Acting Foreign Minister of the PMR Vitaly Ignatiev answers to questions of the Trudovoi Tiraspol newspaper


The interview with Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs of the PMR Vitaly Ignatiev under the title “Defending the interests of the state” was published in the new issue of the newspaper “Trudovoi Tiraspol” (Labor Tiraspol). Here is the full text of the interview.

Vitaly Viktorovich, special attention at your recent meeting with Moldova’s representative on political issues Gheorghe Balan was paid to problems with delivery of imports to the territory of Pridnestrovie by rail under a new scheme, due to which PMR’s economic agents suffer losses. Can we expect that the issue will be solved taking into account the interests of Pridnestrovie? Whether negotiations on this matter are underway with Ukraine?

First of all, it is important to note that the change in the optimal scheme of delivery of imported goods to Pridnestrovie, effectively operated for eleven years (between 2004 and 2015), was done by Moldova and Ukraine unilaterally, without taking into account the opinion of the Pridnestrovian side. We think that this explicitly discriminatory decision of the neighbouring countries is aimed at infringing the interests of economic entities of Pridnestrovie, including the Pridnestrovian Railway, which is bearing substantial losses now. Total economic losses of the republic from the introduction of this restrictive measure, according to preliminary estimates, may amount to more than $ 4.5 million in 2016.

To address this situation, the Pridnestrovian side prepared a comprehensive proposal providing for adoption of technological import scheme in Pridnestrovie, which would allow a reasonable way to deliver cargo to the PMR using the Pridnestrovian rolling stock. These 15-page proposals, prepared after the meeting of expert (working) groups on railway transport and communications held on February 3, 2016, were sent to the Moldovan side on February 26 this year, but the response has not yet been received.

During the two meetings of the representatives on political issues held this year the Pridnestrovian side proposed to the Moldovan side to hold a meeting of subject matter expert (working) groups on railway transport and communications. RM’s representative on political issues Gheorghe Balan just assured us again that the meeting will take place “very soon”. Hopefully, that this time Moldovan partners’ statements on the readiness to work will match real deeds, as unfortunately happens regularly.

We intend to convince Moldovan and Ukrainian counterparts to repeal the imports delivery scheme imposed on us and to take into account certainly the opinion of the Pridnestrovian side in this matter, primarily through systematic and constructive communication in the negotiation process. However, I want to emphasize that if our just reasons and arguments are deemed inconclusive for whatever reason, we will be ready to take other practical measures, which are outside the exclusively political and diplomatic dimension, in order to protect the interests of importers of Pridnestrovie and the Pridnestrovian Railway by compensating for losses incurred by them.

With regard to the cooperation with Ukraine on this matter, it should be noted that the official representative of the Ukrainian Railway participated in the expert (working) groups on railway transport and communications in the autumn of 2015. Nevertheless, we have to state that the Ukrainian side is continuing to act in the wake of requests and wishes of their Moldovan partners and does not listen to the arguments of Pridnestrovie. During my recent meeting with Ambassador-at-Large of the Foreign Ministry of Ukraine Valery Zhovtenko the Pridnestrovian side proposed to organize consultations between the leaders of the Pridnestrovian and Ukrainian Railways. We plan to continue to work actively in this direction.

What is made by the Foreign Ministry to establish sales of products of our companies to state bodies or budget organizations of the Russian Federation?

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government and economic institutions conduct the systematic coordinated work on implementation of the programme on reorientation of Pridnestrovian exports to the market of the Russian Federation. We managed to achieve notable success in this area for the period 2012-2015. Fundamental agreements on the development of bilateral cooperation were reached under the Protocol “Shevchuk-Rogozin”, including in trade and economic, monetary and financial areas, a number of inter-agency memoranda of cooperation were signed, which established direct business contacts between the authorities of Russia and Pridnestrovie.

We are jointly developing the mechanism for segregation of Pridnestrovian products from Moldovan ones when supplying to the Russian market, the use of which could be the basis for further work to provide preferences to Pridnestrovie in the Russian market. It is impossible to separate the Pridnestrovian goods, which have moved abroad with Moldovan accompanying documents for 10 years since the beginning of economic blockade imposed in 2006 by Moldova and Ukraine, from goods manufactured in the Republic of Moldova without this mechanism. In addition, we reached an agreement with our Russian counterparts on the inclusion of Pridnestrovian enterprises in Russia's import substitution programme on an equal footing with economic entities of the Russian Federation, due to which at the present time a number of our enterprises successfully deliver their products to Russia under the contracts with major state corporations, including such giants like Public Joint Stock Company Gazprom, Joint Stock Company Transneft, etc.

It should also be noted that the relations with some regions of the Russian Federation are developing. In particular, through the Government of the Arkhangelsk Oblast the Russian side expressed the interest in increasing supply of Pridnestrovian agricultural products in this region.

Unfortunately, at present there are a number of objective difficulties in building Pridnestrovian exports to Russia related to devaluation of the Russian ruble, insecurity of cargo transit through the territory of Ukraine, as well as Moldova's policy, cynically using Pridnestrovie as a “hostage”. In this regard, we can recall the situation in 2014, when the Russian Federation imposed a ban on deliveries of Moldovan agricultural products on its market, but did not extend the ban on Pridnestrovie. The Republic of Moldova on this basis simply refused to give Pridnestrovian firms phytosanitary certificates required for the export of agricultural goods. This vicious practice continued until Russia was forced to partially lift the ban on deliveries of Moldovan goods.

Politics is the most concentrated expression of economics, and that Lenin's formula has not been canceled. Working (expert) groups play a very important role in solving the economic problems in practical dimension, in the transport sector in particular. Are meeting being held now?

This year we sent to Moldovan colleagues 14 proposals to hold expert (working) groups, but only 3 meetings of subject matter experts were held in practice. In fact, we can state the minimum activity of contacts at this negotiation level. Moldovan partners actually are not ready for the dialogue, but they try to hide this fact behind public declarations on focus on systemic interaction with Pridnestrovie.

These are subject matter experts that should work on draft decisions in specific areas technically for further approval at the highest level. If this mechanism is not effective (it seems that it is the impression that the Moldovan side tries to create), prospects for the whole settlement process are put into question.

What are the prospects for resumption of negotiations in the 5+2 format?

This question has been traditional for representatives of expert and journalistic community probably for the past year and a half. In order to most accurately answer it we should clarify one important point – the “Permanent Conference ...” is certainly an integral part of the peace settlement process between Pridnestrovie and Moldova. However, it would be fundamentally wrong to interpret it as a kind of self-valuable “thing in itself”, as the specific results achieved at the negotiating table are the main indicator of its effectiveness and viability.

To date the position of Moldovan participant in the settlement process, which is a direct party to the conflict, virtually paralyzes the potential of the 5+2 format, deliberately blocks the development of practical solutions to move forward.

So, today virtually there is no positive dynamics in resolving the problem of politically motivated prosecutions of officials, businessmen and other citizens of Pridnestrovie. I remind that the intensification of this repressive mechanism by Moldova in 2014 made it difficult to continue the official meeting in the 5+2 format. The situation in this sensitive area continues to deteriorate, today the number of political criminal cases, according to the Pridnestrovian data, has reached 200. At the same time, the Republic of Moldova through representative on political issues of the RM Gheorghe Balan publicly denies the existence of such problem in principle. And this is despite the significant precedent connected with release from custody of the Pridnestrovian militiaman, on which Athens court ruled the acquittal.

This is not the only example of Moldova’s destructive approaches in the dialogue with Pridnestrovie. Thus, RM’s representatives continues to avoid interaction with Pridnestrovie’s representatives at the level of expert (working) groups, the dynamics of meetings of representatives on political issues is artificially slowing down. Here is an example: in 2016 alone Pridnestrovian experts have developed a series of comprehensive draft solutions to long-standing problems in the relations between the parties. This concerns, first of all, the issues of railway and road transport, mutual recognition of documents issued by the competent authorities of the parties. The Moldovan side has not provided the response to Pridnestrovie’s proposals for several months - according to the official version, RM’s experts are still “studying” them.

However, you should be understood that time does not stand still – the visit of delegation of mediators and observers to Pridnestrovie and Moldova is scheduled for early April (the so called 3+2 visit - namely, Russia, Ukraine, OSCE, the US and the EU), for which the parties agreed to develop drafts of practical solutions to the most pressing issues on the agenda. In fact, the Moldovan side’s position makes this goal unattainable, and it is difficult to call the RM’s actions otherwise than sabotage of the negotiations.

In summary, I note: the prospect of organizing the next 5+2 meeting will fully depends on whether the parties can reach practical resolution of at least part of the pressing issues. I can declare with full responsibility that none of the international partners are interested in a kind of imitation, organization of “negotiations for the sake of negotiations”. This position is shared by the guarantors - the Russian Federation and Ukraine, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Cord Hinrich Meier-Klodt said it as well. Otherwise, we risk transforming the international format of settlement from the potentially important and effective mechanism into some symbolic structure, functioning only for the sake of creating the semblance of dialogue. We need specific solutions, which could be the subject of focused work at the 5+2 meeting. The faster the Moldovan side will find the courage and political will to conduct the equal and constructive dialogue with the Pridnestrovian side, the clearer will be the prospects for resuming the official discussions of the “Permanent Conference ...”.