Regional analysts assert that Moscow is viewing the protest as another Western-orchestrated, Euromaidan-like disturbance that constitutes a threat to Russian national interests. Not surprisingly, then, Russian broadcasters and print outlets are striving to shape a news narrative in which the protest is an expression of the population’s discontent with Moldova’s European Union integration efforts.
Editor’s note: This article was originally published by PISM on 11 April 2014.
Speeding up Association after Ukraine If just a year ago Moldova’s reputation as a front runner in the Eastern Partnership (EaP) was endangered by a months-long domestic political crisis, the new Pro-European Coalition (PEC), in place since 30 May 2013, has so far demonstrated relative stability and an ability to withstand Russian pressure. Yet such political determination would not have been sufficient had it not been for the developments in Ukraine—first the EuroMaidan protests and then the crisis in Crimea—which made the EU understand the threats to the association process if prolonged further. As such, an Association Agreement (AA) with Moldova was initialled at the Vilnius Summit in November 2013 and is planned to be signed as soon as in June. Visa liberalisation was also accelerated and finalised: in mid-November the European Commission announced completion of the implementation of the visa liberalisation action plan, and visa requirements will be abolished for Moldovans (holding a biometric passport) from 28th April. The technical progress of association is also accompanied by more financial support and a visible intensification of political backing from the West, translated into frequent high-level visits to Chisinau.
Last Sunday, parliamentary elections were held in Transnistria, where 123 candidates vied for 43 seats in the local Supreme Council. With the counting of the votes still ongoing, the favorite to hold on to parliament in this 530,000-strong quasi-state is the “Renovation Party”, which has also controlled the majority of seats in the past. For those who may be wondering, Transnistria is this long and narrow strip of Eastern Moldova bounded on one side by the Dnestr River and on the other by Ukraine.
After the dissolution of the USSR, Transnistria broke away from Moldova over fears that the former Soviet republic would seek reunification with neighboring Romania. In 1992, Moldova and Transnistria fought a short war which ended with a Russian-mediated settlement, enforced by Russian troops already stationed in the region. From the very first day, therefore, the breakaway region of Transnistria depended on Russia for support. Under growing international pressure, however, Russia then went on to sign the Treaty on Conventional Armed Forces in Europe at a 1999 OSCE summit in Istanbul, under which it pledged to withdraw all its troops and military equipment from Transnistria by 2002.