Nina Shtanski, “Speaking about political status of Pridnestrovie with Moldova today is not possible”

Nina Shtanski, “Speaking about political status of Pridnestrovie with Moldova today is not possible”

As we informed before, on October 11, 2012, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the PMR Nina Shtanski gave an exclusive interview to the correspondent on Komsomolskaya Pravda in Moldova Newspaper. Here is the full text of the interview.

 “We have passed the test on democracy many times”

- Nina Viktorovna, You became Minister of foreign office of unrecognized state on January 24, 2012. Would You agree to shoulder this burden today, when You know what You had to face during this period?

- It is an interesting question. I should admit I haven't pondered over that. The question wouldn't stand for me like “would I agree or not”. Just because I am on service, and when you are on service and get an errand, it is not whether you will do it or not. Service is service. And as regards the fact that I have headed Foreign Ministry of unrecognized state...You see, I formed myself as a personality in this unrecognized state because when a large, well-recognized and respected country, the USSR, disintegrated I was a teenager. So, in no other country did I live or work, nor created my family and gave birth to my child…This aspect of non-recognition is treated at the outside perimeter one way – here, inside the Republic, it grates us on ears. I serve my nation irrespective of whether this nation is recognized by international community or not. People living here have the same set of rights as all over the world. They have the same problems, the same sorrows. Generally speaking, we all have the same troubles.

- The new version of Foreign policy concept of the state has been drafted. The fixing of the course towards Eurasian integration as a main national priority of PMR's foreign policy is principally new in it. Once you told that “we together with Russia will implement a number of projects as part of this course”. What is meant here?

- The fact is that there are already today several projects which we implement jointly with Russia. Russia is a guarantor of the Pridnestrovian settlement. Moreover, Russia ensures here protection and realization of interests of already 170 thousands of its citizens. Therefore, without Russia we would unlikely be able to protect their rights fully. As regards joint projects, today we speak first of all about projects in socio-cultural and humanitarian spheres. Among others, it is healthcare, education, joint development of information space, and certainly trade-economic ties, just because Russia is our main trade partner. It's not a secret that major part of our enterprises aims at Russian market. In 2006 a lot was changed, and new customs regime emerged after agreements between Moldova and Ukraine, of course, redirected some enterprises towards European market. This was made artificially, but it doesn't mean that today these enterprises, which were forced to make this step to survive, are not interested in returning to those Russian regions which originally were markets for their products. It's clear for us that from logistics viewpoint and that of reliability of partnership relations all this should be restored and returned. Time is slipping away, after all…

- Results of 2006 Referendum on the Pridnestrovian independence and accession to Russia have not been officially recognized by international community so far. What do You undertake in this area?

- We remember that similar referenda not recognized by international community were held in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. I will let myself to remind You about them. First of all, results of 2006 Referendum specified the course for the Pridnestrovian leadership. Since it was a nationwide referendum, the government got the mandate to carry out the corresponding policy. Exactly this course we need to put in the Foreign policy concept today, because its current version was adopted n 2005, before referendum had been carried out. As a result, today we need to reflect this course, and moreover, the course towards Eurasian integration declared by the Head of our state is exactly one of the steps designed to fulfill the will of the people expressed in 2006. We know percentage of those who voted and what was their answer to the questions put at the referendum. Of course, we need to continue our work. As for recognition or non-recognition of the results of the referendum… It was monitored by 150 international observers who concluded that the given referendum met the highest criteria of international evaluation and democratic character of the processes. It seems to me that our people have many times proved that they have the right for their will expression to be recognized. Let us look back into recent presidential elections when under the most complicated circumstances many people predicted public unrest, someone was speaking about possible falsification of election outcome. Look, people in a quiet democratic way have elected the new government they wanted! In what peaceful and civilized manner elections were held and their results were defined! We have passed the test on democracy, as it is fashionable to say in the West, many times.

- Perhaps, it is a dilettantish question on my part. Is there a perspective for Pridnestrovie one day, perhaps, in a remote perspective to become a member of the Customs and Eurasian Unions? Perhaps, it depends on the international recognition of the state. If yes, when is it possible?

- I'm afraid I won't be able to answer the first question, since it should be put to the members of the Customs and Eurasian Unions. I won't take the liberty to speak about such perspectives, although of course it is one of the goals of the Pridnestrovian leadership. Let's look into processes taking place around these structures. The refreshed idea of Eurasian integration implies not only integration within the framework of Customs Union or existing EurAsEC. Here we mean a more global Eurasian space in a remote perspective. What I see is that these processes are now rather dynamic. Initiative actualized by Vladimir Putin doesn't necessarily specify that Eurasian integration is a process for states only. Not at all – this process if for territories, as well as for regions. It is very difficult to separate regional cooperation from the global one today. A very huge potential is hidden here. I don't exclude that Moldova and Ukraine have powers and territories, which one way or another have interest in this integration. We know about cross-border cooperation which shouldn't be charged off, even in view of certain geopolitical orientations.

“Small Steps Tactics Gives Results”

- In case Moldovan leadership gives consent to federalization and grants the broadest authorities to Pridnestrovie, is it possible that PMR may become part of such federation? If so, on what conditions will it take place?

- Today Pridnestrovie discusses issues of political status neither within bilateral consultations with Moldova, nor in the framework of pentalateral format, nor the 5+2 format. So, today we have agreed upon our agenda. We have finally shaped – which is very important – stable negotiation space designed to solve socio-economic issues which failed to be solved for many years, - first of all, because everyone was busy dealing with the political status, while other problems were easily moved aside; secondly, because there was a six-year hiatus in negotiations. Today we have filled negotiation space with socio-economic issues. We can try to prove each other that we are partners! Now many of us still have certain questions whether Moldova and Pridnestrovie can be partners. We haven't revealed efficacy of partnership relations so far, therefore I think speaking about status – any political status – doesn't seem possible today. The sides now occupy diametrically opposite positions. I haven't heard any statement from Moldova's leadership that would signal that Moldova's position had changed. This position was specified in 2005 when Moldova unilaterally defined Pridnestrovian status. I don't know about any current initiative in the parliament of Moldova aimed at abolishment of this law. Since there is no such initiative, it would be too improvident to discuss any new steps in this direction. There are things we we should deal with today. 

- You have stated that Tiraspol had already done too much for Kishinev in the framework of the 5+2 format…

-  I think assessment should be given by outside observers, i.e. by people living in Tiraspol and Kishinev. We have surveys which show that unfortunately current situation in terms of effectiveness in no way meets public demands and expectations. There was a new impetus at the beginning of this year, we gave hope to people…Pridnestrovie, on its part, has made and continues to make constructive steps. Regardless of the fact that separate positions cannot be agreed upon, we still don't stop, we move forward, we put forward new initiatives, we are looking for those pivot points where compromise can be more palpable. Unfortunately, major part of Pridnestrovian initiatives is either mildly moved aside or openly rejected. I consider it to be a big test for the negotiations we are conducting today. But I wish people in Moldova and Pridnestrovie had an understanding that after a six-year hiatus it would probably be very difficult to establish such atmosphere that would allow us to achieve more significant results. Therefore our side has concerns and at the same time some optimism that perhaps not so much time has passed for us to be able to strengthen our positions to such an extent so as to make it possible for us to jointly follow the path towards achievement of concrete results. The worst thing is that the step forward meets no response. This constraints diplomacy, disappoints the public and makes the process more complicated.

- Does diplomacy of small steps prove its worth?

- It brings results. No so many as we would like, not so quickly and actively – but we have them. If there are results, even if they are smaller than the goals we put before us at the beginning, it means that this diplomacy proves its worth. Let's look at this situation objectively. Resumption of the railway traffic: everyone benefited from it – Pridnestrovian as well as Moldovan enterprises. I will give you Moldovan Cement Plant as an example, since you have arrived from Kishinev,- this plant got the opportunity to ship its cargoes via Rybnitsa. According to our data, only over this period of time it got extra profit amounting 500 thousand dollars. Pridnestrovian railway became more active, transit was launched. It works and it's profitable! People have stable working places, get salaries, and for sure economy benefits from it. Hence, small steps tactics proves its worth. I wish it would bring more positive results.

- Isn't Pridnestrovie going to abolish migration cards for Moldovan citizens? There are line-ups on the border, people are annoyed, losing their time…

- When speaking about free movement it should be understood that positive solution is unlikely to be found if we regard not general things but their separate fragments. On the one hand, there is registration at migration points, and on the other hand, there are restrictions for majority of people who move to Moldova from Pridnestrovie and cannot cross the border – I mean citizens of Russia and Ukraine. Today they cannot move freely with their external passports if they have no Moldovan residence permit, and I am among them. This issue has been on the agenda for three months already, we are trying to reach a compromise so that rights of these people are not violated. Owners of such passports, for example, cannot fly out from airport in Kishinev. That's why free movement of people stands as a separate item in the negotiation agenda. Apart from abovementioned, agenda contains other items as well. Complex approach is needed. Such decisions will be effective and understandable to people when they are made simultaneously. Moreover, we shall not forget that ongoing settlement process means that the conflict is not resolved till formula of peaceful comprehensive settlement is found. We should be brave enough to admit that conflict does exist. To a greater degree it is frozen, but still it is a conflict.

“Russian troops is the only guarantee of peace and security for Pridnestrovie”

- On Facebook You adviced that Russia should build up armament but not withdraw troops from Pridnestrovie.  Is there something that poses threat to Pridnestrovie?

- Good question! There was no statement about the need to build up armament on Facebook. It was a comment to the well-known PACE Resolution in which European parliamentarians urge Russia to withdraw troops. My comment was related to the following. If several months ago parliamentarians from PACE in their Resolution wrote that conflict in Pridnestrovie is a threat to security for entire Europe, then how is it possible that several months later they ask to withdraw troops?! If there is a conflict which poses threat to entire Europe how can troops be withdrawn in such a situation? We understand it fairly good in what way system of international relations is functioning. If it is threat, then troops, probably, need to be increased. The question is a rhetorical one. As regards increasing the withdrawal, Pridnestrovian position is clear and unambiguous: the peacekeeping operation which is currently carried out is the only guarantee of peace and security for Pridnestrovie. It turns out to be so that over the past twenty years no other guarantee has been proposed to Pridnestrovie by international community or some separate state. Speaking about transformation of the peacekeeping operation today is simply non-constructive. Because people sleep peacefully at night, because the conflicting sides ceased the fire at proper time due to efforts of the Russian diplomacy, Russian army, and Russian peacekeeping. This stabilizing peace-guarantying function is the most effective in the post-soviet space. Generally, people criticize what is not working. In our case everything is working, there are conditions in which we live in peace, easily visit each other, freely communicate, create families, don't leave homes, conduct peaceful negotiations because negotiations can be carried out in peace…And against this background someone it trying to produce insinuations.

- A whole generation grew up after the war in Pridnestrovie. In Your view, what is implied under community “the Pridnestrovian nation”?  A citizen of Pridnestrovie – who is he/she?

- I have a good example from my personal life. When my daughter – she is 13 now – was in the first form, the Peace Lesson in her school was devoted to multi-ethnicity. Our community can be approximately equally divided into Moldavians, Russians and Ukrainians, there are also small ethnic groups. The teacher decided to conduct a survey at the beginning of the lesson to show how multinational our state is. Someone told that he is Russian, someone – that he is Moldavian…My daughter-first grader answered, “I am a Pridnestrovian!” Everyone was surprised at this funny word. Indeed, let's ponder who these children are. They haven't lived in the Soviet Union, they have never lived in any other country except Pridnestrovie. They study at the Pridnestrovian school, Pridnestrovie provides them with medical service, their parents work in Pridnestrovie, earn money, feed their families. Later, these children get certificates of Pridnestrovian secondary school. Boys serve in the Pridnestrovian army, receive Pridnestrovian passport. Citizens of what country are they? These people live here, here they make their lives overcoming existing socio-economic hardships. And these people – in order not to be isolated here and to have the possibility to go abroad – chose citizenship of Russia, Ukraine, Moldova or other states. In my opinion, we are unique in that we managed to build supranational identity. It means that a Pridnestrovian is a person who can belong to different ethnic groups, a person who may have a Russian or Ukrainian citizenship but at the same time be a Pridnestrovian. This identity is unique! Indeed, we have society without conflicts, contradictions and difficulties connected with differentiation of people by citizenship, ethnicity and religion.

“We could be an example of tolerance for many regions in the world”

- Politics is considered to be a man's job. Perhaps, for You it is easier to conduct negotiations because man-diplomats easier make concessions to such an attractive woman…

- Thank You for the compliment. It is made very elegantly. In our job gender is of no significance. Concessions are made in other spheres. In diplomacy we speak not about concessions but about compromises. And when you speak about a compromise there can be no winners and losers – everyone will win. Otherwise, it is not a compromise.