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Homepage > Publication Type > Media Releases > Moldova's Uncertain Future

Moldova's Uncertain Future

Chisinau/Brussels  |   17 Aug 2006

Moldova has recently turned toward the West, but greater international engagement is needed to resolve the conflict with breakaway Transdniestria if Moldova is to become a stable neighbour to the European Union.

Moldova’s Uncertain Future,* the latest report from the International Crisis Group, examines the prospects for ending the stalemate between Moldova and the rebel region of Transdniestria. Recent initiatives by the EU and Ukraine, including EU border monitors, have changed the equation, but no settlement is likely until and unless Russia revises its position. While a constitutional agreement that reunites the country remains a realistic long-term goal, the immediate priorities should be to increase Moldova’s political and economic attractiveness and to build confidence between the two sides.

“Moldova has to transform itself into a country Transdniestrians actually want to rejoin”, says Dan Vexler, Crisis Group’s Research Director. “But even with progress on that front, addressing the lack of mutual trust will take years”.

The standoff between Moldova and Transdniestria is often included with the other “frozen conflicts” of the former Soviet Union – Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Nagorno-Karabakh in the South Caucasus. Since the 14th Army intervened to stop the fighting in 1992, Russian troops, now labelled peacekeepers, have stood guard as Transdniestria has steadily consolidated its de facto independence, thanks to an economy based on Soviet-era industry, smuggling, and the support – political, economic, and military – of Moscow.

Barring a softening of Russia’s stance, the best chance for moving towards a settlement is to convince the Transdniestrian business community that cooperating with Moldova is in its own interests. There is evidence that some business leaders are growing frustrated with Transdniestrian leader Igor Smirnov and may be willing to work with Moldova.

Moldova should show real political commitment to implementing the EU-Moldova Action Plan, in particular in the areas of media freedom, anti-corruption, judicial reform and the business environment. Transdniestria should call off the 17 September referendum on independence and work constructively with Moldova and the international mediators on reaching a settlement, and, more immediately, on customs and trade issues. The EU, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and other donors ought to give more technical aid for reforms if Moldova demonstrates a genuine willingness to use it effectively, and the EU should grant Autonomous Trade Preferences to key Moldovan agricultural products, as well as goods produced by Transdniestrian factories.

“The EU’s deepening involvement in the Moldova-Transdniestria dispute is important and to be commended,” says Nicholas Whyte, Director of Crisis Group’s Europe Program. “But with Russia wielding its power through such blunt tools as export bans, energy cut-offs and the continued deployment of unwanted troops, the EU must do far more with both incentives and pressures to secure peace and prosperity in its neighbourhood”.

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