Moldova. In January, Parliament approved the new EU-friendly coalition government formed just before New Year with Vlad Filat as prime minister. The government had 59 of Parliament’s 101 seats and thus failed to reach the majority of 61 out of 100 seats required to elect a new president. The two-year political stalemate therefore continued during the year. According to Countryaah official site, the presidential election scheduled for November had to be canceled when no candidate registered, and in a new attempt in December, the acting president Marian Lupu received only 58 votes.
In March, Prime Minister Filat threatened to resign because the coalition government could not agree on loan terms from the IMF. Part payment was withheld when the IMF considered that Moldova did not meet the conditions for reforms, including in the energy and education sectors. A settlement was reached in July.
The Moldovan government was keen to speed up cooperation with the EU in the so-called Eastern Partnership, especially in the area of free trade and visa-free travel. But within the EU there were reservations, including requirements for enhanced border control. There was also EU dissatisfaction with the inability to compromise on a new president in Moldova.
Because of the strong opposition of the Orthodox Church, Parliament lacked the majority for a law against discrimination of homosexuals. The government withdrew its proposal from Parliament during the year, but was invited by the EU in October to implement the legislation – a condition for the success of the talks on visa freedom for Moldavians in the EU and for Moldova’s plans for future EU membership.
The EU also demanded reform of the judiciary during the year as a condition for EU funding of EUR 550 million. According to a program for the years 2011-13, Moldova will take measures to curb corruption and improve the investment climate in the country.
During the year, the EU allowed Russia to join 5 + 2 talks on the future of the Moldovan outbreak Republic of Transnistria. The talks started in Lithuania’s capital Vilnius in December with the participation of Transnistria, Moldova, the Russian Federation, Ukraine, OSCE and the EU and the US as observers. Russian demilitarization in Transnistria and a solution of the region’s political status in relation to Moldova are crucial to Moldova’s chances of future EU membership. During Russian-Moldovan talks in Moscow, the Russian Federation declared itself ready to remove its weapons and ammunition depots in Transnistria.
In December, lawyer Yevgeny Shevchuk was elected new president of Transnistria, where Igor Smirnov had ruled for over two decades.
Transnistria is ruled by a parliament, the Supreme Soviet, led by a president. Both Members of Parliament and the President are to be elected in general elections, but the elections held have not been considered free and fair.
For more than two decades (1990–2011), Igor Smirnov, former mayor of the largest city of Tiraspol, was president. During Smirnov’s presidency, power lay in practice with him and his closest men. In the 2011 presidential election, Smirnov unexpectedly lost power to lawyer Yevgeny Shevchuk, who was in turn defeated by Parliament’s former Speaker Vadim Krasnoselskij in the presidential election five years later.
The Transnistrian rulers advocate full independence and a return to the political system that prevailed during the Soviet era. Human rights organizations accuse the regime of holding political prisoners and state that the police are abusing and torturing interns. The crime and corruption are extensive. Freedom of religion is restricted, and the media is controlled by the governing bodies. Journalists are subject to harassment and threats. The government is suspected of money laundering and the smuggling of weapons and drugs. Trafficking in women for sexual purposes is also considered to continue on a large scale.
Smirnov’s electoral loss in 2011 aroused the hope of icing in the conflict. Smirnov came in third place in the first round of elections in November, after lawyer Yevgeny Shevchuk and Parliament Speaker Anatoly Kaminsky. A decisive reason for Smirnov’s loss was that he had lost Russia’s political support. The Kremlin had supported Kaminsky. But in the second, decisive round of elections in December, Shevchuk unexpectedly received 74 percent of the vote against Kaminsky’s 20 percent.
Fruitless peace talks
Shevchuk was previously the President of the Supreme Soviet, but broke up with Smirnov and his faction in 2009. He then became popularly popular through his work to fight widespread corruption and crime. He also wanted to increase transparency in the political decision-making process. Shevchuk was described as reform-minded and Russia-friendly. His aim was to improve relations with Moldova and Ukraine, without sacrificing independence. The highest priority for his government was continued Russian support.
An official decree on the borders of Transnistria, issued in June 2013, raised concerns around the world, as areas under Moldovan control were designated as parts of Transnistria. Both the EU and Romania appealed to the governments of Moldova and Transnistria to make new attempts to resolve their conflict.
Shevtjuk’s entry into power led to formal peace talks with Moldova resumed during the OSCE mediation, meaningful progress was made and in practice negotiations were put on ice in 2014.
There are about 1,500 Russian soldiers in Transnistria. Of these, more than 400 served in the joint peacekeeping force established in conjunction with the peace agreement in 1992. According to Russia, other soldiers are tasked with, among other things, guarding the weapons stockpiles in the region. It is these soldiers who are in Transnistria without the consent of the Moldovan government. In addition to the Russians, the peacekeeping force also consists of 355 Moldovan and 492 Transnistrian soldiers, as well as ten Ukrainian military observers.
In December 2013, the Supreme Soviet decided that Russian law should apply in Transnistria. According to Shevchuk, the transition to Russian law became necessary after Moldova signed a cooperation agreement with the EU in November of that year. The President emphasized that Transnistria instead wants to be integrated into the Euro-Asian area, that is, the Russian-led customs union in Eastern Europe and Central Asia. Representatives of the Russian government said that the EU-Moldova agreement would hamper efforts to resolve the conflict over Transnistria.
Transnistria’s quest to succeed in Russia became evident when the Speaker of the Parliament of the Republic of Russia appealed to the Moscow leadership to also annex Transnistria since Russia in March 2014 occupied the autonomous Ukrainian region of Crimea. The call spurred concern in Western Europe that Russia was planning to try to recapture lost parts of the old Soviet empire. A fighting exercise by the Russian soldiers in Transnistria during the same period increased concern.
When Moldova signed an association agreement with the EU in June 2014, Transnistria responded the following month to concluding seven agreements with Russia on economic cooperation and trade.
Swap the presidential post
The balance of power in Moldova seemed to shift slightly when pro-Russian socialist Igor Dodon won the presidential election. Dodon had previously upset EU-friendly politicians by saying that Crimea is in fact part of Russia. It was interpreted as Dodon indirectly giving his support to the Transnistrian endeavor.
In December 2016, Shevchuk lost power to Parliament’s former Speaker Vadim Krasnoselskij, who won big already in the first round of the presidential election. Krasnoselsky wanted to strengthen Transnistria’s strategic partnership with Russia and the president’s first official trip after accession went as expected to Moscow.
When Dodon and Krasnoselskij met in January 2017, they talked among other things about the free movement of citizens, train connections and the recognition of documents.