Expert: Dumping the Transnistrian Settlement on the EU Will Not Work

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It seems that ruling party has given up trying to combine the processes of European integration and reintegration, fully concentrating on the former, and expecting to outsource the latter to Brussels 
Sergiu CEBAN, RTA: Last week, the head of the EU Delegation to Moldova made a remarkable visit to Tiraspol. According to local administration reports, measures to revitalize the negotiation process were discussed. Meanwhile, it is obvious that one of the main topics was the issue of Moldova’s integration into the EU. Whether the European representative brought some proposals to the authorities of the region or tried to clarify their position, it is difficult to say yet. However, let us try to find out. As of today, our authorities are focused on the nine recommendations of Brussels, which, if implemented, seem to have a good chance of launching accession negotiations by the end of this year. However, some experts are skeptical about this probability, drawing parallels with the last NATO summit and the very restrained position of the West regarding Ukraine, Moldova and other countries that were waiting for distinct political signals. In the end, the alliance did not give clear prospects, so there is a great risk that Brussels will do the same with regard to Kyiv - and, therefore, Moldova will also remain in the “waiting room”. Besides, our government has become so linear in its statements about European integration that recently it has not even stated anything clear about how it sees the interconnection of negotiations with the EU and with the Transnistrian administration. Even if we assume that Brussels decides to launch official negotiations, it is still not clear how the results will be implemented on the left bank, whether Tiraspol will be ready to get involved, and whether Chisinau needs it at all. The synchronization of the two processes was previously discussed but apparently this concept has not been documented or put into practice. The suspicious silence has prompted some experts to formulate the most bizarre versions and speculations, up to the point that we seriously consider the possibility of abandoning the Transnistrian region in order to join the EU as soon as possible. There is a rumor that in the government they say - the “Transnistrian burden” is too heavy to be distracted by it, to waste time and resources and, as a result, to miss the historic chance to take a seat in the rapidly receding train of European integration. These suspicions are fueled by the ambiguous statements of our chief diplomat Nicu Popescu, who says that Chisinau expects to settle the Transnistrian issue in the process of accession to the European Union - however, if it does not happen, only the right bank of the Dniester will join the EU. And then the process of reintegration will continue in new context. Maia Sandu is more consistent and expects to join the EU by 2030 together with Transnistria. As before, she expects to resolve the Transnistrian issue thanks to the attractiveness of the right bank after the big “Euro-renovation” of Moldova. Of course, it is inappropriate for the head of state to speculate about the scenarios of European integration and reintegration. However, the lack of specifics from the president suggests that there is absolute silence and hope for chance. European officials seem to admit the application of the Cyprus’ European integration option, but so far these statements lack clear content and require comprehensive analyses. The model of Cyprus’ accession to the EU, of course, answers some questions in the case of Moldova, but not all of them. Moreover, this option does not take into account a lot of nuances and, in general, the specifics of our unresolved conflict, as well as the ability of Kyiv to influence the processes around our state. Tiraspol, of course, listens carefully to the statements from Chisinau about the opportunity for resolving the conflict, which suddenly fell on the Moldovan authorities together with the European perspective. However, judging by the statements of Transnistrian representatives, they still do not understand how exactly Chisinau plans to take advantage of this unique chance and combine European integration and Transnistrian settlement. We should not underestimate the left-bank government, which has always been well versed in the intricacies of Moldovan politics and has used the indecisiveness of our authorities to strengthen its position. Therefore, in the absence of a “road map”, we cannot rule out an unexpected “surprise” from Tiraspol at the start of negotiations. For instance, they will organize another referendum on “foreign policy direction” and integration aspirations. It is easy to guess how exactly this may affect Chisinau’s further negotiations with the EU member states. Obviously, Moldova’s aspiration to join the European Union makes it necessary for any final agreement between Chisinau and Tiraspol to be approved by not only European political structures, but also by all EU member states. Otherwise, any settlement model not agreed with Brussels may become another “Kozak plan”. Let us frankly say that the majority of European-oriented citizens have long ago solved the Transnistrian problem by drawing a border along the Dniester and expecting that this will hasten up the process of integration into the EU. We can understand that, especially when Moldovan elites do not hide their desire to dress up as Greek Cypriots. At the same time, nobody wants to take into account the fundamental fact that unlike Cyprus, where the problem is inside the Euro-Atlantic body, Moldova, due to its geopolitical position, will not be accepted into the EU without a clear and agreeable to Brussels model of conflict resolution. In order to please Brussels once again, our officials actively speculate that all international participants in the negotiation process should become equal. Oleg Serebrian is increasingly vocal about the need to raise the status of the EU to that of a mediator. Therefore, it is strange that there are no parallel statements of EU officials about their mediation ambitions, as if they are unwilling to take on additional political and diplomatic burden. Alas, all this seems to be another ridiculous attempt by our authorities to shift the heavy burden of settlement, the painful reactions to the inevitable concessions to Tiraspol and the final formula for resolving the conflict onto the European Union. I dare to disappoint our experts: this plan is doomed in advance, and no one in Brussels will allow to shirk the entire burden of political and historical responsibility on the EU.