In the Republic of Moldova, people’s disposition, emotions, feelings know an unpredictable curve. You never know what tomorrow brings, no matter how much you hope that things are starting to settle into a promising bed.
That’s what happened at the beginning of this week, which brought alarming news, contrasting strongly with the enlivening of December 1 – Romania’s National Day, which has become the celebration of the soul of all Romanians. On this festive occasion, speeches and statements full of gratitude to Romania were heard from President Maia Sandu, Prime Minister Natalia Gavriliță, Speaker Igor Grosu, Foreign Minister Nicu Popescu and other officials from Chisinau.
It is the natural attitude towards a friendly state, a brother state, as the Moldovans call it, because while Russia turns off the light in the Republic of Moldova, Romania turns it on, currently covering about 90% of consumption. While Russia is carrying out a hybrid war with the aim of returning Moldova to the condition of a colony, Romania offers economic and diplomatic, cultural and educational support, pleads the cause of the European integration of the Republic of Moldova alongside the Western chancelleries.
However, Monday, December 5, came, and everything seemed to have re-entered the fog. A new Russian missile fell, this time in the Briceni district, fortunately without causing casualties, and this new incident reminded us how vulnerable Moldovans are to Putinist aggression, because the Russians, of course, would not have fired missiles over the national territory of the Republic of Moldova if they knew that Moldova has anti-aircraft installations capable of “closing the sky”.
Then, after Romania delivered, on Saturday, December 3, the first million cubic meters of natural gas through the Iași-Ungheni-Chisinau gas pipeline, another piece of news aroused bewilderment, even indignation.
Namely: the Republic of Moldova gives up the gas received from the Russians, 5.7 million cubic meters per day, in favor of the left bank, Transnistria. Instead, the Cuciurgan Power Plant (MGRES) will sell electricity to the coast at a price of 73 or 73.5 dollars for 1 MW/h. As for gas, the Republic of Moldova will consume the stocks purchased on the market, which should last for two winter months.
The arguments of Deputy Prime Minister Andrei Spînu, the person responsible for this agreement, such as that the electricity purchased from Cuciurgan will reduce bills by 25%, and Chisinau will no longer be responsible for the gas delivered by the Russians to Transnistria, were criticized by some economic experts, by pro-European politicians from the opposition and from a part of the media.
It got to the point where the CUB party asked the Prosecutor’s Office for a criminal investigation against the government, on the grounds of supporting the separatist regime in Transnistria.
For his part, Andrei Spînu declared that “if it is a wrong decision, he is ready to accept the political price”. That is to resign, we assume.
Each of the parties in the controversy expresses a part of the truth. For the government, it is important to provide the country with electricity, now, during the winter, cheapening the bills that “burn” the pockets of Moldovans and lower the PAS in the polls.
The experts, a good part of them, denounce the instability of the agreement with MGRES, because there is no certainty that Gazprom will not stop deliveries at some point, for example from January 1, 2023, automatically blocking the electricity destined for the right bank. The experts also cited the disproportion between what Chisinau gets and the benefits of the separatist leaders.
The pro-European opposition attacks the political aspect of the problem, saying that instead of decreasing, Moldova’s dependence on Russian resources will increase, contradicting the policies of the European Union, which Chisinau says it has rallied to. As is known, after declaring the “state of emergency in the economy” caused by the decrease in the volumes delivered by Gazprom, Tiraspol asked Moscow to identify a solution, and here it seems that the solution has been found: the agreement between the government of in Chisinau and MGRES.
The external partners of the Republic of Moldova, analyzing the circumstances, welcomed the agreement reached. The United States Embassy in Chisinau noted that “the agreement represents an important step in Moldova’s efforts to strengthen its energy security and minimize price increases for consumers.”
A positive signal also came from the European Energy Community, which also emphasized in its message that “the interconnection of Moldova with Ukraine and Romania should follow the action plan for market reform, approved by the Chisinau Government in the framework of the dialogue between the EU and Moldova, the reform of the electricity market must remain a priority of the government in Chisinau.”
The representatives of the government, for their part, say that it is appropriate to distinguish between the separatist regime and the citizens of Transnistria, whom Chisinau cannot let freeze in the cold. Maybe it is a momentarily justified solution, but there are legitimate questions, for example: by generously giving the entire volume of gas to Transnistria, aren’t you jeopardizing the safety of citizens on the right bank? You get a lower price for electricity (although it’s not a small $73.50), but is it not too much of a risk to rely only on (limited) stocks and what will happen next in the energy market?
Transnistrians will, of course, continue not to pay for Russian gas, their debt will be transferred to the account of the contractor MoldovaGaz. Moscow could ask, in a certain situation, Chisinau to pay this bill. What will it be then?
The Republic of Moldova must urgently build a strategy to break its energy dependence on Russia, which it must follow consistently, and have a secure scenario in relation to Transnistria. You can’t improvise from one day to the next, on a wire stretched over the precipice. Any gesture of “goodwill” and “humanism” of Chisinau towards the citizens on the left of the Dniester will be perverted and tarnished by the Tiraspol regime, and Russia – the great culprit – will applaud.