Information concerning the Situation in the Temporary Use of Land by Farmers of the Republic of Moldova in Dubossary District of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic

Information concerning the Situation in the Temporary Use of Land  by Farmers of the Republic of Moldova in Dubossary District of the Pridnestrovian Moldavian Republic

Background and Essence of the 2006 Land Use Mechanism

Land plots of the villages of Dorotskoye, Koshnitsa, Pogrebya, Pyryta, Kochiery, Vasilievka, and Novaya Molovata in the USSR were part of Dubossary District of the Moldavian SSR. After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, the issue of their legal status wasn't resolved. A number of problems were caused by the fact that farmers from several communities of Dubossary District which were under temporary jurisdiction of the Republic of Moldova claimed the possibility of using lands located on the territory of Pridnestrovie. The prerequisites for this situation resulted from the specific nature of administrative and economic planning and territorial development of communities in Dubossary District during the period of existence of the Soviet Union.

As a result, in the 2000s the issue of using these lands instigated systematic problems, inter alia in connection with the transportation of agricultural products and equipment by Moldovan villagers on the territory of Pridnestrovie without proper customs clearance.

In 2006, co-mediators from the Russian Federation, Ukraine and the OSCE, as well as the U.S. and the EU observers joined the search for the solution to this problem. With their assistance the parties produced and approved a temporary land use mechanism which allowed defuse the problem. The arrangements envisaged registration of Moldovan farmers in local authorities of Pridnestrovie (in the State Administration of Dubossary) with the subsequent issuance of certificates to land users granting them the right of temporary use of lands. The validity period of certificates was limited to one year; however, as a gesture of goodwill, Pridnestrovian authorities independently, by Presidential Decree of the PMR, each year extended the validity of permissive documents. 

Those farmers who received a license for temporary use were granted a simplified procedure for the movement of goods (agricultural products and equipment, seed materials, etc.) across the state border of Pridnestrovie. In their turn, Moldovan farmers, apart from their obligation on the target use of lands, were bound to submit annually all necessary information on current parameters of land use to the State Administration of Dubossary. 

At the same time, conscientious fulfillment of agreements reached was broken by the Moldovan side. Thus, the land plots given to individual Moldovan farmers for temporary use turned into the subject of sale, inheritance, land transfer, the change of owners and random change of the parameters of the plots themselves. This, in turn, was legally registered by Moldovan authorities despite existing arrangements with Pridnestrovie.

As a result, the Moldovan side not only failed to abide by agreements reached, interacting with the Pridnestrovian side in an established order, but also provided legal support for illegitimate manipulations with Pridnestrovian lands issuing documents, inter alia for the right to private ownership, while there is no private property in land in Pridnestrovie.

Current Situation: Why Has the 2006 Mechanism Exhausted Its Potential?

Over seven years, which have passed since the simplified temporary mechanism of land use was elaborated in 2006, a critical mass of long-standing practical problems and legal collisions in this issue has accumulated.

In particular, the following problematic factors have emerged:

-       a considerable increase in the number of unused lands standing idle for years and running wild with quarantine weeds (many farmers of the Republic of Moldova went abroad or are unable to cultivate their plots for other reasons);

-       extremely non-transparent situation in the issue of factual confirmation by concrete land users of clear parameters of their plots. This results in the segmentation of land plots, the so-called “strip farming”, which makes managing of lands difficult and leads to the violation of agro-technical regime;

-       there are no opportunities for efficient agro-technical and phytosanitary control of the land use to be carried out by Dubossary State Administration and the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources of Pridnestrovie having these lands on their balance;

-       the Pridnestrovian farmers are deprived of the opportunity to make full use of these lands, even of the empty ones, which is obviously discriminatory.

Therefore we have to state that provisions of the temporary land use mechanism of 2006 are actually not fulfilled by the Moldovan side, and the mechanism itself has exhausted its potential.

This explicitly defective practice, manifested in the absence of a real interaction and voluntaristic actions by Moldova's representatives, couldn't continue. As a result, there is an urgent need to normalize the situation connected with these farmlands. Back in late 2012, the Moldovan side was officially notified about the need to review the previously applicable temporary mechanism of land use.

Expert Dialogue: the Parties Agreed on the Inefficiency of the 2006 Mechanism and Began Working on a New One.

For the purpose of the settlement of a problem situation, during the meeting of expert (working)  groups of Pridnestrovie and Moldova on economy on April 30, 2013 (already almost a year ago) the Pridnestrovian side beforehand suggested to carry out till October 1, 2013 a voluntary procedure of re-registration of land users in full accordance with the mechanism of 2006. The Moldovan side gave its official consent, failing, however, to provide the necessary materials (stipulated by the item 3 of “The Mechanism of Implementation of Agreements Reached on Legalization of the Temporary Registration of Legal Entities and Individuals …” of 2006).

During the subsequent meetings in October-November 2013, experts of the parties agreed on the need to complete and optimize the mechanism of temporary land use and agreed to introduce their own written proposals on the optimization of the specified mechanism. The Pridnestrovian party stated its own vision. But the Moldovan delegation didn't submit its own suggestions, having evaded from implementation of the earlier reached agreements.

The Pridnestrovian side repeatedly informed the Moldovan field experts of its concern over this matter, as the temporary mechanism expired in December 2013. The absence of new arrangements on this issue was expected to lead to the growth of tension and aggravation of the situation.

Moreover, at the meeting of expert (working) groups on economy which took place on February 6, 2014, the Moldovan delegation refused to accept written proposals developed by the Pridnestrovian experts. The Pridnestrovian side had to pass its proposals during the meeting of Political Representatives held in Tiraspol on February 7, 2014.

The essence of the proposals formulated by the Pridnestrovian side is to retain preferential opportunities for the cultivation of land for the separate category of conscientious Moldovan farmers who havethe certificate granted in 2006 and who have not been involved in speculative transactions in relation to the cultivated land plots. Pridnestrovie also insists on the implementation of a more effective mechanism of comprehensive control by relevant authorities over the specified plots.

Proposals of the Pridnestrovian Side

In order to increase the effectiveness of land use in Dubossary District of Pridnestrovie located to the left of Tiraspol-Kamenka highway, a proposal to establish a temporary mechanism of land use for physical persons and legal entities of Moldova was put forward.

The Pridnestrovian side carried out analysis of land use by Moldovan farmers in Dubossary District of Pridnestrovie which revealed that only 17 of 86 land users who previously used the land are conscientious. They never transferred the land or carried out any transactions incompatible with the mechanism of 2006, neither did they violate the boundaries of an allotted area, and farmed their land plots regularly.

Pridnestrovie proposed not just to retain preferential regime for such land users, but also to extend the lease term for up to two years. Previously, the land was granted only for one year.

After the registration procedure similar to the one envisaged earlier, such farmers are proposed to conclude a lease. The Pridnestrovian side guarantees that the rent amount and payment for land for such farmers will be equal to those paid by the Pridnestrovian farmers. It should be noted that this proposal evoked a negative response of Moldovan experts. However, during the discussion it became clear that the Moldovan farmers who used Pridnestrovian land plots in compliance with the mechanism of 2006 paid the above fees, but to the budget of the Republic of Moldova. Moreover, the rates in Moldova are higher than in Pridnestrovie. In addition, it turned out that some Pridnestrovian farmers lease land in Moldova. But for this, they registered in Moldova, follow legislation requirements and pay for land use.

Pridnestrovie, by contrast, proposed not only non-discriminatory lease rates to Moldovan farmers (equal to the Pridnestrovian ones), but also the preferential regime of customs clearance procedure.

Thus, a preferential procedure for goods and farm equipment transportation through the crossing points on the Moldo-Pridnestrovian border is established for the registered farmers having valid lease. This procedure enables transportation performed with due documenting (in the interest of statistical record) at a zero rate of customs clearance. A similar regime will be applied in relation to pesticides imported or exported by farmers.

Another proposal of the Pridnestrovian side referred to those farmers who could not document the land use in compliance with the mechanism of 2006 or who changed the boundaries of the land allotted to them earlier. Such farmers were proposed to obtain registration on the territory of Pridnestrovie and claim the right to use land on a common basis along with Pridnestrovian farmers.

In order to avoid the same fate of the 2006 mechanism, the Pridnestrovian side also proposed that a binding regular monitoring of the land plots farmed within a special temporary mechanism be carried out by experts of the Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources of the PMR, the State Administration of Dubossary District, and the State Supervision Service with a view to assessing the land use, preventing the non-use of these lands and the growth of quarantine plants (Ambrosia). The Moldovan farmers' commitment not to keep, run and use arms while guarding the land was an important condition within the framework of the proposed mechanism.

At What Stage Is the Dialogue Now?

The situation in the field of using land plots in Dubossary District by Moldovan farmers was discussed during the meeting of expert groups on economy on February 19, 2014 with the participation of the Political Representatives of both sides. Political Representative of Moldova Yevgeny Karpov agreed on the need to update the existing mechanism of land use having assured the Pridnestrovian side that the corresponding proposals on a renewed mechanism of land use would be submitted in the closest time.

During the next meeting of experts on March 11, 2014, the Moldovan side presented its own view of how the problem could be solved, having at the same time specified a set of preliminary conditions, implementation of which, according to Moldovan representatives, should precede the beginning of the dialogue on the optimization of the land use mechanism. The essence of Moldova's proposals is to return to the procedure of re-registration and re-examination of the documents that will be submitted by Moldovan farmers. In doing so, the Moldovan side insists on the prolongation of the 2006 mechanism that in fact has proved to be inefficient. As a result, the Moldovan side demonstrated the change in the approach in the framework of which the sides had been jointly searching for a compromise decision for almost a year.

The Moldavian side, in fact, suggests that the solution of existing problems should be postponed for an indefinite period.

Such a position is a reflection of Moldova's negotiation strategy and is regarded by the Pridnestrovian side as withdrawal from the search for a viable solution to the problem of using the Pridnestrovian lands by Moldovan farmers, and as a result can't be accepted by the Pridnestrovian side. We believe that solution of this problem is in the substantive dialogue on practical solution of problems existing in this area. In its turn, the Pridnestrovian side is ready to continue efforts in the framework of expert groups.