Negotiations on the Transdniestrian settlement process start on Monday, 27 November in Vienna under the Austrian OSCE Chairmanship. The last meeting in the format 5+2 (Moldova, Transdniestria, the OSCE, the EU, the US, Russia and Ukraine) took place in Berlin in June 2016 and did not bring any immediate positive shift in terms of achieving a settlement to the conflict between Moldova and Transdniestria. This time, however, it may be different. On 25 November, Gheorghe Balan, the Vice Prime-Minister of Moldova, and Vitaly Ignatiev, Head of Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the unrecognized republic of Transdniestria, met in the Transdniestrian town of Bender and agreed terms in four important areas concerning socio-economic issues.
The first document, signed by Balan and Ignatiev on the eve of negotiations in the Austrian capital, concerns the mutual recognition of educational certificates. At the previous meetings the negotiations were at a deadlock because Chisinau was strongly opposed to the use of “state” in the name “Transdniestrian State University of T. Shevchenko”. Eventually, the two sides arranged for the name of the university to be written in English as Transdniestrian Taras Shevchenko University.
Balan and Ignatiev also discussed the functioning of the Moldavian state schools that are located in the unrecognized republic, and in which lessons are taught in the Romanian language. This issue has always irritated Tiraspol and was considered to be pending for a long period of time. Moldova always complained that the government of the breakaway region impeded the functioning of the schools in that area. Thanks to EU mediation these disagreements should remain in the past.
Arrangements to restore a fixed line between Moldova and its breakaway region, as well as to issue a Moldavian licence to the Transdniestrian mobile operator “Interdnestrkom”, should also contribute to settlement of the conflict and improve communication between the two sides. Taking into account the fact that the direct phone line between Tiraspol and Сhisinau was cut off in 2006, this would appear as a real breakthrough in the process of mediation.
Finally, the two sides agreed to resolve the problem of farmland that belongs to Moldavian companies, but is located on territory controlled by Tiraspol – in the course of the last few years it has been almost impossible for farmers to cultivate their land.
Thus, the above-mentioned arrangements, along with the opening on 18 November of a bridge (blown up in 1992 and later restored, but still closed to transport) between Gura Bacului and Bacioc, have established a positive background for the opening negotiations in Vienna.