Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 120

With President Viktor Yushchenko’s name pro forma on its cover, the flawed Ukrainian conflict-settlement plan for Moldova/Transnistria seems to have met an early demise in Moldova’s parliament. In a respectful tenor toward the Ukrainian president, with whom official Chisinau seeks the best possible relations, the Moldovan parliament has elegantly disposed of the plan by critiquing its inadequacies on democracy and security and setting such prerequisites to implementation as to change the plan’s terms beyond recognition.

Actually prepared by Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council (NSDC) Secretary Petro Poroshenko and a staff of Kuchma-era holdovers, the plan envisaged: recognition of Transnistria’s Supreme Soviet as legitimate after quick-fix elections by October-November 2005 [under new, pro-Kyiv leaders, as Kyiv hoped]; co-equal status for Moldova and Transnistria as parties to a Treaty of Settlement alongside Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE; and post-settlement “guarantees” of Moldova’s internal constitutional arrangements by that same trio — a mechanism designed to exclude the West and Romania. Poroshenko’s plan drew largely on Yevgeny Primakov’s Moscow 1997 plan, updating the original’s formula of a Russian protectorate to that of a Russia-Ukraine condominium in Moldova. Poroshenko’s plan omitted any mention of the need to remove Russia’s forces from Transnistria.

On June 10, Moldova’s parliament adopted a package of three resolutions in response to the “Yushchenko” plan. Welcoming the Ukrainian president’s initiative, and repeatedly expressing appreciation for Kyiv’s willingness to play an active role in conflict-resolution efforts, the parliament expressed serious reservations about the plan’s content. The three documents identify the plan’s missing elements and insist that those be added to the Ukrainian plan as conditions sine qua non. These include demilitarization and democratization of Transnistria and curbing the illegal cross-border trade there.

Thus, the parliament sets “indispensable conditions” regarding demilitarization: 1) Russia to evacuate its arsenals and troops, other than “peacekeepers,” by the end of 2005; 2) Russian “peacekeepers” to be withdrawn by the end of 2006 and replaced with an international, OSCE-mandated mission of military and civilian observers; and 3) That mission to oversee the scrapping of any remaining Russian arsenals, demobilization of Transnistria’s military formations, and an employment program for the demobilized personnel, with technical and financial assistance from NATO through the Partnership for Peace program at Moldova’s request. While Chisinau here and elsewhere characterizes Russia’s forces in Transnistria (Russian Federation-flagged and Transnistria-flagged) as posing threats to regional security, Kyiv continues tacitly to condone that military presence on Ukraine’s border.

The Moldovan parliament lists the following preconditions to the holding of democratically valid elections in Transnistria: 1) dissolution of the political police and the “State Security Ministry” [a Moscow-run militarized institution]; 2) free operation of Moldovan political parties and Moldovan and international mass media in Transnistria; 3) an internationally assisted, comprehensive program for civil-society development in Transnistria; and 4) voters and candidates to be required to show Moldovan citizenship [Transnistria’s ruling personnel come mostly from Russia, a few from Ukraine]. “Unless these conditions are met, the rights of Moldova’s citizens in Transnistria and the free expression of their will can not be guaranteed, and the creation of representative bodies there will be impossible.”

The parliament also objects to two items in Kyiv’s plan that “could violate Moldova’s sovereignty.” One item would create a “Conciliation Committee” as a constitutional and legal arbiter between Chisinau and Tiraspol in the post-settlement period, to be composed of Russia, Ukraine, and the OSCE. This would place a reunified Moldova in effect under Russian-Ukrainian oversight, from which the West is excluded. Second, the parliament objects to “Transnistria’s participation in the conduct of Moldova’s foreign policy on issues involving Transnistria’s interests.” This carryover from Primakov’s 1997 plan into Poroshenko’s 2005 plan would hand Tiraspol a veto on any issue that Tiraspol — or Moscow and perhaps also Kyiv as arbiters — would deem to involve Transnistria’s interests.

Finally, the Moldovan parliament calls for Ukraine’s cooperation in instituting joint control of the mutual border on the Transnistria sector, so as to curb smuggling through Transnistria. Thus far, influential elements in the Ukrainian government allow (as during the Kuchma era) Transnistria’s authorities to conduct those illegal trade operations across the border and through Ukraine.

President Vladimir Voronin’s advisory team, Parliamentary Chair Marian Lupu (unaffiliated), and Christian-Democrat leader Iurie Rosca worked closely together on these resolutions. The documents reflect a broadly based political consensus ranging from the nominally communist parliamentary majority to the pro-Western civil society groups. Official Chisinau is carefully avoiding any polemics with Kyiv or the appearance of rejecting the “Yushchenko” plan outright. Instead, it prefers to say, “Yes, but…” — whereby the “but” in fact cancels the “yes.” Chisinau still hopes to enlist Yushchenko’s and the Ukrainian government’s cooperation in curbing Transnistria’s unlawful trade.

(Moldpres, June 11; see EDM, May 17)