Substantial progress made in Transnistria settlement talks

Substantial progress made in Transnistria settlement talks
Representatives of the sides, mediators and observers during the meeting of the 5+2 talks on the Transnistrian settlement process, Vienna, November 28, 2017.
By Iulian Ernst in Bucharest November 29, 2017

Political representatives of Moldova and the separatist republic of Transnistria confirmed progress on several of the eight issues previously identified as problematic and made a commitment to finalise the remaining issues at the beginning of next year, according to a statement from the Organisation of Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on November 28.

The breakthroughs took place at a time when the economic situation in Transnistria has become criticial, after Russia repeatedly postponed the financial aid traditionally extended to the separatist region. The pro-EU government in Moldova also took a tighter stance against the separatist region as well: it reduced the electricity purchased from Transnistria by 70% and took control over entire border of the country (including the section previously controlled by Transnistria) thus reducing the revenues derived by the separatist region from foreign trade. Both moves were backed by Ukraine.

This is likely to have forced Transnistrian officials to be more amendable in the latest round of negotiations under the 5+2 format that took place in Vienna on November 27-28. Transnistria has limited capacity to survive economically on its own and the leadership in Tiraspol has to find ways to make its economy work.

“There is a clear understanding among the participants that the remaining issues will be addressed and swiftly implemented, for the benefit of the population on both banks of the river and the region as a whole,” commended Ambassador Wolf Dietrich Heim, special representative of the OSCE chairperson-in-office for the Transnistrian settlement process.

The two sides agreed to continue talks on the remaining issues. Specifically, the topics on the agenda to be immediately tackled are the registration of cars used in Transnistria under the official Moldovan procedures and the free movement of goods, services and persons across the border between the two parts of the country.

The progress made in the previous 5+2 talks in Berlin last year was seen as the most relevant step in more than a decade. Since then, the Moldovan ministry of integration confirmed, the circulation on the Gura Bacului-Bacioc bridge across Niester river has been resumed, the higher education diplomas of the University in Tiraspol (Transnistria) are again endorsed by Moldovan authorities, the functioning of the schools using the Romanian language in Transnistria has returned to normal, phone communication between the two sides of the country was also normalised and Moldovan farmers have been allowed to use their land in Transnistria.

Transnistria, a thin sliver of land between the Dniester river and the Ukrainian border, has been de facto independent from Moldova since the early 1990s. It was backed by Russia in the brief war between Chisinau’s forces and the separatists, and ever since its economy has been shored up by handouts from Moscow.