Challenges and solutions for the dialogue between Chisinau and Tiraspol in the context of the COVID-19 crisis

The Institute for European Policies and Reforms (IPRE), in partnership with Privesc.eu and with the support of the Hanns Seidel Foundation, organized on Thursday, May 28th 2020, the fifth online videoconference #EUDebatesCafe dedicated to the dialogue between Chisinau and Tiraspol in the context of the COVID-19 crisis.

The debate was attended by Cristina Lesnic, Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration, Andrei Popov, President, Institute for Strategic Initiatives (IPIS) and Ion Manole, Executive Director, Promo-Lex Association. In their interventions, the speakers referred to the state of communication between Chisinau and Tiraspol during the pandemic, what steps the Moldovan authorities have taken to address the challenges faced by the Transnistrian region, what issues related to human rights violation were identified during this period and what has been the role of international partners in managing the state of emergency in the Transnistrian region.

Please find bellow some of the key interventions of the speakers.

Cristina Lesnic, Deputy Prime Minister for Reintegration: “This pandemic not only changed our lifestyle, but also the communication between Chisinau and Tiraspol. When we talk in the 5+2 format or in groups, we don’t do it at the OSCE headquarters, but by videoconferencing. The declaration concerning the state of emergency coincided with the self-isolation of the Transnistrian region. This self-isolation process referred to a rather complicated period for the negotiation process. However, the measures applied on the right bank of the Dniester were taken by the Transnistrian side. There was a certain ongoing communication until the state of emergency was declared. There was a working group in which the World Health Organization (WHO) also participated. Chisinau has provided training for doctors on the epidemiological situation. Transnistria entered self-isolation in mid-March and prolonged it, as we learned today, to June 15. This affects businesses, people working on the right bank of the Dniester, even officials cannot enter the territory on the left bank of Dniestr. At the moment, approximately 320 thousand Moldovan citizens, which have Moldovan medical insurance, live in the region. To give you an example. At the Medical Center from Varnița village are roughly about 14 thousand citizens of the Republic of Moldova, who have the right to benefit from medical services. Thus, by that decree, the access to the Transnistrian region was restricted to all persons, except the groups mentioned above. We had some refusals regarding the organization of meetings within the working groups in the field of health. We asked the WHO to come on a technical visit to document this issue. Tiraspol said that Chisinau restricts access of medicines to the region, but this is a lie. The figures will show that, during this period, the import of medicines was double compared to January “.

Andrei Popov, President, Institute for Strategic Initiatives (IPIS): “Unfortunately, the leaders from Tiraspol have tried to take advantage of this crisis to promote certain political interests. I am referring here to the illegal establishment of over 37 mobile checkpoints in the security zone, which after the pandemic will be presented as a fact. I expected a more determined reaction from external partners. They were probably overwhelmed by the crises they were facing. But the efforts of Chisinau, which found itself unable to eliminate these serious violations, should have ended with a meeting in the 5 + 2 format. The meetings of the Unified Control Commission have been suspended. Talking to friends there, at first, they did not take this pandemic crisis seriously. Many know that in the region you cannot withdraw money and use bank cards, and citizens could not leave the region to withdraw cash from ATM’s located on the right bank. Thus, there were different schemes to get, for example, to Varnița and to withdraw this money. The crisis has revealed that we have two parts of the country, in which there is the Transnistrian region that lives by other rules, norms, values, cultural references and this crisis has revealed this cleavage. The treatment of the authorities towards the citizens was discriminatory. Chisinau allowed the access of people from the Transnistrian region on the territory of the right bank, but those on the right bank did not have access to the region. This statu-quo gives us reasons to believe that the epidemiological situation in the Transnistrian region is worse than the one on the right bank”.

Ion Manole, Executive Director, “Promo-Lex” Association: “I saw the statements from Tiraspol that these mobile stations will remain until the crisis will be over. This situation created an additional problem for the citizens in the region, who were traveling to Chisinau or other cities. The only source of transport remained the ferry boat. All our public calls were ignored by the institutions and structures that have to do with the situation in the security zone. At the same time, it is unclear what was the role of the OSCE, which needs to be more active, but also more effective. First of all, they have to monitor the situation, this being the basic role of the mission in the Republic of Moldova. The OSCE must inform the public and its partners about the de facto situation in the region, which they monitor. Another step would be televised, public debates between the two banks, so that the population from the entire territory has access to this information. If the events on the left bank of the Dniester are debated in Moldovan media, and people there can make their opinions known to the citizens on the right bank, then opinion formers, experts and human rights organizations do not reach in any way the public on the left bank of the Dniester. Last but not least, the OSCE should intervene promptly and effectively whenever there are certain situations, cases or incidents. Too much attention is paid to political and diplomatic issues and it is very easy to overlook issues related to the violation of fundamental human rights in the Transnistrian region and especially in the security zone. There is a distrust of the population on the left bank of the Dniester towards the efficiency of the negotiations and of the actors involved in the process of solving the Transnistrian problem. The voice of the inhabitants in the Transnistrian region is not heard and their problems have not been solved for years. Contrary to many confidence-building programs and measures, the effect is the opposite.”

For more details you can watch the video recording of the event here.

The event was organized within the project “EU DEBATES CAFÉ: Advancing knowledge and expertise on EU institutions and policies in the Republic of Moldova”, implemented by IPRE in cooperation with the Hanns Seidel Foundation in the Republic of Moldova and with the financial support of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development.