Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Elections in Moldova

Delivered in Plenary - February 23rd 2005

Mr President

Moldova is a small landlocked country, the poorest in Europe, whose importance to the EU will rise as our frontiers will border it by 2007. It is also the location of a frozen conflict in its breakaway territory of Transnistria, under Russian military protection since 1991, following a bloody secessionist conflict. This territory is a haven for gansterism, smuggling and money laundering and corrupts the local authorities around the Odessa oblast in Ukraine.

President Voronin, whom I met a year ago, in spite of being a Communist and ethnically Russian, is committed to EU and NATO approximation for his country after a row with President Putin, who failed to withdraw Russian troops by 2002 from Transnistria, as agreed. I have no doubt that the parliamentary elections on 6 March, although far from perfect in terms of media bias in the run-up and the monopoly of administrative resources, will not be subject to the kind of fraud seen under Prime Minister Yanukovych in neighbouring Ukraine, which sparked off the famous Orange Revolution. The European Parliament, the parliamentary assemblies of the Council of Europe and NATO, as well as OSCE/ODIHR presence in Moldova, with Romanian and Ukrainian help, will prevent such a scenario.

The new parliament must help Romania, Ukraine, Russia, the USA and the EU get together with the Moldovan Government to solve the Transnistria problem. Reassurances of strong safeguards for Slav minorities must be given, probably along with a form of devolved government to the territory, which, after all, has never been part of historic Bessarabia or been Romanian speaking and which Stalin annexed cruelly to create Moldova 60 years ago.

I personally would start by advocating tightening of the sanctions against Tiraspol by asking President Yushchenko of Ukraine, who was here this morning, to further demonstrate his independence from Moscow by preventing Mr Smirnov and his 16 cronies from travelling to Ukraine as the EU has already done with the visa ban. I would also ask the Council to bring in a policy to prevent any aircraft landing in EU territory having taken off from Tiraspol military airport, thus ensuring they all fly out of Chisinau, where they can be openly inspected for smuggling, including arms trafficking.