Experts agree: Moldova has no future without neutral status

On September 22 the conference “Fundamentals of sustainable development and security of Moldova’s future” took place in the capital of Moldova

Experts agree: Moldova has no future without neutral status
The conference was organised by eNews.md portal and supported by the consulting company Intellect Group, the Foundation for Democracy and Progress, and the social organisation SPERO.

According to the editor-in-chief of the information portal Enews.md, Yulia Semenova, the event is held for the third consecutive year, expanding each time the geography of participants. This time, on the discussion platform one could meet renowned public experts from Austria, Belarus, Romania, Russia, USA, Ukraine, and Switzerland.

The speakers were:

Igor Kotler, President and Executive Director of the Museum of Human Rights, Freedom and Tolerance MHRFT;

Sergey Stankevich, expert of the Anatoly Sobchak Foundation;

Doctor of Political Science Anatoly Tkach;

Alexander Shpakovsky, Director of the Analytical Centre Aktual Concept.

During the conference, experts focused on two main issues: first, maintaining interethnic harmony in such a complex and multi-ethnic state as Moldova; second, elaborating an acceptable model of geopolitical neutrality in a transforming world which would create better preconditions for the Republic’s development.

The speakers explained that the geopolitical competition between the leading powers and world power centres has been escalating in the last years, which provokes turbulence and uncertainty in the modern international relations and results in the transformation of the existing world order and building dividing lines.

According to experts, the emerging situation is especially dangerous for a multi-ethnic state like Moldova, which is home to several population groups at once: Moldovans, Soviet Moldovans, post-Soviet Moldovans, Romanians, Russians, Ukrainians, Gagauzians, Bulgarians, Jews, Roma, Armenians, Azerbaijanis, Greeks, Belarusians, Tajiks, Poles and others.

“In recent years interest in minority problems has increased. In my opinion, one of the internal problems of the Moldovan population is Moldovans or Romanians. Today about 60% of those who speak Moldovan are associated with Moldovans, 30% with Romanians and 10% with an undefined identity. As the last elections have shown, the number of unionists has decreased significantly. The biggest problem is Transnistria. At the heart of the conflict are political problems. Certainly, the separation of a part of the country from the mainstream makes sense in creating a democratic society. There is another side – the Moldovans of Transnistria. This is an acute problem that has not yet found a solution. The Gagauz. Certain circles present them as separatists. There is also a prejudiced attitude towards Roma, Azeris and Tajiks. All these factors lead to instability in the country. Russophobia and Romanophobia can lead to a public explosion”, – Kotler said.

Another solution to the issue of sustainable development of Moldova’s future security in a transforming world, analysts believe, could be for the state to turn to the institution of neutrality. The experts stressed that Moldova’s neutrality should become a unifying factor that would strengthen ties within the country.

“In modern conditions, the neutrality of the Republic of Moldova can become a unifying element for the entire society. For example, the Swiss experience demonstrates not only the unifying role of neutrality in society, but also the advantages that a neutral state has in international relations. The geopolitical location of the Republic of Moldova between two integration associations and centres of power, subject to strengthening and international recognition of neutrality, opens new opportunities for cooperation both with the West and with the East. The prospect of strengthening the institution of neutrality of the Republic of Moldova at domestic and international level may “damp” the geopolitical division in the society and in the political discourse, contributing to the escape of political elites from the geopolitical dispute and concentration of forces on the elaboration of strategic planning in the domestic and foreign policy”, – explained Anatol Tkach.

At the same time, experts noted that Moldova’s location on the geopolitical map of the world, where it is in the middle of several large supranational associations and centres of power, on the condition of building an effective policy of state neutrality, opens up prospects for the Republic’s development both in the West and in the East.

“The prospect of strengthening the institution of neutrality of the Republic of Moldova domestically and internationally can “extinguish” the geopolitical split in society and in political discourse, contributing to the withdrawal of political elites from geopolitical disputes and the concentration of forces on the development of strategic planning in domestic and foreign policy. Neutrality as a form of conflict resolution has persisted in international practice and is proving to be resilient. It acts as a kind of filter for domestic policy, protecting the country from negative consequences of confrontation of external forces. Neutrality gives possibility to concentrate on effective solution of internal problems of the state. At the same time neutrality allows developing international cooperation in the context of own national interests, forming preconditions for pragmatic, mutually beneficial and good neighbourly existence of the nations”, –  Tkach finished his thought.

The speakers especially stressed that the formation of a neutral status should not deny the protection of their own national interests and the fight for state sovereignty against external interference. No one guarantees that major players will want to reckon with the status of a young republic that has decided to leave the bloc confrontation.

“For Moldova, building a neutral state seems to be the optimal solution to many issues, but we should not expect external partners to reckon with this status. Probably, we were somewhat illusory about the actions of our Western partners, who came to Minsk and discussed the issues of neutrality at various platforms. Later on, it became clear that the West paid lip service to the idea of neutrality. In reality, these meetings became a point of entry into state structures and security systems. the true objective became clear after the presidential elections, when, according to Minsk’s official position, there was an attempted coup d’etat in the country. Now, when the draft of a new constitution is being considered, there is talk of removing such a provision from the Basic Law of the State. Nevertheless, Belarus played and still plays an important role as an intermediary in the settlement of the conflict in the South-East of Ukraine”,  – Shpakovskiy said.

On the other hand, analysts said, if we talk about Russia, which is also increasing its influence in the post-Soviet space and the Baltic states, its position will be more transparent and predictable for its neighbours: the sphere of influence of Moscow is not force or intervention, but peacekeeping and maintenance of regional stability and security.

“Russia views its sphere of influence as a peacekeeping presence and maintaining security near its borders. That is, it is not some form of administrative or political control. Russia’s interpretation of its sphere of influence is based on three rules of ‘no’. Do not approach, do not deploy, do not threaten. Not to bring military-political blocs close to Russia’s borders, not to deploy troops or weapons that could be perceived as hostile. And do not pursue any policy that could be perceived as threatening. This is a sufficient condition for the states adjacent to Russia’s borders to be seen as friendly and as partners. This is the concept that has evolved in politics and in expert circles in Russia. If we stick to the clearly defined rules that Russia has set, then spheres of influence can help to streamline and develop some common forms of effective coexistence in the region”, – said Sergey Stankevich.

Thus, summing up the above-mentioned, as a result of the conference “Fundamentals of the sustainable development and security of Moldova’s future” held in Chisinau, experts pointed out key strategic directions for the state, potential points of growth and potential danger-red lines.

Conclusion:

The movement towards a neutral status within the international positioning of the Republic of Moldova is one of the most promising development options. It allows shaping and strengthening the national identity, diversifying geopolitical risks and ensuring stable development in all areas of state activity.

Furthermore, a move towards official recognition of the neutral status of the Republic of Moldova could increase the attractiveness of the state for international partners, enhance integration processes, and strengthen cooperation with supranational organisations in the West and East, serving as a tool to defend national interests.

eNews.md

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