Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 198

As is the case every year since 2002, the unresolved conflict in Transnistria will almost certainly figure at or near the top of the agenda of the OSCE’s year-end conference on December 3-4 in Brussels. Hoping to show at least some movement toward settling at least this particular “frozen” conflict, the OSCE’s Belgian Chairmanship has prepared a proposal on the principles of Transnistria’s political status in Moldova. The proposal forms part of a set of three documents that also includes a proposal on an internationally mandated peacekeeping operation in Moldova/Transnistria (see EDM, October 23) and one on post-conflict economic assistance there.

The confidential document on status has been leaked to the press and severely criticized for attempting to graft formal elements of Belgian federalism onto substantive arrangements taken over from Russian-OSCE proposals to “federalize” Moldova (2002-2004). The Belgian Chairmanship’s proposal stops short of using the term “federation,” which has become unpalatable in Moldova as a result of those past proposals (Flux, October 19). Although the document is one of “general principles” as well as an outline to be filled with details, it seems clear that it would result in a dysfunctional Moldovan state if ever implemented. Apparently for this reason, the Moldovan government has declined to take it under consideration.

The document aims to “facilitate the settlement of conflict between the sides,” thus accepting Moscow’s pretense that the conflict involves two parts of Moldova. (The economic assistance document even speaks of “settling the conflict between Moldova and Transnistria.”) The proposal envisages “autonomy” for Transnistria within a “single state” of Moldova. Somewhat incongruously, however, the autonomy would take the “form of a republic,” implying full-fledged bodies of power within Moldova.

The delimitation of powers would be negotiated by “delegations [that] must be representative of the populations on whose behalf the negotiations would be conducted.” This stipulation would seem to reflect recent suggestions to reform Transnistria’s Supreme Soviet, redesignate it as a representative body, and involve it in the status negotiations.

The proposal would create a bicameral parliament for Moldova, with the Senate’s composition weighted to ensure overrepresentation for Transnistria (the actual proportions would subject to negotiations). The authorities in Transnistria would be entitled to conclude international agreements in the sphere of their competencies. Those authorities would, moreover, have the right to veto Moldova’s international agreements on issues affecting Transnistria’s competencies.

A Senate weighted in Tiraspol’s favor and the right for Tiraspol to veto certain international agreements of Moldova are features taken over from “federalization” proposals, including the 2003 Kozak plan. Such features were designed to enable authorities in Transnistria — and, by implication, Russia — to restrict Moldova’s independence and paralyze its policies on issues of interest to Russia.

Under the Belgian Chairmanship’s proposal, a consultative body would arbitrate differences between Chisinau’s and Tiraspol’s parliaments and executive-branch governments over implementing the settlement. The latter’s members would include representatives of the “guarantor countries.’’ Furthermore, Moldova’s Constitutional Court, being empowered to check the constitutionality of Transnistria’s laws, would include judges representing the “guarantor countries” among the Court’s members.

The Belgian proposal does not identify those “guarantor countries.” The only countries so designated in any documents are Russia and Ukraine in the 2002-2004 “federalization” proposals by Russia and the OSCE, which never took effect, were repudiated by Moldova, and have no legal value in Moldova or internationally. Moldova would evidently not accept Russian or Ukrainian judges to sit on its courts (least of all on its Constitutional Court) even if such judges were to be selected by the chairman of the Strasbourg-based European Court of Human Rights as the Belgian proposal envisages.

As with the “federalization” and some other settlement proposals, the Belgian proposal envisages that Transnistria would exercise the right of secession from Moldova in the event that Moldova decides to unite with Romania.

For the first time in the long-running history of these negotiations, the OSCE’s Belgian Chairmanship now introduces the socioeconomic dimension to conflict-resolution and proposes adding it to the agenda of negotiations. That dimension would include economic development goals in addition to the reconstruction and relief goals. Under OSCE Mission guidance, a Needs Assessment Mission would be formed, identify projects, and refer them to donors, in parallel with the negotiations.

The Moldovan government welcomes this proposal for a Needs Assessment Mission, seems skeptical regarding the Chairmanship’s peacekeeping mission (Chisinau backs a proposed peacekeeping mission under the EU), and it cannot be expected to take the status document under consideration.