parallel, but not necessarily in conjunction. EU High Representative Josep Borrell said in Castel Mimi literally the following, “Cyprus became a member of the European Union, having territorial issue – Moldova can do it, as well.” Such words could indicate that Brussels agrees with the deeper delimitation of the banks of the Dniester River, following the example of Cyprus, in order to speed up the process of Chisinau accession to the EU. Let’s take, for example, the railroad industry’s development strategy. This week, the Moldovan railroad authorities announced plans to reconstruct 400 km of railways from the north to the south in order to strengthen export-import potential and transit opportunities. If we look at the map, it is clear that we are talking about the rehabilitation of rail transport routes bypassing Transnistria, which were resorted to during brief periods of strained relations with the Tiraspol authorities. These are bypasses, and therefore they are a burden for economic agents. However, apparently, the authorities expect not to arrange railway transportation by the shortest route through Bendery and Kuchurgan for years to come. Nothing has been heard for a long time about the repair (with EU funding) of the bridge near the village of Gura-Bikului, part of the highway in Kuchurgan direction, which was discussed back in the Democratic Party period. Of course, all these points can be explained by the war in Ukraine and uncertain security prospects, but we have not heard anything about the plans of the authorities to develop infrastructure to strengthen the connection with the left bank, which were frustrated by the Russian invasion. In addition, the warfare in Ukraine over the past six months should inspire great optimism in our authorities, and while life has almost returned to its traditional course on the adjacent sections of the Moldovan-Ukrainian border. For six months now, right-bank Moldova has not purchased gas from the Russian monopolist. So far, our people are losing disproportionately, even after a significant reduction of the gas tariff for final consumers by 11 lei. However, the current exchange prices for the blue fuel in Europe have removed fears that the rupture of relations with Gazprom will be fatal for us. The prospects for stable gas supplies to the eastern regions with their energy-intensive industries are increasingly uncertain, especially against the background of recent events related to the ongoing large-scale destruction of the transport and transit infrastructure in the neighboring country. This April, the Romanian authorities succeeded in getting the Suceava-Belci high-voltage power transmission line (400 KW) included in the REPowerEU Program, through which the neighboring country receives money from the European Commission for the development of energy infrastructure. 76.5 million euros will be allocated for the Romanian section of the line, which is expected to be completed by 2026. Of course, in this case we can rather talk about Bucharest’s success in completing the project of ten years ago, which is intended to unite the entire Romanian energy system in a single ring, and the Moldovan section shall only be a transit segment towards the generating capacity in the Novodnestrovsk hydroelectric pumped storage power plant in Ukraine. However, the ruling party make it clear that the purpose of this project for Chisinau is to rule out attempts to blackmail Tiraspol in electricity supply and transit of Romanian electricity through the only high-voltage transmission line Isaccea-Vulcanesti-MGRES. So, when all the described plans and projects leading to the gradual degradation of the infrastructure linking the two banks of the Dniester, isolation and decline in living standards in Transnistria are implemented, the situation with reintegration will change dramatically. And by 2030, the estimated year of Moldova’s accession to the European Union, our reality and well-being will really make the regions on the left bank look enviously at our situation. At least, this is how the ruling party sees the prospects of the current plans, but time will tell what will be the result of this controversial strategy.