Nina Shtanski, “We have always been with Russia”

Nina Shtanski, “We have always been with Russia”

Head of the Pridnestrovian MFA Nina Shtanski told chief editor of “Ъ-MD” Vladimir Soloviev about most topical issues in relations with Kishinev, about the reasons why Eurasian integration is nicer and closer for Tiraspol than the European one and how it sees the final point of negotiations with Moldova.

“We have indeed reached an impasse regarding many issues”

- Judging by the results of latest negotiations of political representatives of Kishinev and Tiraspol, honeymoon in relations between the sides is over.

-A good metaphor. And did this honeymoon period exist?

- There was an impression that it did. Earlier on, the final statements of negotiators were more positive, and after the latest meeting there was a feeling that now you have reached complete deadlock and misunderstanding.

- It's a great pity that you've  got such an impression. Firstly, we continue to meet, and I hope we will meet further as well. There are no signals about someone's intention to drop out of this dialogue and I am sure they are unlikely to appear in future given the agenda that we have. As regards positive or non-positive outcome, we should distinguish several negotiating tracks. The first one – negotiations which were resumed at the official level in the 5+2 format. The second one is the dialogue between political representatives and consultations that we are trying to hold on a weekly basis. And the third one – expert groups. Each of these tracks has its own purpose. Expert groups are a subsidiary mechanism, they negotiate decisions at technical level and political representatives prepare these decisions for the 5+2 format. As you know, the next meeting in the 5+2 format will take place at the end of November in Dublin. So, it would be wrong to expect that every two weeks political representatives will produce some positive result. As regards statements – whether they were more positive and are less positive now – then I should say that military rhetoric, unfortunately, existed and remains and I, for example, perceive it with anxiety. As for the criticism – it must exist, especially if it is constructive. Unfortunately, in the framework of our cooperation with the Moldovan side we have certain situations in several areas when the dialogue is conducted not faithfully enough, I would even say – dishonourably. These points, of course, must be voiced. This is the reason why we meet.

- Perception of the deadlock has formed because agenda of political representatives contained technical and even household issues. And if you cannot reach compromise on these issues one can hardly believe that more principled problems can be solved. That is why many people considered Your last meeting with Yevgeny Karpov to be indicative – moreover, with a negative sign.

- I will be more optimistic, though this role is not entirely characteristic of me since, as a rule, I stand out as the main critic of our conversation. It's neither a bottom or critical point, nor a deadlock. Although we have indeed reached the deadlock situation on many issues. It can hardly be called otherwise, no matter how non-diplomatic it would sound. You noticed that we are dealing with technical and household issues which are not so difficult and not so important.

- Like car plates for Pridnestrovian carriers.

- Yes, like plates. You see, in total this work is of global nature. I will explain You why. Car plates, opening of the bridge, telephone communication, TV broadcasting – all these problems, small as they might seem, in total allow us to build the climate of trust. And it is either built or not. Unfortunately, judging by actions of our Moldovan partners, specifically with regard to issues of plates, Pridnestrovian television broadcasting and permits, I can say that we are not creating climate of trust but look like we are deliberately trying to destroy what little can be the basis of this climate of trust. I regret to say that we are not approaching trust so far. But this task is global, not technical. There is no need to speak about any other levels of negotiations until trust is established. 

“Concern is growing that the main task of the Moldovan side is to do everything in order to do nothing”

- Let's consider concrete plots. Until recently, issue of car plates seemed to gain positive dynamics: the sides exchanged sketches of future car numbers and so forth. And on the 2nd of November you talk to the media, “That's it, we got stuck”.

- In fact, it was not we who got stuck. At some point we faced the situation when there were four different sketches on our table, and I caught myself thinking that if in ten minutes the Pridnestrovian side had accepted one of these variants, in twenty minutes there would the fifth one on the table.

- Perhaps, it was worth trying just for experiment.

- This possibility is not excluded. But those proposals that have accumulated should be now again handed over to experts because I am not a great specialist in technical details, and the Moldovan side is constantly burdening our dialogue with new specifications.

- Could You, please, explain,  why Tiraspol didn't accept the variant of car numbers with letters MD (Moldova) and TN (Transnistria)?

- The fact is from the outset we have agreed with the Moldovan side to work at the design of a neutral car number. The number without signs MD and TN on paper was introduced by me. But this idea belongs to my colleague Karpov. He voiced it in Kishinev during the meeting of our leaders Filat and Shevchuk to extend agreement on railway communication.

- Did Karpov voice this idea by words or put it on paper?

-By words.  This was the day before the meeting of experts and we agreed that experts would meet and discuss it. But when they gathered, Kishinev was ready to discuss only EUBAM's proposals. There was a feeling that political representative forgot to convey this message to expert groups. When Mr. Karpov and I met it turned out that, apparently, there was not enough courage to put his own proposal on paper. We were told that if we were interested in it we should introduce it ourselves.  In fact there was such a situation when Tiraspol's political representative puts on paper Kishinev's proposals and after this Kishinev rejects its own proposals. Funny enough. Perhaps, such situations are also needed.

-And do You understand why this is happening?

- It is difficult to understand this because it doesn't quite fit in the logic of negotiations. Theory doesn't help here, as well as practice, unfortunately. Concern is growing among experts that the main task of the Moldovan side is to do everything in order to do nothing. I wouldn't like to believe it but such situations will only expand this view in expert medium.

- But such policy should have its own logic. What goal might be pursued by a negotiator striving to arrange everything so as to come to nothing, a fortiori a negotiator who sets a goal to unify the country?

- From the viewpoint of the conduct of negotiations, as well as from tactics and strategy point of view, it is probably not exactly pragmatic to claim that the final goal of these negotiations is to unify the country, since it is predetermination of the outcome of negotiations.

- But at least one side has such a goal.

- If we know what the end of negotiations will be, why should we conduct them? Today, when we are carrying out negotiations for solution of some practical tasks and creation of a civilized dialogue and climate of trust, exactly this should be an end in itself. Perhaps, this results in lack of progress because end in itself is not solution of problems and increasing climate of trust. I am not asserting this. I am afraid to believe that this can turn out to be truth. Nevertheless, such opinion exists and signals we are receiving serve to strengthen this opinion.

- In order to finish up with car numbers. Was this problem forever put in the list of those which cannot be resolved? Or do we have some way out?

-I hope that there are no problems that cannot be resolved within negotiations. We are deliberate to continue discussion of this point and intend to apply for international expert assistance. There is a system of arguments. If we withdraw from something or, on the contrary, offer something we should rationalize this. Argumentation of the Moldovan side is not entirely clear for me.

- What it is like?

- Their argumentation lies in the fact that Vienna conventions on road traffic – and Moldova being a party to these conventions regularly reminds us about its international obligations thus underlining our non-recognition and absence of international legal status – allegedly specify that letter design of the state must be on the plate. Though we are not a party to these conventions, no one forbids us to study their provisions and implement them in our legislation. Well, convention says that a car number may contain indication of the state. We all understand the difference between the words “may” and “must”.  There is no imperative norm there. Today you can write “I am a wonderful person” on the plate and travel with such a number around the world. There are many cases in the world when car plates have no identification of the state. One of the latest examples is plates on which the sign of this or that regional or international association or interstate union is depicted. All this is left at the discretion of authorities or corresponding state bodies dealing with car registration because license plate is not the basis for movement. For this we must have car documents. There is a technical passport, and in Pridnestrovie technical passport is issued according to international model and contains lettering MD.

“I wouldn't like it so much that steps backwards be made”

- Is it really so that the Moldovan side links issuance of permits to Pridnestrovian carriers to the problem of car numbers? It is widely believed that Kishinev puts the matter as follows: we agree upon car numbers – you receive permits.

- Now it is so. But as far back as in summer Kishinev didn't link these points. I will tell you now very interesting news. Already in May Kishinev didn't have permissive documents which Ukraine handed over to Moldova, although we conducted negotiations about their passing to Pridnestrovie in the course of the past nine months.

- Where are they now?

- I do not know. But the situation is interesting. The Moldovan side discussed with us the conditions of issue of the documents. These conditions were changing. At first we were informed that Moldovan agency issuing these documents can not work with our state service; and we need to create special institution. We have founded such institution – “Dniester – Trans”. Then we were told that many things could have changed during a year, that the employees of “Dniester – Trans” may not be aware of new standards and information in the field of documentation. Our employees visited Kishinev in order to get all the necessary methodological assistance. Then we were told that in order to get licensing documents we must create joint database accessible for both Pridnestrovian and Moldovan sides. We needed to receive special software and to hold training. Everything has been done.

- This database was created?

- Yes. When all conditions were fulfilled a new one appeared. This condition concerned the solving of the problems with plates. As a matter of fact on July 5 on the meeting of experts the protocol where the Moldovan sided planned to consider the possibility of issuing of licensing documents in the nearest time was signed. During the latest sitting of expert group its' head Valery Chubuk told that these documents are absent since May. Funny situation – authorized representative of expert group assumes obligations of issuing of the things that are absent on the moment of assumption of obligation. It is very unpleasant situation. It would be no exaggeration to say that the factor of manipulation and even of unfair play exists.

- Next topic. Direct telephone connection between the two banks of the Dniester was blocked many years ago. Are the negotiations on its' restoration being held? If the answer is yes, when could it be restored?

- Telephone connection is the subject of my optimistic expectations. It seems to me that this question is not as politicized as many other; moreover it is very simple to solve it technically. Today we have all technical conditions in order to organize telephone connection rather quickly.

- What are the obstacles?

- Again it is non-coordination of conditions. It is not possible to do this as a gesture of good will. There must be presence of political will of the Moldovan side.

- If I am not mistaken, it was Pridnestrovie who blocked telephone connection.

- The fact is that Pridnestrovie has already taken many steps; steps backwards are unwanted. The precondition which is put forward by Moldova as an ultimatum-like condition is obligatory registration of corresponding Pridnestrovian economical agent as Moldovan agent. It means that every economical agent of the PMR must make a registration in Moldova in order to begin these interactions with Moldova. But it is not the way out and it is not a compromise. The more so because we remember that there was a time when Interdnestercom wanted to work on Moldovan market. Everybody knows the end of this story.  

- I just wanted to ask about one million dollars which Interdnestercom paid to Moldova.

- It has not been returned yet, if you are asking about this.

 - Is the repayment of this amount being discussed?

 - Each time when somebody touches upon this topic the Moldovan side assures us that the possibility of the repayment is being considered, but unfortunately we did not receive money back.

- As far as I remember, Interdnestercom has paid $ 1.000.000 for the license. The license was recalled and the “telephone war” began. Direct telephone connection between the two banks of the Dniester was blocked. Now it is possible to call somebody on the other bank only after dialing a code.

- If we put aside the problem of Interdnestercom and the problem of interconnection of telephone systems; problems of radio frequencies also exist on the both banks. These radio frequencies must have also been coordinated; it was needed to define who would occupy one or another frequency and to assume obligations in order not to create additional interferences. This would stabilize the market of corresponding services. But it is not possible to do this with Moldova. 

 “This could not be unexpected for the Moldovan side”

- You were present on the latest meeting between Yevgeny Shevchuk and Vladimir Filat on September 6 in Kishinev. Do you remember it in details?

- Of course.

- It is important because next day the Decree of Yevgeny Shevchuk on collection of duties for excisable goods imported from Moldova was published. The day of the meeting of the two leaders was the date of the decree. It is not a partner behavior. Especially if we pay attention to that fact that that day Shevchuk and Filat communicated with the representatives of press and assured in continuation of dialogue in favor of people living on the both banks as if nothing had happened.

- It could not be unexpected for the Moldovan side in spite of all the reports of the Mass Media. The meeting of the leaders was held on September 26, at the first half of September we had the round of negotiations in Vienna. According to the agenda we discussed there the problems of foreign economical activity which impede the activity of Pridnestrovian enterprises. In my report I expressed concern with the fact that after the cancellation of 100% duty by Pridnestrovie, Moldova did not make any steps towards the cancellation of ecological charge, transport charges and the decision of a number of other problems known to all our partners. It was mentioned that Pridnestrovie considers the possibility of introduction of protective duty concerning certain categories of goods. The Moldovan side was informed in a proper way. However, there was no progress after we returned from Vienna. Expert group on economy could not hold a meeting; therefore, the Decree was signed and entered into the force. It was signed not after the meeting by at the day of the meeting. The meeting was held in the evening, at that moment the Decree had already been signed.

- Did Shevchuk inform Filat?   

- I do not think that it was necessary because these issues are solved only via political representatives. They hold meetings for this purpose. The question of foreign economical activity and of actions that were taken – is the question of our bilateral interaction with my colleague Karpov.

- Did the signing of this Decree speed up solving of the problems? What about the situation with ecological and transport charge?

- Concerning ecological charge we were told that corresponding legislative initiative was submitted to consideration of the Parliament. We hope that the Parliament will accept this amendment because it is rather absurd when the enterprise located in Rybnitsa or in Tiraspol have to pay ecological charge in Moldovan budget. It is rather non-typical situation with such kind of charges.

- If Moldovan Parliament approves this, will the Decree of Yevgeny Shevchuk be cancelled?

- I am not ready to answer this question right now because cancellation and adoption of decrees is prerogative of the President. I can only say that there is a whole complex of problems in foreign economical activity caused by unilateral steps which have been taken by Moldova since 2001 to 2012. I know the value of time that is why I named only one of the problems. On the latest sitting of Permanent Consultations in 5+2 format the report on the problems of foreign economical activity lasted more than forty minutes. All the participants of this sitting had possibility to get acquainted with the information on all the problems not only divided on blocks which concerned taxation, transport registration, customs procedures, but also the information on each enterprise. On each enterprise! This information included a number of employees, the amount of taxes which these enterprises pay, share of taxes which this enterprise pays to the budget. The dynamics of increasing of economical pressure on these enterprises was shown. You know that unfortunately 2012 did not bring any positive changes as regards to these enterprises. Actions concerning certain Pridnestrovian enterprises submitted to court last year are still there.

”When diplomats are talking – the cannons are silent; and it is very good”

- Are there any achievements in the relations between Tiraspol and Kishinev? You have been at the post of the Minister for almost nine months already. One may give birth to a child. What are the outcomes of nine-month activity?

- Of course, they are. Let me say it jokingly: when diplomats are talking – the cannons are silent; and it is very good. If to put jokes aside, there are certain results. Railroad cargo and passenger connection has been resumed. As you know, we had been waiting for this decision for six years. It is very important step and powerful support for big industrial enterprises on both banks. We managed to make the work of expert groups more active and to involve more experts. Last year there were only ten sittings and there were three groups less. This year we created three additional groups and held 29 sittings. The results are not very significant, but the involvement of a larger quantity of experts creates definite system of interconnections. If the political will is revealed to the desirable extent, to my mind, we will be able to find decisions on many problems. There is a progress in the sphere of education. The schools that bother Moldova work without any problems. We held joint sporting events including those supported by the Council of Europe. We are not far from the solving of very acute problem of nostrification of documents.

- But the decision on the issues connected with nostrification of documents was made two months ago in interaction with Karpov.

- Yes, it was more than two months ago. I addressed this question to Yevgeny Karpov because people turn to us but we have nothing to say. I was assured that corresponding regulatory act has already been created and submitted to corresponding institution for adoption.

- And what is with the situation around the Gura Bicului – Bychok bridge?

- Opening of the bridge is only part of a problem which is defined as securing freedom of movement. Here the position of Pridnestrovian side did not change since the beginning of talks. Our position is that the bridge can be opened when we agree on providing possibilities for freedom of movement both for Moldovan citizens and transport vehicles and for Pridnestrovian ones.

- Thus, there is again connection with number plates and permits. They all go in one basket?

- Yes, of course. There is also problem with passports. As you know, citizen of the PMR with Russian international passport will not be able to use the M4 highway if this bridge is opened in order to move to Chernovtsi oblast of Ukraine. He will be stopped on the border with Moldova because he lacks residence permit. This is the reason why we don't use airport in Kishinev. This is the reason why Pridnestrovians are not able to travel to St. Petersburg through northern Moldova. I would like to specify one more moment. It is not quite correct to speak about this bridge as about the bridge between villages Gura Bicului and Bychok. This is the bridge on the international highway – a large European transportation corridor. Thus opening of this bridge should create additional opportunities for economic agents first of all. But activity of our international freight carriers is completely paralyzed at this moment. Our international transportations are on the zero level. Respectively, we need to create possibilities in order to facilitate free movement of people, goods and services. But, regrettably, we are not able to come closer to resolving this issue.

“In spite of polarity of positions of Moldova and Pridnestrovie each of them has chosen its own way”

- Pridnestrovie defined convergence with Russia and integration into Eurasian Union as foreign-political priorities. And what place in foreign policy do you assign for Moldova?

- Let me explain. According to new edition of the Foreign Policy Concept which is now submitted for consideration to the President there are two priorities defined in our foreign policy. The first one is Eurasian integration of Pridnestrovie. The second one is the negotiations process. As we all know there are also international actors involved in negotiations. At the same time there are main directions of foreign policy – system of bilateral relations. And here, of course, on the first place are relations with the Russian Federation and then – with our neighbors – with Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova. Then there are relations with friendly republics of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Nagorno-Karabakh and then – relations with other states and international organizations.On the one hand, such structure reflects the present-day reality, on the other hand, this structure of priorities and main foreign courses meets public demand and more over corresponds to the will expressed at 2006 referendum.

- It means that You continue foreign political course of former President Igor Smirnov who always told that relations between Moldova and Pridnestrovie are relations between neighboring countries, isn't it? 

 -Exactly so. Our President Yevgeny Shevchuk in his inauguration speech marked the importance of building good neighborly relations with the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. This course was determined and our foreign office is intensively implementing this course.

-And how would You then define the final goal of negotiations with Moldova? What Pridnestrovie would like to reach in the end? How do You see this end point?

- In the end negotiations there should be absence of contradictions, which make it impossible for people to interact at different levels – both at the level of civil society and at the level of cooperation between economic agents. Prerequisites should be created for the dialogue between Pridnestrovie and Moldova to be non-conflict and civilized. This is exactly how I see the end point of negotiations. But it would be incorrect to predict what form this end point might have because, as I told at the very beginning, we haven't approached today even the first stage – the building of climate of trust. I heard from experts that negotiations are today a zero point which once was defined in 1992 and 1994. I would say approximately the same, regardless that negotiations were conducted though interrupted from time to time. I analyzed negotiations which were conducted before and I would characterize them as imitation of negotiations. And I don't want that the dialogue we are building with Moldova now to be characterized in the same way by experts, diplomats and politicians 5, 10, 15 years later.   

 - And yet, how do You see the model of Pridnestrovian conflict settlement under circumstances when Moldova speaks about reunification of the two banks, Pridnestrovie – about final break-up and Russia and entire international community – that Kishinev and Tiraspol should be together?

- I will allow myself to specify that Russia and many other international entities note that the decision should be based on the will of the nation. People living here should decide.

 - But Russia underlines that it will recognize territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova implying that Pridnestrovie is its part. Grigory Karasin, Deputy Head of the Russian MFA, voiced this directly in Tiraspol.

- We can analyze many statements. Let's recall statement by President Vladimir Putin at Seliger.

- Let's recall also the first Decree by President Putin on measures on implementation of foreign policy course which stipulates the search for the ways of solution of the Pridnestrovian problem based on respect for territorial integrity of Moldova. 

 - This I exactly why I want to tell You that notwithstanding polar positions of Moldova and Pridnestrovie each of them has defined its way over these years, but this doesn't prevent the sides from building atmosphere of trust. Without this atmosphere of trust attempts to define the final model would be incorrect and short-sighted.

 “The main external threat is the presence of unsettled conflict”

- Ukraine will soon replace Ireland on the post of the OSCE Chair. What do You expect from Kiev on the Pridnestrovian track?

 -We expect a more attentive attitude to the substantive part of negotiations, namely – to the socio-economic collaboration. Many citizens of Ukraine live in Pridnestrovie, many of them are ethnic Ukrainians. Moreover, Ukraine is a neighboring state and a guarantor country in the negotiation process – so, Ukraine's role in the negotiation process is multiplied by two. As far as I understand, Ukraine will be able to involve more foreign policy leverages in order to have a positive influence on the situation. Besides, if for many international actors the range of our socio-economic problems is rather obscure, then for Ukraine it is transparent and clear.

- How do You imagine the Eurasian integration of Pridnestrovie given the absence of common border with the Russian Federation and stable unwillingness of Ukraine to join the triangle Moscow-Astana-Minsk built by Russia?

- Eurasian integration is not only institutional associations existing today. It is not only Customs Union and EurAsEC. The concept of Eurasian integration is broadening. It is also integration into space. Do You remember how topical was the concept of  the “post-Soviet space” in 1990's? Today it moves to the background. Eurasian integration implies incorporation of not only states but separate territories and regions as well. It is entirely corresponds to international experience because the World Trade Organization also allows for recognition of separate customs territories. European integration opens quite extensive windows for opportunities, and we intend to use these windows. At the same time, we will try to get involved in the work of those institutional associations which already exist. Objectively we understand that ensuring direct participation of Pridnestrovie in separate structures is impossible. However, international experience is indicative of existing forms of associated membership, involvement in the capacity of an observer and others. We should move forward because it is economy which has its own rules.

 - And why exactly this choice? If compare Kazakhstan, Belarus, Russia with the EU countries in terms of protection of human rights, economic freedom, freedom of mass media, independence of courts, conclusions will be made in favor of the European Union, won't they? Perhaps, European vector should have been chosen?

-I don't know what indicators You use to define this overbalance, therefore I will allow myself to disagree. I am not a great fan of the European justice, with all due respect to it. Why European integration? Because this strategic course was historically defined for Pridnestrovie. We have always been with Russia, and Russia, as You know, plays a key role in the process of Eurasian integration. And besides, let's be objective. Over 20 years during which Pridnestrovie have been overcoming all-round pressure, economic, information and other types of blockade, none of external players, states, associations but Russia has efficiently fulfilled the functions of a  guarantor ensuring stability, well-being and peace. Pridnestrovie doesn't have vast natural resources as Kazakhstan and Russia – hence, the focus should be on intellectual breakthrough and technological development. Technologies are anyway associated with the West. At some point, in 2006, a whole number of Pridnestrovian enterprises changed their orientation towards European market. Some people even flaunt this fact – they say, look, 50 % of Pridnestrovian economy is already oriented towards Europe. What cost was paid by enterprises whose cooperation ties had been with Russian market is known only to those who work at these enterprises. Some of these preferences concealed huge loses. There is nothing worse than having downtime, so, enterprises were enforced to change their orientation or “change shoes”, as people working at these enterprises call it. But it doesn't mean that we shouldn't try to return deserved positions in the Eurasian space.

 - What is the main external threat for Pridnestrovie?

-The main external threat is existing unresolved conflict. It is a frozen conflict but still it is a conflict with accumulating conflict potential. It is dangerous.

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