Moldovan President Delivers Secret Draft On Externally Guaranteed “neutrality”

Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 24

On June 1, Moldova’s Communist President Vladimir Voronin handed over to foreign ambassadors in Chisinau the draft of a “Stability and Security Pact for the Republic of Moldova.” The pact would, in effect, place the country under vaguely defined external guarantees. The proposed arrangement would be unprecedented in contemporary Europe.

The six-part document is secret and intended as the basis for negotiations among five would-be guarantors, along with Moldova. Those nominated are Russia, the US, Ukraine, Romania, and the European Union, listed in this order. Of these, Russia alone has troops stationed in Moldovan territory. The proposed pact fails to mention the presence of Russian troops, let alone their withdrawal.

The proposal stems from a mix of contradictory motivations: exasperation with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)-run semblance of a negotiating process on Transdniester; ambivalence toward “federalization”; general sense of insecurity and the legitimacy-deficit which characterizes Moldova’s leadership; and, its election-year opportunism in seeking the appearance of endorsement from both Russia and the West while drifting between them. This mix of motivations reflects ambiguities and internal contradictions within the proposal.

In his presentation to the ambassadors, published by Moldovan media (June 1-2) and which is attached to the secret draft, Voronin calls for negotiations to be crowned by a conference of foreign affairs ministers to sign the final text of the pact.

Under Article 1, reaffirming Moldova’s territorial integrity and its internationally recognized borders, signatories “shall do everything in their power to ensure the security of Moldova’s borders, as well as transparency and full control of customs [along] those borders.” The reference to jointly ensured security of borders could pave the way for a Russian role on the Moldovan side of the Moldova-Romania border. That border is now a NATO border and will soon become the European Union’s (EU’s) border as well. There is no need for a five-party effort involving Russia to provide security on that border. Romania, the EU and Moldova can accomplish this goal by direct arrangements among themselves, rather than through a pact that includes Russia. On the other hand, reference in the document to customs control clearly alludes to the Transnistria sector of Moldova’s border with Ukraine, where massive contraband and illegal trafficking takes place. These activities sustain Transnistria’s economy while draining Moldova’s. Vitally interested in stopping those activities, Moldova realizes that it will not achieve this goal through federalization. Hence, while enshrining federalization in Article 3 of the draft pact (see below), Voronin seeks a different format and set of players in hopes of ensuring control of that porous border.

In Article 2, signatory parties would call for “absolute observance of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Moldova’s entire population,” as well as for “secure participation of the entire society in free democratic processes throughout the [territory] of Moldova.” This refers mainly to holding elections and referenda in Transnistria as part of Moldova’s elections and referenda, instead of separately as is now. This has been the situation since 1991. Again, lack of confidence in federalization seems to prompt Voronin to seek assurances elsewhere.

Article 3, enshrining “federative principles” as the basis for settling the Transnistria problem, would put the signatories on record as being “convinced that an asymmetric federal setup would reliably ensure internal stability.” Chisinau seeks endorsement of an “asymmetric” federation in hopes of overcoming Transnistria’s insistence on a federation among coequal parties, or confederation. Negotiations over Transnistria’s status have been deadlocked since 1997 on this theoretical controversy, exacerbated since 2002 by the introduction of federalization. That negotiations over Moldova’s “federal” constitution should turn on this theoretical point is a measure of the gap between the negotiating process and reality. Chisinau, being the weakest party, grasps at that academic straw.

In Article 4, Chisinau wants signatories to define Moldova as a “poly-ethnic state,” to declare that “cultural, ethnic and linguistic diversity are of fundamental value [to] Moldova,” and to stipulate that “inter-ethnic consensus in Moldova shall be possible solely [through] comprehensive development of poly-ethnicity and ethno-cultural diversity.” This type of discourse expresses the Moldovan Communists’ flight from any clear national identity. While the population is 65 percent Moldovan/Romanian-speaking, the ruling group, rooted in the Soviet era, seeks security of tenure in diluting the identity of the titular majority. At the same time, the Communist Party encourages Russian cultural identification by non-Russian ethnic groups, lumps them together as “Russian-speaking population” — although Russians form a minority within that overall category — and depends on getting a winning edge in elections from that bloc of voters.

Under Article 5, which addresses military issues, signatories would “guarantee Moldova’s permanent neutrality” and would “support the plan for gradual demilitarization of all military units located throughout the [territory] of Moldova.” Nothing is said about how the guarantees would operate; presumably this would be a matter for negotiation. The goal of “gradual demilitarization” refers to the respective armies of Moldova and Transnistria. The federalization project authorizes two parallel armies – those of Moldova and Transnistria — on equal legal footing. That project fails to set any timetable or procedure for demilitarization, and tolerates stationing of Russian troops. While pressured by Russia and the OSCE to negotiate on that flawed basis, Chisinau now reaches out through this document for external backing of gradual demilitarization. However, this implies Chisinau’s acceptance of a Russian military presence.

Draft Article 6 stipulates that the pact would enter into force “upon being signed,” would have the force of international law, and be registered with the United Nations. There is no mention of parliamentary ratification. The document provides five signature slots for would-be guarantors. No slot is provided for Moldova’s signature. Such an omission — particularly in a document intended as a contractual arrangement under international law — seems to reflect the drafters’ acceptance of a subordinate role with limited sovereignty.

In his public presentation of the draft pact, Voronin reaffirmed Moldova’s choice of neutrality — now redefined without explanation as “strategic neutrality” — and assured the assembled ambassadors that any “federal” constitution would retain the neutrality status. However, Voronin neglected to mention the existing constitutional ban on stationing foreign troops in the country. Voronin also did not state whether a federal constitution would retain this ban.

In that presentation, Voronin told the ambassadors that Moldova maintains internal and regional stability by balancing “European integration” and “relations with the CIS,” the latter being the codeword for relations with Russia. Thus, “Moldova must not be asked to choose between one good thing and another good thing.” Rather, Moldova “expects a multilateral compromise.” This argument serves indirectly to rationalize resistance of Moldovan Communists to reforms, and failure to meet even minimal criteria for European integration.

With all its glaring flaws, the draft pact appears to seek three main goals: first, some degree of sovereign authority in Transnistria, which Chisinau has no chance of attaining through ongoing negotiations led by Russia and OSCE; second, acceptance of the Communists’ manipulative ethno-politics, billed as the internal counterpart to an external balancing act, ostensibly in the name of stability; and, third, an implicit endorsement of the incumbent Communist leadership in this electoral year through a pact signed by the main external players. Communist leadership has not yet commented on the draft. Reactions from the Communist leadership may be expected to range from politely ignoring the proposed pact to asking some very hard questions. However, the quality of the document reflects the overall professional decline of the presidential advisory team and Foreign Affairs Ministry since the Communist Party returned to power in 2001.