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Transdniester: Legislative Head Comments On Customs Row


The parliament building in Tiraspol (RFE/RL) On March 15, RFE/RL Romanian and Moldovan Service correspondent Lina Grau spoke with Yevgheni Shevciuk, the speaker of the parliament of the unrecognized Transdniester republic about the ongoing row with Ukraine over new customs regulations and about the prospects for talks with Moldova aimed at resolving the frozen Transdniester dispute. Shevciuk said that although there are many opinions in the republic about what the territory's status should be, "they all, or a majority, are united around one thing: anything, but not with Moldova."


RFE/RL: What are the origins of the customs dispute with Ukraine? How did it come about?


Yevgheni Shevciuk: What is happening now is a result of the fact that some parties -- our partner Moldova and our neighbor Ukraine -- made an agreement, but did not take into account two factors: as a matter of fact Moldova does not share a common border with Ukraine, there is no [Moldovan] border in this area, it is the border between Transdniester and Ukraine. Whether we want it or not, under international law Transdniester is, of course, an unrecognized state. We understand this. However, we should pay attention to the real situation. The Transdniester Moldovan Republic exists, and so does a memorandum that fixed certain arrangements in Moscow in 1997. So [when Ukraine and Moldova say] these are just bilateral relations, that is probably not correct. The memorandum bears the signature of the Moldovan president. That is why this matter should at least have been reviewed by the Transdniester side. I won’t speak mention the provision envisaging the economic and commercial freedom of the Transdniester republic.


[The memorandum] contains a passage reducing the matter to the fact that in issues concerning the interests of Transdniester, a decision is made by consent of the parties. I don’t remember any document stating that Transdniester was asked for its agreement about the new [customs] regime.


Therefore, one obviously observes Moldova using certain economic levers to achieve political goals and ends. And this does not generally meet the logic of the method for achieving a peaceful settlement of conflict with minimal losses -- first of all for the populations both in Transdniester and in Moldova.

First of all, of course, and everybody knows it very well, that the customs delays will knock [Transdniester] enterprises out of the market. If we stay there [at the border] for a certain period of time, a month or more, some will lose markets to such an extent that they will not recover.

Today, these actions, in my opinion, have even farther pushed back the discussion regarding the construction of a common state.


Since 2001 when [Moldovan President Vladimir] Voronin came to power, he chose to resolve the conflict under the influence of negative factors. In my opinion, in order to involve someone, a kind of friendly approach is needed, a sort of positive perspective, something that could become in the future a foundation for examining subjects related to integration.


This all led to the fact that the problem could not be resolved. Certain mediators joined -- the European Union and the United States, while Russia and Ukraine already were guarantors. We enlarged the format [of the negotiations] to "five plus two"-- that is what has changed. And the measures to strangle Transdniester have become more active, I think. Where does this take us? First of all, of course, and everybody knows it very well, that the customs delays will knock [Transdniester] enterprises out of the market. If we stay there [at the border] for a certain period of time, a month or more, some will lose markets to such an extent that they will not recover.


And the most important thing is not that markets will be lost, but that we have encouraged the process of emigration. Right now, enterprises that halt work -- their managers are the first to leave. Yes, the salary here is lower than in Russia, but nevertheless there was a sign of a rise, and they felt at home here. But now these people can’t see any perspectives in sight, realizing that the situation is approaching a dead end.


RFE/RL: What can you say about the future?


Shevciuk: At this point I would be careful in remarks about the terms. I have heard a declaration by President Voronin that it could take a month. Speaking about who will resist and how much, in my opinion, is not what people are expecting from us. And what do you mean about resisting? We could...well, we are going to survive, but the matter is different. Look, it’s the 21st century outside, and people want to earn a living, to take care of their health, to study, and so on. And counting the time by expecting that we will survive two or three months, four months, half a year or one year -- that is making the situation even worse.


It is clear that Ukraine is supported by European structures, by a number of Western countries. In my opinion, the decision was made by the Ukrainian authorities, but not without the participation of some other parties. I think Ukraine will not give in. Moldova, too, is interested to see what happens in Transdniester society when the enterprises close. It would like seeing all coming to surrender and so on and so forth. It should be understood as well that when the situation bursts outside the framework of dialogue, when the situation gets out into the street, it is not clear who will use this situation and how, where the public of various opinions and different approaches will be flown to, because other rules will govern then.


RFE/RL: The main argument of Chisinau is that Tiraspol lives from smuggling. Does Transdniester really deal with smuggling businesses?


Shevciuk: Just like in Moldova! And like in Ukraine. And I have calculated that there are more smuggling cases in Moldova itself than one can count at the Moldovan-Ukrainian border or at the Moldovan-Romanian border, in comparison with the situation at the Transdniester-Ukrainian border.


But they keep saying that we smuggle across the border and so on. But they forget the following: there is a Ukrainian border, and there is a Moldovan border --two borders. The Moldovan side is very well trained, with high-class specialists, and we trust them all. But we don’t trust the Ukrainian side. So it’s all clear, let’s invite international observers, and here they are - already on the spot.


Relying on forceful pressure simply lacks perspective. Because there are radical forces in Chisinau and, don’t forget, they exist here, too. People who are now struggling for their rights and opinions and so on. When they will be pressed as tight as a spring and everyone realizes they are still powerful, then no one can guarantee that this spring will fight back somehow.


They have concluded that in principle some irregularities exist, but as a matter of fact I have not seen any proof. They could at least show us an automatic rifle, a rocket installation -- they say we have such installations, various systems, katyushas. Well, they exist, but there is another issue [to pay attention to]: producing these at state level, selling, and manufacturing are different things. They found nothing. And we can’t do a thing about this! Can you imagine? We have invited the international community and they will work for a year and will report that Transdniester has nothing.


This worries us first of all in connection with the fact that we are being described as thieves, that we are manufacturing ammunition and weapons for some purposes, that we are making money from this. This makes us feel uncomfortable, not quite in a good mood relating to a partner who speaks so. Perhaps it has been misled by its own special services, I don’t know the causes of this allegation.


RFE/RL: Will Transdniester stay in the negotiation process in the existing format?


Shevciuk: Yes, for the time being. I can’t say anything about it. But I can say that we have planned a congress of deputies of all levels. It is planned for March 31, the end of March. If the situation [is not settled], deputies of all levels will gather to discuss this issue, including probably the question you just asked, about [continuing] negotiating with Moldova. As I understand, by that date, almost all the enterprises will be already closed. There will be a decision made, a political decision of all-level deputies, for a factual discussion of the issue at a popular plebiscite.


RFE/RL: Will this congress make any other decisions?


Shevciuk: I don’t think there will be a decision concerning the integration with Moldova.


RFE/RL: If not a union with Moldova, and aside from independence, is there any other option? Ukraine or Russia, is that real?


Trucks lined up at Ukraine's border with the Moldovan region of Transdniester earlier this month (TASS)

Shevciuk: You understand that, in the given situation, there are various opinions here and people share different moods. Some say that, conditionally speaking, they would like to be a Russian region. Others talk about being in Ukraine, as it used to be before 1941. And some want only independence. But they all, or a majority, are united around one thing: anything, but not with Moldova.


There are formulas of democratic and constructive divorces, and this has to be done after the completion of the appropriate procedures. We have talked of course to the international structures and we have proposed this.


Unfortunately, we are now at a point of Moldovan-Transdniester relations where these [relations] can take any direction, including the interruption of all relations for a certain period of time, because anyway you can’t walk into Europe or neglect a human mind, and you can’t build a 3-meter-high fence along the Dniester River and stop here. In other words, again, this is a period which I would like to see in the past as soon as possible, because we need -- and so does Moldova -- to deal with economic development.


We start from the idea that Moldova will geographically remain with us all the time, and we shall be together, either way. The level of mistrust is very high and speaking about why it should be better within a common state -- this must be demonstrated. At the same time, all they are doing is trying to demonstrate the following: “We are taking away from you the possibility to work and, in order to work as you did before, you have to come to us, and we shall allow you something, in a certain form.”


Relying on forceful pressure simply lacks perspective. Because there are radical forces in Chisinau and, don’t forget, they exist here, too. People who are now struggling for their rights and opinions and so on. When they will be pressed as tight as a spring and everyone realizes they are still powerful, then no one can guarantee that this spring will fight back somehow.


I underline that these are not threats. Saying “we’ll simply strangle them and everything will be alright, everyone will walk under the Romanian flag, everyone will respond the Moldovan way of greeting...." I think this will not happen.

The Transdniester Conflict

Stela Jantuan, head of the Information, Analysis, and Prognosis Service of the Moldovan parliament (RFE/RL)

FROZEN CONFLICT: On January 11, 2006, RFE/RL's Washington office hosted a panel discussion on prospects for settling the Transdniester conflict. The roundtable featured STEFAN GLIGOR and STELA JANTUAN of the Information, Analysis, and Prognosis Service of the Moldovan parliament and ALEXANDRU FLENCHA, head of the information and analysis division of Moldova's Ministry of Reintegration.


LISTEN

Listen to the complete panel discussion (about 90 minutes):
Real Audio Windows Media

TALKS CONTINUE. The conflict between the Republic of Moldova and the unrecognized, separatist Transdniester Republic has festered for more than 15 years. A decade of talks supervised by the OSCE, Russia, and Ukraine have stagnated, while allegations mount concerning the involvement of Transdniester separatists in money-laundering and trafficking in arms, drugs, and human beings. What are the current prospects for settling this frozen conflict? (more)


ARCHIVE

An archive of RFE/RL's coverage of Transdniester.

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