I want to thank you, and the US Helsinki Commission, for organizing this hearing. I take the hearing as an encouraging demonstration of the fact that Members of the US Congress are interested in solving the crisis in Moldova and contributing to the efforts of the international community, the OSCE in particular, in this matter.
I have the honour to Chair the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s Parliamentary Team on Moldova. This Team is composed of five Members of Parliament, representing Finland, Canada, Lithuania, Slovenia and Sweden. We have chosen countries, which are not directly linked to the conflict and which do not have any major interest in Moldova, apart from a peaceful political settlement. However, the Team is cooperating closely with all countries involved, such as Moldova, of course, but also Russia, Ukraine and Romania. Our closest cooperation partner is the OSCE Mission to Moldova.
Why has the OSCE PA established a Team composed of Parliamentarian? How can Members of Parliament, whose main responsibilities are at home in their National Parliament, help? To answer these questions, we need to define our role aims very clearly.
Let me first say what we are not. We are not negotiators and we are not mediators. We must not try to do the work of the Governments or, for instance, the OSCE Mission. At the same time we must work closely with them. We must make sure that the OSCE has one policy only. We support and implement that policy as parliamentarians.
The one and half years of our activity have proven that there are areas where the Parliamentarians, as politicians, can make important contributions. Our main aim is to promote dialogue on the highest political level between all parties concerned. It is that highest political level, which, in the end, must take the necessary decision concerning a peaceful political settlement of the Transdniestrian conflict. It is obvious that at present there are far too little contacts and dialogue amongst the politicians. We are there to help.
The Parliamentary Team, naturally, shares the views and aims of the OSCE. We have spelled them out in our resolutions from the Annual Sessions in Bucharest in 2000 and Paris in 2001. I take this opportunity to thank the US Members of the OSCE PA for their support during those Sessions. There is no need to repeat here our main principles in details, but let me briefly emphasize that we recognize the independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova within the borders of the former SSR of Moldova. We want to build on all previous agreements and commitments, including the Istanbul Summit Declaration where the Russian Federation committed itself to withdrawing all Russian forces from the territory of Moldova by the end of 2002. We also feel that the only way to reach a solution must be to rely on peaceful political means. Therefore leaders from both sides of the Nistru River must engage themselves in a dialogue and negotiations.
In accordance with our mandate, approved at the Standing Committee in February 2000, we have visited Chisinau and Tiraspol a few times. We have met with the highest leadership, including parliamentarians and Government leaders, as well as major negotiators. My impression is that what is needed in Chisinau, is a better understanding and acceptance of the special circumstances in Transdniestria and the concerns of many inhabitants of that region. What is needed in Tiraspol is the acceptance of basic principles of a future solution – including territorial integrity of Moldova. At the same time, in particular in Tiraspol, one can see that behind the monolith façade there are different opinions and approaches. We should encourage those, who are more inclined to dialogue and compromise.
One of our aims is to assemble political leaders from both banks of the Nistru River round the same table with us, and probably others, to discuss real issues. So far our success has been limited. Both in Bucharest last your and in Paris this year we tried to have a united Delegation from Moldova, which would have included Members of both the Moldovan Parliament and the Transdniestrian Supreme Soviet. Moldovan Parliament would have agreed to this arrangement. In both occasions we had indications that also the Transdiestrians would have agreed. This would have been significant symbolically. It would also have been an opportunity for the Transdniestians to attend an important international political forum, present their case and hear reactions of the international community. In both occasions the Transdniestians cancelled their participation in the last minute, apparently under pressure from their local government. I hope that the Transdniestrian politicians would reconsider this self-imposed isolation. We might offer the next opportunity during our Winter Meeting in Vienna in February 2002.
We have, however, also had some success. We were able to organize in Helsinki and Maarianhamina, capital of the Åland Islands, which is an autonomous region in Finland, a “Seminar on Self-Government” in May 2001. This was exactly what we want: to have political leaders, including representatives of parliaments and government, seriously discussing a real issue. A political solution of the Transdniestrian conflict must include some kind of autonomous status for the Transdniestrian region. We were encouraged by the fact that leaders from Chisinau and Tiraspol, as well as high-level representatives from Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Finland, Sweden, Canada and Slovenia, as well as representatives of the OSCE and the Council of Europe, were willing and able to discuss the issue thoroughly and in length. Such discussions on various relevant issues need to be continued.
In order to promote and maintain the political process in Moldova it is essential that the withdrawal of Russian forces from Transdniestria, in accordance with the Istanbul Summit Declaration, be finalized. Transdniestrian leadership must not have any kind veto in this matter. This is an issue, which we have emphasized to our Russian Members and friends. We need to continue doing so. The withdrawal would be an important step forward. A failure would undermine the whole process.
In the longer run it is essential to tackle the economic crisis in Moldova. Moldova is amongst the poorest in Europe. Poverty is not conducive to political settlements, and the absence of a political settlement hampers economic development of the country. Moldova has recently joined the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe. Even if the Stability Pact has not yet proven particularly successful, joining it is a signal from the Moldovan Government of their interest to integrate to Europe. Such integration needs to be supported. The European Union should support economic recovery of Moldova. I would ask you to consider how the United States could be helpful in this matter.
The solution of the Transdniestrian conflict would bring the Transdniestrian region out of its isolation and integrate it, already in the short run, to some European structures. These structures would include the OSCE, whose commitments would become relevant also in Transdniestria, and the Council of Europe, whose legally binding conventions, including the European Convention of Human Rights with its instruments, would have its effects across the entire territory of Moldova.
Once again, I thank you for the opportunity to participate in this hearing. I want to ensure you that the OSCE Parliamentary Team on Moldova will continue to implement its mandate and promote political dialogue with and between political leaders in Moldova on both sides of Nistru. We will continue to do so in close cooperation with Ambassador William Hill and his OSCE Mission. We also count on the continuous support of the American Members of the OSCE PA.