Political Dances in the diplomatic arena


​First Lady of the PMR Nina Shevchuk tells about the foreign policy of the unrecognized republic

The presidential race, which has already started in Pridnestrovie actually, gains momentum and acquires scandals regarding it. The appointees of a big financial holding-company “Sheriff” in the Pridnestrovian Parliament immediately after being elected “saddled” the parliamentary rostrum to make strong accusations against incumbent president Yevgeny Shevchuk, who won unchanging Igor Smirnov and oligarchs’ candidate - Anatoly Kaminsky by a large margin five years ago in the presidential election.

Today, the Pridnestrovian Parliament controlled by oligarchs accuses Shevchuk of “all mortal sins” and even of treason. Shevchuk immediately after the accusation made against him had launched himself the investigation, after which the members of the Parliament changed the tactics sharply. The foreign policy of Shevchuk became a target of the attacks. Sheriff’s potential candidate for presidency, current speaker Vadim Krasnoselsky, setting up a special meeting, gathered around himself the first president of the republic and former foreign ministers Valery Litskai and Vladimir Yastrebchak previously irreconcilable, who use the parliamentary rostrum to discredit the work of the Pridnestrovian Foreign Ministry, headed by Nina Shtanski (Shevchuk at present) until mid-2015. Since September last year, she became the first lady of country and is on maternity leave now.

We got a chance to talk with Nina Shevchuk about the foreign policy of the unrecognized republic and about the foreign policy decisions that have now become a target of parliamentary and information attack.

 “SP”: Nina Viktorovna, observers say that in previous years the internal political struggle in the country did not bare pressure points of the foreign policy. Today, the foreign policy is subjected to rigid obstruction from the parliamentary rostrum. Special meetings and hearings are broadcast online via the internet for an unlimited audience. How can this be explained?

- It cannot be explained in terms of sober logic and state interests. Any political dances in the diplomatic arena are a very dangerous undertaking. I can only assume that banal personal attacks are behind the parliamentarians’ interest in foreign policy that suddenly has been revealed. Since I have become the president's wife today, the organizers of the attack on the Foreign Ministry, apparently, think that these stings will inflict maximum damage on the president. I'm not sure that those who endanger the foreign policy interests of Pridnestrovie now, realize what consequences might be.

 “SP”: And what might be the consequencies?

— Baring the foreign policy interests leaves the country defenceless. Regardless of who will lead the republic in a year, five years, ten years, it will be difficult to prevent risks and to counter threats when the pressure points of the foreign policy are highlighted and its strengths are questioned. I can imagine with what interest “well-wishers” of Pridnestrovie and also of Russia listen to broadcasts of the Supreme Council.

 “SP”: — Maybe, the fact of the matter is that there is no dialogue established between the Pridnestrovian Parliament and the MFA?

— A dialogue should not be coercive. It should be of interest to both sides. When I headed the Foreign Ministry, we with colleagues urged parliamentarians to send us their views on current foreign policy issues, to provide solutions, which are more demanded and balanced on their views. I personally voiced such a request at a meeting of the Parliamentary Commission for Foreign Policy, and, in addition, we wrote several similar letters to the Supreme Council leadership. There was no answer. The Foreign Ministry did not receive any proposals or formal criticisms, unfortunately.

 “SP”: — That is, there was no interest to foreign policy?

— I think there is no interest there now too. I know that today’s head of the Foreign Ministry Vitaly Ignatiev is open to the constructive dialogue with the people's representatives. He has recently answered all their questions in the Parliament for a few hours. There is no feedback, anyway. There are populist, scandalous declarations, without understanding the essence of problems, without studying the details. Me and, I'm sure, many other diplomats and people interested in foreign policy wonder what is the position of our people's representatives on the issue of joint Moldovan-Ukrainian posts that our neighbours are going to establish on the border with Pridnestrovie.

I also do not know what the parliamentarians think and whether they will respond regarding the impudent attempts of Romania to destabilize the situation in the Security Zone. This country has invaded our airspace several times, taking aerial photography in the Security Zone. There are no related statements, there is no reaction, and there are no proposals. It feels like when acute situations occur, members of the Parliament find themselves “in ambush”.

 “SP”: — Vice-speaker Antyufeeva has recently expressed the view that the Pridnestrovian MFA should not sign any agreements with Moldova, it is enough to implement the previously signed ones. How do you assess the call?

— I find it difficult to give an adequate assessment to this statement, because I doubt that Mrs. Antyufeeva is familiar with the previously signed documents of the negotiation process. It is difficult in that regard to determine whether she means for example, a protocol decision on the resolution of problems in the field of public education in 1995, obliging local authorities of Pridnestrovian cities Bendery, Tiraspol and Rybnitsa to provide buildings for Romanian schools. This agreement was signed by Pridnestrovie’s former authorities. Whether she knows about the agreement between the National Inspectorate General for Phytosanitary Quarantine of the Republic of Moldova and Pridnestrovie of 1996, which provides to create joint border plant quarantine posts on the border with Ukraine in our settlements Pervomaiskoye and N. Goiany. And that agreement was signed too. There are almost two hundred documents. Which ones she means, I do not know.

 “SP”: — By the way, at the same event, where Galina Antyufeeva called simply to perform previous agreements, one of your predecessors as foreign minister - Valery Litskai called the available documents of negotiation process as “dead” and accused current diplomats of the absence of revision.

— I can only assume that the event must have been prepared in a hurry, in haste, and the main actors did not have time to agree on their accusations. Hence, such a confusion about claims. If to speak to the point, it was during the time of Valery Litskai as political representative of Pridnestrovie, head of the Foreign Ministry, when more than one hundred and fifty out of one hundred and eighty documents of the negotiation process were signed. Probably, these documents that he considers as “dead”. It is necessary to admit that the documents signed since 2012 are implemented in general, and their revision in this regard seems hardly expedient today. We have regularly introduced the issue on monitoring the implementation of previously signed agreements for discussion in the 5+2 format since 2012, and we have been supported by the international mediators, both the OSCE and Russia. I know that former foreign minister Vladimir Yastrebchak tried to get involved in that work in 2010 and 2011, but the Moldovan side refused it every time.

 “SP”: — Why don’t you refuse these documents?

— I think that unilateral withdrawal from the existing agreements is fraught with great charges, as it can undermine the very foundations of the negotiation process, break the consistency and succession. As it is, our Moldovan partners tries again and again to start a dialogue from scratch since the change of their chief negotiator that happens quite often there. You have to understand that an immense work of experts from relevant departments is behind every agreement, and only then – the work of diplomats. To do this job again is to set back the negotiation process for a decade.

 “SP”: — But now very specific accusations are made against you and the Foreign Ministry through you, as well as the president. For example, the president was accused of treason for the agreement concluded with Moldova on the resumption of railway communication through Pridnestrovie. Two joint Moldovan-Pridnestrovian customs posts, which were established under that agreement, have become a stumbling block.

— The absurdity of the situation is that Pridnestrovie agreed to such a step long before 2012. Twice. Pridnestrovie agreed to the establishment of joint customs posts on the Pridnestrovian-Ukrainian border in 1996 and 2001. The Protocol decision to resolve the problems in the field of customs services of Moldova and Pridnestrovie and the Protocol decision on harmonization of the tax and customs legislation were signed.

By the way, these documents are on open access in the Internet. It’s strange to me, for example, that former president Igor Nikolayevich Smirnov publicly theorizes on this subject in a critical manner, because the authorship of this approach belongs just to him, and the agreement of 2001 which establishes the obligation of Pridnestrovie to abolish our own customs posts bears his signature. Thank God matters didn’t come to the implementation of those agreements in the form in which they had been signed. But the question arises: it was not treason then?

 “SP”: — Perhaps, these agreements are of no importance?

— These are documents of the negotiation process. Pridnestrovie has not withdrawn its signature. So, they are a source for quite specific diplomatic positions and legal actions. For example, I was surprised that the parliamentarians wondered about the coordination of such activities with legislators, not bothering to examine their own materials. Indeed, in 2001, the very next day after the signing of the Protocol Decision on the harmonization of tax and customs legislations, signed by president Smirnov, the Supreme Council adopted a resolution which approved the agreements reached at that time.

Thus, in fact, the Supreme Council already endorsed not only the establishment of joint customs posts on the Pridnestrovian-Ukrainian state border, but also the abolition of the posts on the border between Pridnestrovie and Moldova, which, of course, is unacceptable.

 “SP”: — Members of the Parliament say that it was necessary to ratify the present decision, which was accepted in 2012, but this was not done.

 — It’s nonsense, once again. Because the international treaties requiring to make amendments to the legislation are a subject to ratification. But our customs code, its sixth article, stipulates that the formation of joint customs checkpoints and joint customs control at the customs border of the republic with the neighbouring countries may be carried out. As is evident, the changes are not needed. And this edition is not new. It was adopted under Smirnov.

 “SP”: — So, they forgot, and Smirnov forgot ...

— I do not think that Igor Nikolayevich forgot, because in November 2011, just before the last presidential election, during his meeting with the then prime minister of Moldova Vladimir Filat a statement on the same subject was approved. It expressed the readiness to open railway communication on the basis of EUBAM’s ideas (it is the European Border Assistance Mission operating on the Moldovan-Ukrainian border). Their ideas just came down to the joint posts (by the way, the places where they were established eventually - in Rybnitsa and Varnitsa), but also with European participation, that we excluded then. I listened to his recent speech before the Supreme Council. He said that in his day he was ready for any Moldovan initiatives for customs posts, but he insisted that the Pridnestrovian posts were in Moldovan cities - Kishinev and Ungheni. I was curious about it, because nowhere, neither in the documents signed by him, either in public statements or in briefings of the then foreign minister there was a hint of these requirements. One can only guess, for what purpose everything is developed like this now, but the fact of such memoirs says that everything is fresh in the memory.

“SP”: — But Igor Smirnov states that you made a number of concessions to Moldova since 2012. Among them he named the loss of equality in the negotiations, subordinating the work of experts strictly to the 5+2 format, granting additional powers to the OSCE, and giving 5+2 participants the right to sign documents ...

— I could be wrong, but I got the impression that Igor Nikolayevich is not the author of this statement. And it's not just about the fact that it was this part of his speech that he, having spoken on his own behalf before that, read out from a piece of paper in the Parliament, as it seemed to me, not very confidently. But the fact is that some MPs have previously circulated such accusations word for word, including through their pages in social networks. I hope that the first president just did not have time to read carefully what he was given. Otherwise, the situation gets awkward. After all, it was him who signed in Bad Reichenhall, the German town, with Moldovan counterpart Vladimir Filat the document, called the Regulations of the expert groups, according to which the authority to coordinate this work are completely transferred to political representatives of the parties. Thus, to the political representatives, who interact through the 5+2 format.

No changes in that document were made after that. It is also an awkward situation with respect to the equality. Because, as far as I know, when the document on the principles and procedures of the negotiation process was discussed (the discussion was started in 2011) during Smirnov’s presidency and on his instruction Pridnestrovian representative in the negotiations Vladimir Yastrebchak insisted on including a provision on equality of the parties in the document. But the Moldovan side was adamant. As a result, we already managed to agree on the provision in the document in April 2012. And, although the principle of equality in any case flowed from the essence and nature of the negotiation process, it was put on paper clearly and unambiguously only in 2012. It was approved and signed not only by the parties - Pridnestrovie and Moldova, but also the mediators - Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE.

 “SP”: — And was the OSCE really given new authority in the 5+2 format?

— I am not aware of what additional authority for the OSCE Igor Nikolayevich told about. This international organization engaged in mediation functions from the beginning of the negotiation process. These functions were named and recorded in the document. Nothing new. It is also difficult to comment on the accusation of investing the 5+2 members with the authority to sign documents ... Not all participants have such a right. It is strange that no one explained it to the first president. The observers - the EU and the USA – do not have this right, according to the document on the principles and procedures of the negotiation process of 2012, as well as to the previously signed documents. Other participants sign documents as before. In general, what Igor Nikolayevich said is the accusations that do not have a connection with reality, but, again, that, in my opinion, this absurdity was just put in his mouth by someone.

 “SP”: — Do you think that the draft law on the negotiation process is contrary to Russia’s interests?

— I believe that it was contrary to the interests of Pridnestrovie. In my view, this was an attempt to copy not the most successful trick of the Moldovan side that by adopting unilaterally a similar law in 2005 showed itself in the negotiations not in the best light. For Moldovan negotiators this law became a kind of “fig leaf” for the “king with no clothes”. If progress in the negotiations brought logical outcome closer, it would be possible “to hide behind” this law, saying that the negotiator is limited legislatively in the maneuver. In 2012 we managed to create in the negotiations the dialogue configuration, which allows to cut inappropriate political discussions through Principles and Procedures to conduct the negotiations and the agreed negotiation space. So such legislative tricks are just not needed. In any case, the solutions elaborated by political representatives of the parties in the negotiations are submitted for approval to top officials. But to my knowledge, no one in the practice of contemporary international relations could try to regulate the internationalized process in which other countries are involved by its internal law so far.

 “SP”: — Nevertheless, back to the railway. The issue is very specific and it is therefore difficult for ordinary people to understand. At the already mentioned meeting of the Supreme Council speaker Vadim Krasnoselsky said that after the signing of the railway agreement and the stationing of Moldovan customs officers on joint posts Moldovan and Ukrainian railways changed the import regime, and now not the Pridnestrovian locomotive collects loads, but the Moldovan one, which carries them to Moldovan customs point.

— I think the one who prepared this information for the speaker (probably one of the advisers) was guided by Goebbels' methods, when it is necessary to add a bit of truth in a lie for full believability. The truth is that there has been a problem on the Ukrainian border. It is a fact. However, it has nothing to do with the railway protocol and joint posts. The problem arose a year ago, but the railway protocol and the joint posts - four years ago. And the locomotive, which the speaker tells about, was previously not Pridnestrovian, but Ukrainian. There Pridnestrovian locomotives did not collect loads going from Ukraine. I think the speaker just did not know it.

In general, so far the problem concerns only the goods imported in Pridnestrtovie exactly from Ukraine. All other loads coming to us through Ukraine, still arrive optimally in Pridnestrtovie. Probably, the speaker just does not know it too. I'm sure if he wants to see into the matter, colleagues from the Foreign Ministry will consult him. Because he got a great deal wrong. He spoke about certain damage to exporters. But new discriminatory steps of Moldova and Ukraine, fortunately, have not affected the export so far. Loads sent by our enterprises to the ports of Odessa oblast continues to go through the Ukrainian-Pridnestrovian border, rather than through the north of Moldova as before, prior to the railway protocol of 2012 criticized so indiscriminately today.

“SP”: — Given that the theme of the railway and customs agreements is gaining momentum in the Parliament, can it lead to failure of the agreements?

— I assume that it can, unfortunately. Currently, Moldovan colleagues are trying to break the existing mechanism and they have already begun to violate certain provisions of the so-called railway protocol. The fuss made by our members of the Parliament about this matter is grist to the mill of the Moldovan representatives who are interested in disrupting the cooperation. It is fraught for Pridnestrovie with significant losses and with a return to the situation where the cargo railway communication through Pridnestrovie was completely blocked. Then in order to carry out foreign trade activities our enterprises had to transport goods only through Moldova, making a detour up to 500 km extra, paying those kilometers to the Moldovan railway and incurring charges in the form of payment for customs clearance in Moldova.

The value of the matter for the Pridnestrovian enterprises is not millions, but tens of millions of dollars. I hope that this is understood by those who are now trying to destroy what they could not build five years ago, although the attempts were made.

Source: Svobodnaya Pressa