The future status of Transdnistria – or Pridnestrovie – is again, inspired maybe the events in Georgia on August 2008, coming to negotiation tables. With local stakeholders there is some readiness to discuss further to solve this frozen conflict, however the outsiders are twisting arms about formalities. What is the content of number games 5, 5+2, 3+2, 2+1 is also designing the outcome – e.g. alternative solutions – of negotiations.
In 1992, the Moldovan government engaged in a short war with authorities in Transdnistria. Hostlities ended after a Russian military intervention by the then Russian 14th army stationered in Transdnistria. Since then Transdnistria has de facto been on its own like independent state.
The original 5
The format created after war was 5, which always consisted of the five “full” participants:
- Moldova and Transdniestria as the parties to the conflict;
- Ukraine and Russia as mediators and also guarantor states, guaranteeing to both parties to the conflict the fulfilment and respect of (and enforcement of) whatever negotiated outcome the talks could bring;
- OSCE as joint mediator, alongside fellow mediators Russia and Ukraine.
2+1 = Kozak plan
In the spring of 2003, Russian President Vladimir Putin had named Dmitri Kozak — at that time the deputy head of his presidential administration — as his special envoy to Moldova. His task was clear – to find a solution to the frozen conflict that had emerged in 1992. Thanks to compromises brokered by him, Moldova and Transdniestria found common ground for agreement know as “Kozak plan” or Kozak memorandum.
The Basic Principles laid out in this document was about the unitary, democratic, demilitarized and neutral character of the state. The federal state had to have 2 sub-entities, PMR and the Gagauz autonomy, with their own recognized local government structures, anthems and flags.
Kozak plan was initialed page by page by both Moldova’s President Vladimir Voronin and Transdniestria’s President Igor Smirnov. The idea was that on 25 November 2003, the thenRussian President Vladimir Putin scheduled a surprising visit to Moldova to witness the signing of a federalization document as the solution to the conflict.
The visit was canceled by President Voronin’s last minute rejection. Moldova nixed the “Kozak plan” within hours of its planned signing as the result of pressure by hardliners in the West: The Moldovan President was informed by the then OSCE Dutch chairman Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the U.S. Ambassador to Moldova Heather Hodges and the EU Council Secretary General Javier Solana about opposition that Washington and Bruxelles had concerning the mutually agreed-upon settlement plan between the two sides.
5+2 is not 7
The two sides were then at starting point without any settlement. Transdniestria continued to act like a sovereign independent state under the name of PMR (Pridnestrovskaaia Moldavskaia Respublica). Moldova had rejected the only viable plan that both sides could conceivably agree on.
With this background the “5″-format became “5+2″ in 2005, when the European Union and the USA joined the table. They joined as mere observers, a role which they still have today. They are the “2″ add-on’s and the reason why the 5 didn’t become the 7 when they were added: Because they are not full fledged participants but are merely there to watch and, at most, give suggestions and constructive advice if asked. Some times there is also 3+2 format meetings including representatives of the mediators – the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the OSCE – as well as the European Union and the United States as observers.
1+2 = Kozak plan II
August 2008 was the turning point in negotiation process. Conflict in Georgia was in background when Russian President Medvedev first held talks with Moldova’s President Voronin in Sotchi on August 25th and later with Transdnistria’s leader Smirnov on September 3rd. 5+2 format was replaced with 1+2 format including Moscow as mediator, Chisinau and Tiraspol as the parties of conflict.
The basic elements of new deal are probably similar like in Kozak plan I. The price of reunion will be high to Moldova because probably federation form with strong minority or veto rules would neutralize Moldova’s foreign policy related integration towards EU and Nato.
Higher price for Moldova could be even stronger sovereignty of Transdnistria with thread that also other autonomous territory of Moldova – namely Gagauz region – would follow the steps of Transdnistria.
Negotiations are now ongoing and the aim is signing the conflict-settlement documents in a Medvedev-Voronin-Smirnov meeting soon. One part of time frame is the fact that reunifying Transdnistria with Moldova could bring the win to Moldova’s current leadership in general elections in the Spring 2009.
Progress in sight 2008
Year 2008 has showed gradual progress to solve Transdnistria/Moldova conflict. However there is still the number game on table. From my point of view I always prefer bottom to top approach over opposite process. So if 1+2 format can bring a solution mutually acceptable to “conflicting parties” – i.e Moldova and Transdnistria – it should be legitimate.
EU and US are of course not pleased about today’s development and e.g. Kalman Mizsei – EU representative/Moldova – said that the approved international format of 5+2 should be followed, adding that the EU won’t accept any solution brokered outside this format. This can be seen a bitter statement of bystander but if outsiders can not facilitate constructively so let parties find solutions on their own.
The best outcome could be if a political settlement made directly in the 1+2 format by conflicting parties and Russia’s mediation would afterward be referred in 5+2 format for Western blessings so everybody could be officially happy.