Documents considered by the Committee on 14th October 2015 - European Scrutiny Contents


28 Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova

Committee's assessment Politically important
Committee's decisionCleared from scrutiny; further information requested
Document detailsCouncil Decision concerning restrictive measures against the leadership of the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova
Legal baseArticle 29 TEU; unanimity
DepartmentForeign and Commonwealth Office
Document Number(37137), —

Summary and Committee's conclusions

28.1 Following Moldova's independence, a separatist movement in the Transnistrian region on the eastern bank of the Nistru River declared itself a Republic. Thus far, attempts to find a settlement to this situation have failed.

28.2 In 2003, the EU adopted restrictive measures imposing a travel ban on individuals responsible for preventing progress in achieving a political settlement of the conflict, and individuals responsible for the design and implementation of the intimidation and closure campaign against Latin-script Moldovan schools in the Transnistrian region. These measures have been reviewed on an annual basis, removing or adding names to the travel ban list as conditions dictated.[ 170]

28.3 After progress towards a political settlement, the measures relating to the leadership were lifted in 2012: but the measures against those held responsible for the campaign against Latin-script schools were extended until 30 September 2013. However, in order to encourage further progress, the individuals targeted were removed from the list, resulting in the measures being renewed with a blank annex. This exercise was repeated a year later. A year ago, these arrangements were extended until 31 October 2015. But discussions were due later on fresh approaches to the issue in the light of upcoming national elections in Moldova. So the then Committee asked the Minister for Europe (Mr David Lidington) at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, to provide an update in spring 2015.

28.4 This did not materialise until this September, reflecting continuing political uncertainty following the elections in Moldova and, consequently, little change over the past year in the overall situation in respect of the Latin Script schools, or the Trasnistrian settlement issue more broadly (see Background for details).

28.5 The Minister now reports that this draft Council Decision will again extend these arrangements until 31 October 2016. However, he has supported the European External Action Service's (EEAS) suggestion to include a recital in the new Council Decision, stating that a review would be conducted after six months and, in parallel EU Heads of Mission in Chisinau would be tasked to assess the impact, relevance and accuracy of the sanctions. This, the Minister says, "will allow a thorough assessment of whether the current measures are effectively supporting progress on the ground".

28.6 We should be grateful if the Minister would inform the Committee of the outcome of the review, which we presume will be in good time before any further Council Decision is submitted for scrutiny.

28.7 In the meantime, we now clear this draft Council Decision from scrutiny.

Full details of the document: Council Decision amending Decision 2010/573/CFSP concerning restrictive measures against the leadership of the Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova: (37137), —.

Background

28.8 A year ago, the Minister for Europe reported that during discussions on the adoption of the draft Council Decision, the UK queried whether the continuing rollover of measures year-on-year, in particular where measures were deemed to lack any practical impact, was inconsistent with broader EU sanctions policy: but, once again, other Member States preferred to maintain the current 12 month rollover period. A compromise was reached whereby discussions on fresh approaches to the issue would commence in the light of upcoming national elections in Moldova. With that in mind, the Minister planned to engage with the authorities in Chisinau and Tiraspol, and with interested EU partners, to agree on alternative strategies for handling the schools issue.

The previous Committee's assessment

28.9 On previous occasions our predecessors had not regarded this particular "rolling-over" process as warranting a substantive Report to the House. However, on this occasion, they concluded that the questions raised by the Minister did so warrant. They asked to hear from the Minister in six months' time on how his endeavours had progressed.[ 171]

The Minister's letter of 14 September 2015

28.10 The Minister apologises for the delay in responding to the previous Committee's request, which he attributes to the dissolution of Parliament, the delay in forming the successor Committee reforming and the political situation in Moldova — the last of which he explains as follows:

"At the time of the last Council Decision we hoped that discussions on a Transnistrian settlement would commence shortly after parliamentary elections in Moldova on 30 November 2014. Unfortunately these elections did not lead to any form of stability in Moldova which would have enabled the progress we had hoped for on this issue. Pro-European parties won a narrow majority of the seats in the new Parliament but could not easily agree on a majority coalition. Eventually, after three months of negotiations, a minority coalition was formed but it lasted just over 100 days. In July 2015 the Moldovan Parliament narrowly voted for the establishment of a new pro-European coalition Government led by Prime Minister Valeriu Strelet. These delays and instability have meant that despite the fact that some progress was made by the confidence building working group on education in the latter half of 2014, overall the situation in respect of the Latin Script schools — and indeed on the Trasnistrian settlement issue more broadly — has changed little over the past year.

"The last EEAS situation report circulated in March 2015 included recommendations for maintaining the existing sanctions regime. The next update is due soon and will cover the situation at the start of the new school year at the beginning of this month.

"Our Embassy in Chisinau has continued to follow developments on the ground relating to the functioning of the eight Latin Script schools in the Transnistrian region. Our Embassy has raised the issue in its regular contacts with officials in Tiraspol reminding them of the importance the UK Government attaches to the rights of all students and teachers to learn and work in an environment free of harassment or intimidation by the authorities. Our Embassy has also continued, and from 1 April 2015 increased, our engagement with the authorities and civil society from both banks of the Nistru through the FCO's Conflict Stability and Security Fund which promotes a range of confidence building measures."

28.11 The Minister concludes by noting that the current EU restrictive measures which target those responsible for intimidation of Latin Script schools operating within the Transnistria region, albeit with an empty list of names, lapse on 31 October 2015; and undertaking to write again to the Committee ahead of the decision on the next Council Decision, on whether to extend these measures, which needs to be adopted before the end of October 2015.

The draft Council Decision

28.12 The draft Council Decision renews EU restrictive measures against Moldova for a further 12 months, until 31 October 2016. It makes no change to the present arrangements, i.e., a travel ban against persons responsible for the design and implementation of the campaign of intimidation and closure of Latin-script schools in the Transnistrian Region, but no individuals are currently listed.

The Government's view

28.13 In his Explanatory Memorandum of 5 October 2015, the Minister for Europe notes that:

—  during the annual review, the Eastern Europe and Central Asia (COEST) Working Party reviewed the restrictive measures on the basis of the Chisinau EU Heads of Mission report of 15 September 2015 and the European External Action Service (EEAS) report of 14 September 2015, and agreed to maintain the restrictive measures in their current form; and

—  the draft Council Decision calls for a review of the situation with regard to the restrictive measures after six months.

28.14 He continues his comments as follows:

    "The EEAS report of 14 September 2015 noted that 'not much progress on resolving the problems around the Latin-script Schools has been achieved and neither any deterioration of the situation observed'. The unstable political situation in Moldova over the past twelve months, including protracted coalition negotiations, has meant that resolution of problems around the Latin Script Schools have not been among priority issues in the Transnistrian settlement process during the reporting period. Although some progress was made by the confidence building working group on education in the latter half of 2014, Latin-script schools in Transnistria still continue to function in discriminatory conditions and with a dwindling number of students.

    "EU partners agreed that due to lack of progress on the ground, the measures should be retained. It was also decided not to add any names to the Annex so as not to damage the prospects of reaching a long-term solution to the schools issue.

    "The UK supported the EEAS's suggestion to include a recital in the new Council Decision stating that a review would be conducted after 6 months and, in parallel, to task EU Heads of Mission in Chisinau to include in their report an assessment of the impact, relevance and accuracy of the sanctions. This will allow a thorough assessment of whether the current measures are effectively supporting progress on the ground".

Previous Committee Reports

None, but see (36931), —: Thirteenth Report HC 219-xiii (2014-15), chapter 39 (15 October 2014) and (33142), —: Forty-second Report: HC 428-xxxvii (2010-12), chapter 19 (12 October 2011).


170   For the full background, see Forty-second Report: HC 428-xxxvii (2010-12), chapter 19 (12 October 2011). Back

171   See (36931) Thirteenth Report HC219-xiii (2014-15), chapter 39 (15 October 2014). Back


 
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Prepared 14 October 2015