Friday, January 29, 2010

Final international report: Young man beaten to death on April 7, most likely by police

Moldovan authorities received a final international report on the death of Valeriu Boboc, a young man who died on April 7, during the mass repression campaign initiated by authorities after the vandalization of the Parliamentary and Presidential buildings. According to a Soros Foundation report, 700 people were detained during the repression, and 300 were tortured in police stations and other unknown locations.

Valeriu Boboc's body was returned home after a few days, and authorities at the time said he had died because of an intoxication with an unknown gas substance.

The international expertise, conducted by a professional from the United Kingdom, establishes that Mr. Boboc, a husband and a father of a young child, was beaten to death, most likely by police officers. Many Moldovans are not surprised by the report, considering the fact that pictures taken of the young man during his funeral show him with a huge dent in his head, most likely caused by brutal beatings. These pictures made their way onto the front pages of international press, as well. A popular Romanian daily - Evenimentul Zilei - had a large picture of Mr. Boboc's dead body on their front page.

Authorities have said that it will be very difficult to establish who exactly killed Mr. Boboc considering the fact that the people beating him, according to witnesses, were wearing masks. Since multiple police officers were kicking protesters who were ordered to lie down, it is also difficult to establish which kick was fatal.

Communist authorities, which were in power during April, have denied ordering the repression campaign, although Interior Minister Papuc, who coordinated the activity of police forces on the night of April 7 and later, told prosecutors that he followed orders from leaders at the time.

Interim President: NATO membership not an issue at the moment because of heterogeneity of Alliance party members

Moldovan interim President and Speaker Mihai Ghimpu said during a joint press conference with Romanian President Traian Basescu yesterday that NATO membership is not a current issue in Chisinau because the programs of the ruling coalition parties "are different."

Mr. Ghimpu is referring to the fact that the Democratic Party, considered to be the more centrist member of the Alliance for European Integration, is more skeptical about NATO membership than the other four parties making up the coalition.

The opposition Party of Communists is adamantly against NATO membership, and polls show that whereas most Moldovans want to join the European Union, a majority does not want to join NATO.

Moldova ranked third in Russian wine imports in 2009

According to data provided by a research center in Russia, Moldova ranked third in wine imports to the country in 2009.

The country shipped about 27 million liters of wine to Russia. Moldova took about 12 percent of the wine market share there. France and Bulgaria took first and second place, respectively, with 18 and 15 percent of the market.

Moldova used to be a more important wine trading partner before the Russian wine embargo in 2006, when it lost considerable market share and had to reorient its business to other countries. Recently, Moscow and Chisinau have held talks about resuming a large volume of wine exports to Russia.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

New law to make identification of internet users easier, critics complain about reduction in privacy rights

According to a new law on fighting cyber-crime, internet providers will have to offer authorities any information that could be of relevance for the identification of clients.

The move is intended to fight internet crime in the country, but critics have said that it might restrict private rights. The outrage thus far seems to be rather subdued, however.

Authorities have not yet commented upon these concerns.

Romanian President promises support for E.U. integration and 100-million-Euro grant

Romanian President Traian Basescu is on an official visit to Moldova on January 27-28. He is accompanied by a large number of cabinet ministers from Bucharest.

Mr. Basescu met with a number of Moldovan officials today, including interim President and Speaker Mihai Ghimpu and Prime Minister Vlad Filat.

The Romanian head of state pledged to support Moldova's aspirations to join the E.U. and promised that Bucharest would provide a 100-million-Euro non-refundable grant for improving education infrastructure.

Mr. Basescu was greeted downtown by hundreds of pro-Romanian demonstrators. The Romanian President is rather popular with many Moldovans. He managed to garner 95 percent of the vote expressed in Moldova during the presidential election in Romania last year.

The Romanian head of state also promised to increase response time for granting citizenship to Moldovans.

The visit is seen as a sign of improving ties between Chisinau and Bucharest after the two countries had a very shaky relationship during the Communist period (2001-2009).

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Bucharest: over 20,000 Moldovans and Ukrainians received Romanian citizenship in 2009

According to data provided by the Justice Ministry in Romania, Bucharest granted over 20,000 citizenships to Moldovan and Ukrainian residents in 2009.

Normally, any person can ask for Romanian citizenship and receive it if it can be proven that they lost it involuntarily. This means that anyone who lived in what is today the Republic of Moldova when it was part of Romania in the period between the two world wars can ask for a reinstatement of citizenship. In addition, their descendants up to the third generation can do the same.

A very large number of Moldovans have applied for Romanian citizenship as a result, but most are yet to hear from authorities in Bucharest. Romania recently reformed the institutions that deal with citizenship reinstatement in an attempt to improve response time.


Communist head: Romanian President "should mind his own business at home, in Romania"

Former President (2001-2009) and current Party of Communists (PC) head Vladimir Voronin told the press today that Romanian President Traian Basescu "should mind his own business at home, in Romania" instead of visiting Moldova.

Mr. Basescu has planned a two-day visit to Moldova, during which he will meet with local officials and visit the cemetery of Romanian soldiers who fought the Soviets in 1941, located in the village of Tiganca.

Communist-run Moldova between 2001 and 2009 had a very tense relationship with Bucharest, which peaked in April 2009, when Mr. Voronin accused the neighboring country of attempting to stage a coup. The conflict is mostly centered on the Communists' insistence that Moldovans are not Romanians and objections to Mr. Basescu calling Moldova a "second Romanian state."

Chisinau-Minsk direct flight could be set up to bolster trade ties

Belarus Ambassador to Moldova Veaceslav Osipenko told Belta news agency that he recently spoke with Moldova's Transportation and Road Economy Minister Anatol Salaru about setting up a direct Chisinau-Minsk flight.

The move would boslter trade ties between the two countries and increase business contacts, said the Ambassador.

Belarus is an important trade partner for Moldova. In 2008, it ranked fifth in terms of exports and eighth in terms of imports.

Lithuanian P.M. visits Chisinau, pledges support for country's European integration

Lithuanian Prime Minister Andrius Kubilius is on an official visit to Chisinau. Mr. Kubilius has met with several Moldovan officials, including Prime Minister Vlad Filat and Speaker and interim President Mihai Ghimpu.

The Lithuanian P.M. promised that his country would support Moldova's European integration aspirations, and that it would promote Chisinau's interests both in Brussels and in Washington, D.C.

Mr. Kubilius thanked Mr. Ghimpu for Moldova being the first Soviet state to recognize Lithuania's independence on May 31, 1990.

The Baltic states and Moldovan democrats have always had a very friendly relationship, which goes back to the period of national liberation in the 1980s in the Soviet Union. At that time, the four countries sent delegates to each other's mass demonstrations in favor of independence. Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania continue to support Chisinau's democratic aspirations, and have promised to help Moldova get closer to joining the E.U.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Vladimir Socor: Transnistria Remains the Only Really “Frozen” Conflict

Vladimir Socor, a well-known American analyst of Romanian origin, recently published an article on Transnistria on the Jamestown Foundation's website. Mr. Socor frequently comments upon events in Moldova.

An excerpt:
"In 2008, Russia “unfroze” the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia through outright war and occupation of these Georgian territories. In the latter part of 2009, the United States and Russia each accelerated negotiations on the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict, each pressing for some kind of quick results. Although the US and Russian initiatives are inherently competitive, they both proceed from the same flawed point of departure, breaking the link between Armenian troop withdrawal from seven Azerbaijani districts and normalization of Turkey-Armenia relations. This approach can only keep the Karabakh conflict unresolved, although it creates the appearance of intensive negotiations toward settling it."

The full article can be read here.

Steel production - 70 percent of Transnistrian exports - plummets because of crisis

The Transnistria-based Moldovan Metallurgical Plant announced that it produced 51.9 percent less steel in 2009 compared to 2008. Representatives said the drop could be attributed to the economic crisis. In raw numbers, the plant produced 425,900 tons of steel worth around 195 million U.S. dollars in 2009.

The plant's output makes up about 70 percent of Transnistria's exports and, therefore, has a huge impact on the region's economic well-being.


Romania launches support group for Moldova in Brussels

On Monday, Romanian Foreign Minister Teodor Baconschi launched an Informal Support Group by European Union members for Moldova. The group seeks to support Chisinau's democratic and European aspirations. Mr. Baconschi stressed that the E.U. should help Moldova consolidate the rule of law and overcome the economic crisis.

The initiation of the group was also headed by Pierre Lellouche, the French Foreign MInistry's State Secretary for European Affairs. Moldovan Foreign Affairs Minister Iurie Leanca was also in attendance. Austria, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Italy, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, and the United Kingdom all sent representatives to the event.

Bucharest seems to have increased its activities in support of Chisinau's plans for European integration after the Communists lost power in July 2009. The Party of Communists-led Government between 2001 and 2009 had a very shaky relationship with Romania. Former President Vladimir Voronin even accused Bucharest of a coup in 2009.

Romanian President Traian Basescu will be in Chisinau between January 27 and 28. He will be accompanied by a large number of ministers.

The ruling Alliance for European Integration has visibly better ties with Bucharest.

Russian paper: "If the democratic coalition in Moldova stays in power, the military situation in Transnistria could become more tense

Voenno-Promyshlenny Kuryer [The Military Industrial Courier], a Russian weekly newspaper that covers military issues and is influential in the defense community there, published an article in its January 20-26 issue, arguing that the probability of wars in the Commonwealth of Independent States would go up in 2010.

Alexei Matveev, the author of the article, mentions Moldova a few times. He notes that after the "so-called democratic alliance" in the country won elections, military conflict in Trasnistria could appear again. Mr. Matveev adds that if the ruling Alliance stays in power, the military situation in the breakaway republic could become more tense.

The paper suggests to the Kremlin to strengthen the Commonwealth of Independent States as a counter-weight to Russia's possible loss of influence in the area.

Former Moldovan President testifies in "April 7" investigation, says events on that day were an attempted coup

Former Moldovan President (2001-2009) and Party of Communists (PC) head Vladimir Voronin testified at the Prosecutor's office today in the "April 7" case. On that day, peaceful anti-Communist protests degenerated into the destruction of the Presidential and Parliamentary buildings.

Mr. Voronin said at the time that the event was an attempted coup d'etat supported by Romania. He mentioned his coup hypothesis today, as well, although he did not mention Romania.

Mr. Voronin added that he ordered police forces not to fight back during clashes with protesters in order to avoid bloodshed. On the night of April 7, however, security forces initiated a repression campaign that ended with the detention of 700 people and the torture of 300 of them. It is unclear who ordered these measures, which resulted in the death of at least one protester.


Sunday, January 24, 2010

Moldova accepts new Romanian Ambassador after Communists expelled one and rejected the other in April

Interim President and Speaker Mihai Ghimpu accepted Romania's new Ambassador to Moldova on Friday. Marius Lazurca was previously Romanian Ambassador to the Vatican.

He holds a Ph.D. in history and anthropology from the Sorbonne. Mr. Lazurca has previously taught at the West University in Timisoara and the Aurel Vlaicu University in Arad. He speaks English, French, Italian, and Latin.

After the Parliamentary and Presidential buildings were vandalized on April 7 in Chisinau, Communist authorities accused Romania of trying to stage a coup in Chisinau by supporting anti-Communist protesters. Then-Ambassador Filip Teodorescu was swiftly expelled from the country. Later, Communist authorities refused to accept Bucharest's new appointee, Mihnea Constantinescu.

The new ruling Alliance for European Integration has friendlier ties with Romania. Romanian President Traian Basescu is due to make his first official visit after his re-election to Chisinau at the end of January.

EBRD: Moldova's economy to grow by four percent each in 2010 and 2011

The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development released its 2010 economic growth forecast in Europe on Friday.

According to the Bank's predictions, Moldova's economy will grow by four percent each in 2010 and in 2011. Ukraine's economy is predicted to grow by three percent during both years, while Romania will only register a 1.3- and 2.3-percent rate in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

The average predicted growth for the EBRD's entire sample, which includes 29 countries, is 3.3 and 3.8 percent in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

Defense Minister: Moldova not to send conscripted soldiers to Afghanistan

Moldovan Defense Minister Vitalie Marinuta said on Thursday that if the country decides to send troops to Afghanistan, conscripted soldiers will not be included in the deployment.

Mr. Marinuta thusly tried to dispell rumors disseminated in media outlets that authorities would send regular soldiers to Afghanistan. He stressed that the military staff that will leave will do so based on a contract. Mr. Marinuta added that they will not take part in any fighting.

Moldova has a national conscription service, and rumors said that young men who are on duty would have to go to Afghanistan. Mr. Marinuta specifically told the parents of these soldiers that their sons would not leave the country.

In the war on terror, Moldova has sent sappers to Iraq, who neutralized over 400,000 explosive units.


Authorities: Businessman found dead might have been assassinated because of debts

Igor Basarab, the businessman found dead a few days ago in Chisinau, might have been assassinated by a hired killer because of debts, authorities have said.

Mr. Basarab apparently owed large sums of money which he could not return because his company was going bankrupt.

The businessman had survived another assassination attempt two years ago.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

(VIDEO) P.M. Vlad Filat's meeting with Hillary Clinton

Prime Minister Vlad Filat met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today to sign a Millennium Challenge Corporation financial assistance agreement worth 262 million U.S. dollars.

Ms. Clinton's remarks can be viewed here.

The Moldovan and the U.S. official have also released a joint statement.

(VIDEO) Prime Minister Vlad Filat's talk at Center for Strategic and International Studies

The Center for Strategic and International Studies, a bipartisan American think tank, hosted a meeting with Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat yesterday. Mr. Filat is in Washington, D.C. to sign an agreement with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which will grant the country 262 million U.S. dollars for irrigation and road repair projects.

The meeting can be viewed in full here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Ukrainian border guard heavily wounded after shootout with criminals on Moldovan border

According to the Ukrainian State Border Service, one Ukrainian border guard was heavily wounded after a shoot-out with suspected contraband criminals who might be from Moldova. The perpetrators managed to escape police pursuit.


Sweden to open embassy in Chisinau

Swedish authorities announced on Thursday that they are planning on shutting down their embassies in Slovakia, Slovenia, Luxembourg, Bulgaria, Ireland, and Senegal.

Stockholm will, however, open new embassies in Kosovo, Georgia, Albania, and Moldova.

The move was motivated by a desire to better adjust Sweden's interests abroad.

Feature on Moldovan construction worker in the state of Washington, a branch of the National Public Radio station in the United States, published a feature on the state of the economy in the state of Washington. It covers the story of a Moldovan construction worker who talks about how he gets by.

The report can be read here.

The Economist: Moldova should not be left behind

The Economist recently published an article about "the borderlands of Europe."

The article mentions a new film by famous Romanian scholar Alina Mungiu-Pippidi, called Where Europe Ends.

It also mentions Moldova a few times.

The full article is available here.

German Marshall Fund: Moldova's Window of Opportunity

David J. Kramer (a Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the Washington, D.C. office of the German Marshall Fund's), Alina Inayeh (head of the the Black Sea Trust and the GMF office in Bucharest), and Pavol Demes (head of the GMF office in Bratislava) recently authored an article entitled Moldova's Window of Opportunity.

The articles opens with:
"Ask most Americans and Europeans to identify Vladimir Filat or find Moldova on a map and you're likely to get a blank stare. Both, however, are worth getting to know. Filat is the new prime minister of Moldova, a small country of four million people that emerged from the break-up of the Soviet Union nearly 20 years ago and borders Ukraine and Romania. Despite its size, Moldova is an important piece to the puzzle of trying to achieve the vision of a Europe whole, free, and at peace."

The full article can be read here.

After meeting with U.S. V.P. Joe Biden, Moldovan premier to meet State Sec Hillary Clinton

Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat, who is on an official to the U.S. from January 19 to January 23, is scheduled to meet with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Friday, January 22.

Mr. Filat is in the U.S. primarily to sign an agreement with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which will grant the country 262 million U.S. dollars for some irrigation and road repair projects.

The Moldovan P.M. met with U.S. Vice President Joseph Biden today, as well.

American authorities seem to be very open toward the new ruling Alliance for European Integration after ties with Chisinau generally stagnated when the Communists were in power.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Copy of former Communist President's guest list for event gives insight into what public figures he disliked, including national poet Grigore Vieru

Jurnal de Chisinau recently received a copy of a guest list for the Day of the Republic in 2008, which had to be approved by then-Moldovan President and current Party of Communists (PC) head Vladimir Voronin.

The list shows a message from Presidential advisor Tudor Vasilica, which says that he "awaits your orders" regarding who should be eliminated from the list.

The people eliminated from being invited to the event include Grigore Vieru, Moldova's national poet, who recently passed away, famous academic Mihai Cimpoi, writer Aureliu Busuioc, and others.

Foreign businesspeople also seem to have displeased the former President. Cell phone company Orange head Bruno Dutoit was erased from the list, as were representatives from Lafarge and Veneto Banca.

The Communists became notorious for picking favorites and providing perks for them when they were in power, as well as ostracizing opponents. Mr. Voronin had a very tense relationship with a big chunk of civil society, which tends to be more pro-Western and which criticized the President's authoritarian tendencies.


Moldovan P.M. meets U.S. V.P. Joe Biden

Moldovan Prime Minister Vlad Filat is in the United States to sign an agreement with the Millennium Challenge Corporation, which will grant Chisinau 262 million U.S. dollars.

Mr. Filat has met with numerous American and world officials, including United Nations head Ban-ki Moon.

He also had a meeting with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden today, who told Mr. Filat that the U.S. supports Moldova's democratic reforms and European Union membership aspirations.

During meetings with Howard L. Berman, the chairman of the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Relations, Congressman Ron Klein, Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman-Shultz, as well as North Carolina Senators Kay Hagan and Richard Burr, the American officials talked to Mr. Filat about the human trafficking problems in Moldova and expressed an interest in starting a "Friends of Moldova" group in the Senate.

Moldovan businessman dies from shot in the head after surviving assassination attempt two years ago

Moldovan businessman Igor Basarab, the owner of wine company Basarabia-Vin, was found shot in the head this morning in a park.

It is unclear who killed him, but police authorities have a sketch of the possible criminal.

Mr. Basarab survived an assassination attempt two years ago, when he was also shot in the head.

Such execution-style murders are rather untypical for Moldova.


Former Moldovan President to testify about April events, says police coordinated actions with him during April 7 events

Former President (2001-2009) and current Party of Communists (PC) head Vladimir Voronin will testify on January 22 about the April events. Mr. Voronin was asked to do so by the General Prosecutor's office.

After the Parliamentary and Presidential buildings were vandalized on April 7, authorities initiated a repression campaign that ended in the torture of 300 people and the death of at least one person.

Communist-appointed Interior Minister Gheorghe Papuc and Chisinau police Commissioner Vladimir Botnari are under a criminal investigation surrounding their handling of the events, but they have both said that they coordinated actions with the leadership at the time.

Mr. Voronin has admitted that this was the case.

Romanian President: E.U. needs to take a clear stand on Transnistrian issue

Romanian President Traian Basescu said on Wednesday during his annual meeting with diplomatic representatives in Bucharest that the European Union needs to take a clear position on the Transnistrian issue.

Mr. Basescu also noted that he would continue to promote Moldova's speedy European integration.

The Romanian President will be visiting Moldova at the end of January.


Moldovan P.M. talks to Russian P.M. Vladimir Putin about resumption of wine exports

Prime Minister Vlad Filat, who is on an official visit to the United States to sign a Millennium Challenge Corporation financial assistance package worth 262 million dollars, had a telephone conversation with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin yesterday.

The two officials spoke about the resumption of Moldovan wine exports to Russia after new Russian import procedures left a few Moldovan goods stranded at customs.

Mr. Putin said the situation appeared because of some technical issues and is being resolved.

Moscow imposed a wine embargo on Moldova in 2006, citing health concerns over wine quality. Ever since, wine exports to Russia plummeted, and Moldovan businesses have been trying to get back on the market.

Moldova registers record low inflation rate in 2009, expects it to go up in 2010

The National Bureau of Statistics recently released some data about the inflation rate in the country in 2009. According to the information provided, the country registered a record low 0.4 percent inflation rate last year, a sharp drop after a 7.3-percent inflation rate in 2008. This is the smallest rate recorded since the country's independence.

National Bank of Moldova (NBM) Governor Dorin Dragutanu has said that authorities are hoping for anywhere between four and six percent this year.

Former Romanian soccer star to coach national Moldovan team

Gabi Balint, a 47-year-old Romanian coach who won the European Cup when he played for Steaua Bucharest, has been appointed as the Moldovan soccer team's new coach.

Mr. Balint has also coached Sheriff Tiraspol, which is based in the separatist republic of Transnistria, but plays in the Moldovan league.

Heads of the Moldovan Soccer Federation refused to disclose Mr. Balint's salary.

The country's soccer team has often placed in the last places during preliminary qualification rounds for the European or the world cup. The new coach said he wants for Moldova to improve its rankings.

Russian Deputy ForMin: Russia will withdraw from Transnistria after conflict is settled

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin is in Chisinau to meet with Chisinau and Transnistrian officials. During a press conference he held after meeting with Speaker and interim President Mihai Ghimpu, Mr. Karasin noted that Russia would not withdraw its troops from the breakaway region until a final resolution to the conflict is reached.

The Russian deputy Foreign Minister added that the Russian peacekeepers are a guarantee that force will not be used to solve the conflict.

Russia has about 1,500 troops stationed in the separatist republic of Transnistria, which has not been under Chisinau's control since a civil war in 1992. Most of the troops are peacekeepers. Some guard Soviet-era munitions.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

(Analysis) Language issue causes rifts in ruling Alliance

In the last couple of weeks, the members of the ruling Alliance for European Integration (AEI) have been speaking publicly about a couple of topics related to the complicated language issue in the country.

First, there is the question of whether the AEI's attempts at constitutional reform should target Article 13 in the Constitution, which says that the official language in the country is "Moldovan." Although even members of the Party of Communists, who are the main promoters of the existence of a "Moldovan" language, have acknowleged the fact that Moldovan and Romanian are virtually the same, the possible switch to Romanian is seen as a symbolic move that could consolidate ties between Chisinau and Bucharest.

Recently, influential Communist M.P. Mark Tcaciuk, who is considered to be a close ally of Party of Communists head Vladimir Voronin's, said that changing the language to Romanian could be a step toward the country's unification with Romania. Such statements make the Russian-speaking minority in the country very nervous and may serve as an electoral mobilization tool which could generate Communist votes in the early legislative elections.

Even the ruling Alliance seems to lack consensus on this question. While the Liberal Democrats, the Liberals, the Moldova Noastra [Our Moldova] Alliance, and the Actiunea Europeana [European Action] Movement seem to agree that the language should be called Romanian, the Democratic Party is trying to come up with what it sees as a compromise solution to the problem.

Democratic Party head Marian Lupu said a few days ago that Moldovan should be kept in the Constitution, but that it could be mentioned in parantheses that it is the same as Romanian. Mr. Lupu said that this proposal would appease a part of Moldovan society who is afraid than any concession to the promoters of Romanian in the country would weaken the country's sovereignty.

The second language-related issue also seems to have pitted the Democrats against the rest of the Alliance. Most movie theaters in the country show films that are dubbed in Russian. Many Moldovans have been frustrated about this situation for years, but recent Facebook groups and civil society activists have become more vocal about their desire to see films that are either dubbed or subtitled in Romanian. The new Alliance is also more receptive toward these requests, and Culture Minister Boris Focsa has essentially said that, a few months from now, movie theaters will have to show films with Romanian subtitles or dub them in this language(especially for children).

Movie theater operators have complained that this measure would lead to financial losses and have said that the rights of minorities that do not speak Romanian will not be respected if they have to release films in Romanian.

The Democratic Party came out with a statement yesterday saying that releasing films dubbed in Russian is "not a crime" and has urged for this issue not to be politicized. Once again, the Democrats seem to take a more "centrist" approach to the language issue.

This makes sense from an electoral standpoint. The Democratic Party is trying to become the dominant party on the center-left, which it cannot do if it fails to attract a big chunk of the Communist electorate. This would be difficult to do with a pro-Romanian message, since the Communist electorate tends to be more pro-Russian and more suspicious of Romania.

The other four parties in the Alliance also have a good reason to have the position that they do. Their electorate is more pro-Romanian.

Whatever the case may be, the language issue could very well be a bone of contention that may weaken the Alliance at a crucial period for its existence. Thus far, the ruling coalition has done relatively well at hiding its disagreements. It remains to be seen if the five parties will continue to be unified in the face of an issue that is extremely polarizing.

If divisions appear, a Party of Communists that is still strong and well-organized could take advantage of the Alliance's weaknesses and do well in the polls.

P.M. Filat heads to U.S. to sign agreement on 262-million-dollar financial assistance; to meet U.S. State Sec Clinton, U.N. SecGen Moon

Prime Minister Vlad Filat and a series of other officials headed to Washington, D.C. yesterday to meet with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Mr. Filat and Ms. Clinton will sign an agreement granting Moldova 262 million dollars through the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

Mr. Filat will also meet with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and World Bank President Robert Zoellick.

The ruling Alliance for European Integration seeks closer ties with the United States and the European Union, and is visibly more pro-Western than the previous Communist Government.

Moldovan elected vice-president of U.N. Economic and Social Council

The United Nations Economic and Social Council elected Hamidon Ali (Malaysia) as its new President today.

Four vice-presidents were also elected, including Alexandru Cujba from Moldova, who was put forth by the Eastern States Group.

A fuller story is available here.

Mr. Cujba is Moldova's Permanent Representative to the U.N. He was appointed by Communist President Vladimir Voronin in 2008, after Alexei Tulbure left his post there.

Moldovan ship sinks in Black Sea, breaks into pieces, crew rescued

A cargo ship under a Moldovan flag sunk in the Black Sea coast in Turkey on January 19. It was carrying 70 tons of diesel fuel.

The ship suffered considerable damage because of poor weather conditions.

The crew - made up of 17 Turkish nationals and four Georgians - was saved by Turkish authorities.

The ship was going from Ukraine to Turkey. Oil has apparently been leaking since the crash.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Over 15,000 Moldovans received Bulgarian citizenship between 2002 and 2009

According to data released by Bulgarian authorities, Sofia granted 47,891 citizenships. Most of them - 46,874 - were given to people who claimed to have Bulgarian origins.

More than 20,000 Macedonians received citizenship during this period, followed by Moldova (15,753), Russia (2,344), Serbia (2,066), Ukraine (1,902), Israel (1,280) and Albania (601).

According to the 2004 census, the most recent one conducted by Moldovan authorities, there are slightly over 65,000 ethic Bulgarians living in the country, most of them living in Taraclia (a raion in the south), Chisinau, and the Gagauz autonomous region.

Neighbor news Jan 18 2010: UA elections; UA hospital blast; RO SocDem candidate lost because of "negative energy"; Human trafficking in RO

Wall Street Journal: Investors Are Hostage to Politics in Ukraine

Ukraine Poll Leaders Set Sights on Swing Voters

Hospital blast kills seven in Ukraine

Romania Leader Allegedly Victim of Energy Attack

Romania smashes human trafficking ring -prosecutor

IMF to start Romania aid deal review, tough tasks await

In symbolic move, local authorities may rename street on which Communist head resides into "April 7" to memorialize repression campaign

Chisinau mayor Dorin Chirtoaca said during a meeting yesterday that he would like for the Sergei Lazo Street to be renamed into April 7 Street to memorialize the April repression campaign conducted by Communist-led authorities.

According to a Soros report, 300 people were tortured and 700 detained after protests in downtown Chisinau ended in the devastation of the Presidential and Parliamentary building. Demonstrators and some people who were allegedly not even in attendance during the protests were detained by police forces and taken to police stations, where many were beaten. At least one death has been tied to the repression campaign.

This proposal carries a symbolic value since former President Vladimir Voronin and current Party of Communists (PC) head Vladimir Voronin resides on that street. Mr. Voronin has been accused by independent analysts and politicians of being at least partially responsible for the repression. Recently, Valeriu Pasat, who was the Communist-appointed Interior Ministry in April 2009, said that he coordinated his actions with Mr. Voronin. Mr. Pasat is being investigated for wrong-doings in April.

DPA: Romania presses EU on Moldova membership hopes

German news agency DPA recently posted a news story about Romanian President Traian Basescu's meeting with European Union President Herman van Rompuy on Monday.

During the conversation, Mr. Basescu brought up Moldova, asked the E.U. to provide clear prospects for Moldova's membership in the organization, as well as financial and political assistance.

The full story can be read here.

Mr. Basescu is a well-known promoter of Moldova's European Union aspirations, which has made him very popular in the country. During the recent presidential elections, which Mr. Basescu narrowly won, the Romanian President received about 95 percent of the vote.

Moldova cancels visa regime for Andorra, Liechtenstein, Israel, and Monaco

Foreign Affairs and European Integration Minister Iurie Leanca announced today that his cabinet approved a plan to cancel the visa regime Chisinau previously had with Andorra, Liechtenstein, Israel, and Monaco.

Mr. Leanca said that Chisinau hopes to thusly stimulate foreign trade with these countries. He also expressed the hope that negotiations could be initiated with Israel to allow Moldovans to travel without a visa.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has a slightly out of date list of countries whose citizens do not need a visa to visit Moldova.

Romanian President signs decree to enforce law on small-scale border trade agreement with Moldova

Romanian President Traian Basescu signed a decree to enforce a new small-scale border trade and population flow agreement with Moldova.

Previously, the country's two legislative chambers - the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate - voted in favor of the bill.

The law allows Moldovans living on the Romanian border to travel 50 km within the neighboring country without a visa. Moldovans generally need a visa to visit Romania. Romanians do not because Chisinau does not ask for visas for E.U. countries.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Moldovans among the least smiley nations on Earth

According to the latest data provided by the Legatum Institute on the Well-Being of the World, Moldovans are among the least smiley nations in the world.

The Institute compiled data offered by the Gallup institute, and found that, among all the regions of the world, Eastern Europeans registered the lowest scores on the question of whether they smiled or laughed yesterday.

Only 47 percent of people of Cameroon smiled or laughed the previous day, the lowest number registered. Mongolia followed with 48 percent. Then came Moldova, Belarus, and Croatia.

In hopes of making more Moldovans smile every day, we recommend Igor Cobileanschi's short films. They're quite amusing.

In push to increase transparency, Government to broadcast cabinet meetings online

In an attempt to increase transparency, the Moldovan Government announced on Saturday that it would broadcast its cabinet meetings online.

The sessions will be available on Then click on "Şedinţe de Guvern ON-LINE."

Chisinau city hall already broadcasts its meetings live on

Independent broadcasters like and have also been live-broadcasting certain important events in the country as internet has become more available, especially in Chisinau.

U.S. Helsinki Commission to hold hearing on political impasse in Moldova

The United State Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE) announced on Friday that it would hold a hearing on the political impasse in Moldova on Thursday, January 21, 2010.

The announcement reads:
"2009 was a year of tremendous political change in Moldova as nearly a decade of Communist rule came to an end. Following two elections and massive street protests, Moldova’s ruling coalition, the Alliance for European Integration, still lacks the 61 votes needed in parliament to elect a new president. As the poorest country in Europe in the midst of a global economic downturn, a prolonged impasse poses serious challenges to reform and recovery in Moldova."

Prime Minister Vlad Filat, who will be on an official visit to the United States during this time, will speak during the hearing.

The CSCE, also known as the Helsinki Commission, is an independent federal agency that monitors compliance with the Helsinki accords and other OSCE documents. It is headed by Democratic Senator Ben Cardin (Maryland).

Yanukovich and Timoshenko go on to second round, Transnistrian voters take bus to Balti to cast a vote

With about 44 percent of the vote counted, Ukrainian presidential candidates Viktor Yanukovich and Yulia Timoshenko look like they are headed to a second round of elections.

Mr. Yanukovich has won about 36 percent, followed by Ms. Timoshenko with about 25 percent.

It is unclear how Ukrainian citizens living in Moldova voted since the Ukrainian Central Electoral Commission has not yet broken down the results by foreign country. At this time, only 23 percent of the vote abroad (2,713) had been counted. Mr. Yanukovich had garnered 34 percent of the vote, followed by Ms. Timoshenko (24 percent).

No irregularities were observed during the voting process in Moldova. The country is only mentioned in one case by the Ukrainian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, when Ukrainian citizens from the Transnistrian cities of Ribnita and Camenca were sent to the city of Balti by the separatist authorities on a bus in order to be able to vote. Ukrainians in Moldova, most of whom live in the breakaway republic of Transnistria, could only vote in Balti or Chisinau.

Timpul wrote a front-page story on the voting process in Chisinau and Balti, indicating very low turnout considering the presence of over 70,000 Ukrainians in the country.

Friday, January 15, 2010

(Analysis) New poll: Communists - 25.3%; LibDems rise to 20%; Dems rise to 15.6%; Liberals - 9.3%; Moldova Noastra - 4.5%

The Association of Demographers and Sociologists (ADS) held a press conference today, during which they presented the results of a new opinion poll in the country.

The poll was conducted on a sample of 2,010 respondents between January 2-10, 2010. The margin of error is 2.5 percent.

About 25% of respondents said they would vote for the Party of Communists, followed by the Liberal Democrats (20%), the Democratic Party (15.6%), the Liberal Party (9.3%), and the Moldova Noastra [Our Moldova] Alliance (4.5%).

The Communists seem to be losing popularity as the LibDems and the Democrats are gaining in polls. In part, the latter two parties seem to be growing stronger on account of their leaders. Democratic Party head Marian Lupu is the ruling Alliance's presidential candidate and is widely seen as the most likely person to become head of state. The Liberal Democratic Party head, Vlad Filat, is the Moldovan Prime Minister. Analysts have said that he has been performing well thus far.

The Liberals, which represent the more right-wing part of the political spectrum (adamantly pro-Romanian, pro-Western, and pro-American), seem to be stagnating despite its leaders holding the interim Presidency and the Speakership (Mihai Ghimpu), as well as the Chisinau mayoral seat (Dorin Chirtoaca).

Moldova Noastra has been going through internal turmoil in the last few months as some of its leading members have left to join a small pro-Western party called the Actiunea Europeana [European Action] Movement. It is not yet clear if this party will manage to cross the five-percent electoral threshold to gain seats in the legislature.

The poll does not yet reveal what effect the defection of four Communist M.P.s will have on the Communists' popularity, or whether a recent announcement made by Moldovan millionnaire Nicolae Ciornii about the formation of another left-wing party will have an impact on the preferences of the electorate.

For now, it looks like the center-right side of the political spectrum is consolidating around the LibDems and the Liberals. The center-left spectrum is slowly being overtaken by the Democrats. The Communists are still holding on to leftist voters.

The last time the ADS released a poll was in July 2009, shortly before the July 29 legislative election. Then, results showed that the Communists would receive 29.7 percent, followed by the Liberal Party (13.3%), the Liberal Democratic Party (12.8%), the Moldova Noastra Alliance (7.9%), and the Democratic Party (7.1%).

The Communists ended up winning 44% of the vote, followed by the Liberal Democrats (16.57%), the Liberal Party (14.68%), the Democratic Party (12.54%), and Moldova Noastra (7.35%).

Neighbor news Jan 14 2010: Campaign ends in Ukraine; Timoshenko may not make it to 2nd round; Romania passes budget, new IMF loan on the horizon;

Campaigning Ends In Ukraine Ahead Of Presidential Poll

Ukraine's Tymoshenko vows Russian ties

Tymoshenko Could Miss Second Round in Ukraine

Romania Passes Budget; IMF Loan Now Possible

Romania recruits rock star for finance ministry

Communist youth organization pickets Interior Ministry headquarters as former ruling party warns of "right-wing dictatorship"

Members of the Party of Communists youth organization staged a protest in front of the Interior Ministry building yesterday, to express their outrage at alleged persecutions of its members by the state institution. They said that a Communist activist was detained by police officers recently.

Grigori Petrenco, a Communist M.P., said during the gathering that "the Interior Ministry is following the political orders of the current Government. They [Imedia: the ruling coalition] are afraid of the Party of Communists and have proven to everyone that they have nothing in common with democracy, liberty, or European integration."

The protesters asked for Interior Minister Victor Catan's resignation.

In a January 12 statement, the former ruling party warned about "the obvious signs of the formation of a right-wing dictatorship in Moldova."

The ruling Alliance has denied these allegations.

A Communist youth was recently accused of stealing the flag of the Moldova Noastra [Our Moldova] Alliance.

Russia was Moldova's largest export partner in January-November 2009, Romania second

According to the National Bureau of Statistics, 22.4 percent of Moldovan exports (worth about 260 million U.S. dollars) between January and November 2009 went to Russia. Compared to the same period last year, exports to this country have fallen 11.2 percent.

Romania follows with 19.1 percent of the exports (a whopping 30 percent less than the same period last year). Italy is third (10.6 percent).

Analysts have said that trade with Romania suffered after the April protests and repression campaign, when the Communist government accused Bucharest of attempting to stage a coup and imposed visas on Romanian citizens.

The new coalition is widely seen as more pro-Romanian than the former Communist administration and has stressed the need to develop closer economic and political ties with the neighboring country.

Majority party in Transnistria accuses President of "reprisals" as political conflict heats up in separatist region

Olvia Press, the official news agency in Transnistria, writes that the Obnovlenie [Russian for Renewal] Party has accused President Igor Smirnov of reprisals. The party holds a majority in the local legislature.

Mr. Smirnov has denied any wrongdoing and has asked local prosecutors to investigate the accusations. He added that Obnovlenie may be engaging in a "PR campaign" in order to gain more popularity.

Obnovlenie and Mr. Smirnov have been in an open conflict ever since the region's President tried to push through constitutional reforms that would have given him more power. At the moment, the situation seems to be at a standstill as both groups seem strong enough to fight off each other's attacks.

The separatist republic will hold local elections in March.

Since the separatist regime in Transnistria has Moscow's support, it is not yet clear whom the Kremlin supports. Mr. Smirnov has essentially been in power ever since the region broke away from Moldova after a short but bloody civil war in 1992.

Romanian upper house ratifies border trade agreement with Chisinau, many Moldovans can now travel to parts of Romania visa-free

The Senate, Romania's upper house, ratified a small-scale border trade and population flow agreement with Moldova yesterday, one day after the Chamber of Deputies did the same.

The treaty therefore becomes binding.

Titus Corlatean, chaiman of the Senate's foreign policy committee, said that, by ratifying the treaty, Romania is trying to send a "political signal" to Chisinau that it supports the country's European integration and wants closer ties.

The agreement allows Moldovans living 30 km within the Romanian border to travel to Romanian border towns visa free. This means that about one third of Moldovans can now visit Iasi, one of the largest cities in the country, relatively easily.

The agreement is widely seen as a sign of an improvement of ties between Bucharest and Chisinau after the tense and often acrimonious relationship that characterized Romanian-Moldovan ties when the Party of Communists was in power (2001-2009).

New Commission to investigate the totalitarian Communist regime in Moldova

Interim President and Speaker Mihai Ghimpu decrees the creation of a Commission to Study and Assess the Totalitarian Communist Regime in Moldova (CSATCRM). „The Declaration of Sovereignty on June 23, 1990 and the Declaration of Independence on August 27, 1991 did not only mean the removal of the totalitarian Communist regime in Moldova, but also the chance to create a democratic society in the country.

Although in these nearly two decades Moldova made some progress in creating the rule of law and in the path toward European integration, the country still does not know the truth about the totalitarian Communist regime in its history. The availability of objective and multilateral information about this is utterly necessary in order for the post-Communist generation to know the totalitarian essence of the Communist regime and not to admit the installation of similar regimes in the future,” Mr. Ghimpu's decree says.

The CSATCRM „will periodically inform society about its activities; will come up with a study and a collection of documents and an analytical report about the historical, legal, and political nature of the totalitarian Communist regime; and will present proposals by June 1, 2010 to the President.”

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Neighbor news Jan 13 2010: Ukraine elections; Ukraine court: Bolsheviks guilty of Holodomor; Romania mixes pop and politics; Romania/Standard&Poor's

Ukraine Voters Weigh In on Orange Revolution

Ukraine court finds Bolsheviks guilty of Holodomor genocide

Yulia Tymoshenko stokes Ukraine election tension

Romania mixes pop and politics

Standard & Poor's: Romania's rating perspective might improve after 2010 budget is

Spanish E.U. presidency: “Our goal is the abolishment of the visa regime between Russia and the European Union”

Spanish Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos recently said during his visit to Moscow that "our goal is the abolishment of the visa regime between Russia and the European Union.”

Previously, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has expressed support for this move, while Estonian officials objected to the idea of granting visa-free travel to Russians before giving them to members of the Eastern Partnership, including Moldova.

Moldovan officials have not yet commented upon these recent statements by European officials.

After 25.1% rate in 2008, inflation slows to 5.7% in 2009 in Transnistria

According to data provided by the Transnistrian Economy Ministry, the breakaway region's inflation rate in 2009 stood at 5.7 percent. This number is mild compared to a whopping 25.1 percent registered in 2008 and nearly 30 percent in 2007.

By comparison, the inflation rate in the territory controlled by Chisinau stood at 13.1 percent in 2007 and 7.3 percent in 2008. Final data does not seem to be available for the entire year of 2009, but inflation in the first 11 months of 2009 stood at less than negative one percent.

Greece and Netherlands join E.U. visa center in Chisinau, Moldovans no longer have to go abroad to get visas for these countries

Greece and the Netherlands have joined the European Union Common Visa Center (CVC) in Chisinau, which is hosted by the Hungarian Embassy in Moldova, said Hungarian Ambassador to Moldova Gyorgy Varga during a press conference yesterday.

Norway, Croatia, and Slovakia have been invited to join the visa center, as well.

The CVC was opened in 2007 in order to make it easier for Moldovan citizens traveling to European countries to get visas. Many Moldovans used to have to go to Kiev, Bucharest, or even Moscow to get visas for certain countries.

Currently, the CVC provides visas for Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Finland,
Hungary, Iceland, Latvia, Luxembourg, Slovenia, and Sweden.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Neighbor news Jan 12 2010: Ukraine looks Eastward; Despair in West over Ukraine; Brussels raises bar to entry; Hugo Boss in RO

Ukraine looks eastward

Despair in West Over Ukraine

Ukraine leader accuses PM of seeking absolute power

Disillusioned by Bulgaria and Romania, Brussels raises the bar to entry

President Basescu hopes Romania will escape EC verification mechanism on justice

"Hugo Boss" intends to move it's production to Romania, Turkey and Bulgaria

Romanian Chamber of Deputies ratifies small-scale border trade and population flow agreement with Moldova

The Romanian Chamber of Deputies ratified the small scale border trade and population flow agreement with Moldova on January 12.

According to the agreement, Moldovan citizens can travel 50 km into Romanian territory without a visa. Currently, Moldovans need visas to visit the neighboring country. About one third of the Moldovan population is expected to benefit from the agreement.

The bill will now move on to Romania's upper chamber - the Senate.

RFE/RL: Bringing Moldova's Women Into The Democratization Process

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty recently published an article about the situation of women in Moldova.

An excerpt:
"Moldova's women remain prime targets for human trafficking and exploitation, and it will take more than just improving Moldova's economy to save them.

Both the blight and the profits of human trafficking in Moldova can be felt everywhere in the small country. Children left in the care of ailing grandparents or abandoned to appalling orphanages in Chisinau represent part of the toll trafficking has taken on families in Moldova. The ostentatious new homes at the edges of poor villages and young men driving luxury cars purchased with foreign remittances illustrate the irresistible lure of the trade."

The full article can be read here.

RFE/RL: Top EU Official Draws Line Between Enlargement, Neighborhood Policies

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty recently published an article on the confirmation hearing of Stefan Fule, a former Czech diplomat who will be the first Eastern European to work for Catherine Ashton, the European Union's new high representative for foreign policy.

An excerpt:
"The commissioner-elect was markedly less expansive in his comments about the neighborhood part of his portfolio.

On January 11, Ashton did not address the EU's neighbors' eventual membership prospects, and today, although Fule promised "deeper" relations and "the closest dialogue possible," he also refused to directly respond to questions about whether the EU's eastern neighbors -- Ukraine, Moldova, Belarus, and the three Caucasus countries -- qualify as "European countries" in terms laid out by the EU's basic treaties."

The full article can be read here.

Moldova 55th in quality of life index, Cayman Islands 54th, Romania 53rd

International Living magazine recently published its traditional January Quality of Life index.

The magazine explains that its decisions are based on "nine categories: Cost of Living, Culture and Leisure, Economy, Environment, Freedom, Health, Infrastructure, Safety and Risk, and Climate. This involves a lot of number crunching from "official" sources, including government websites, the World Health Organization, and The Economist, to name but a few. We also take into account what our editors from all over the world have to say about our findings."

Moldova was ranked 55th, right after the Cayman Islands and Romania. France is in first place, followed by Australia.

The best place to live in the former Soviet Union is Lithuania, which is ranked 22nd.

The full rankings are available here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Ruling Alliance now made up of five parties as two Moldova Noastra M.P.s leave party to join European Action Movement

Two Moldova Noastra M.P.s - Veaceslav Untila and Iurie Colesnic - held a press conference today during which they announced they are leaving the Moldova Noastra [Our Moldova] Alliance (MNA) and joining the Actiunea Europeana [European Action] Movement (AEM).

Mr. Untila and Mr. Colesnic - who are seen as the more "liberal" wing of MNA - will be joined by a number of their supporters. They are unhappy with Serafim Urechean's re-election as MNA head.

This move means that the ruling Alliance for European Integration, which has a very slim majority of 53 seats, is now going to be made up of five parties - the Liberal Democratic Party, the Liberal Party, the Democratic Party, MNA, and AEM. Mr. Untila promised he would still vote with the Alliance.

Victor Osipov, first vice-president of MNA, had a harsh reaction about the defection of the two, saying that Mr. Colesnic "ate beans from the cans Mr. Urechean bought" for four years.


Communist defectors join new left-wing party

Four Communist M.P.s who recently quit the party in protest of its decision to boycott the presidential election and thusly cause an early legislative poll, held a press conference today, during which they announced they would be joining a new left-wing party.

The party is called Moldova Unita [United Moldova], and seeks to place itself between the Party of Communists and the Democratic Party in terms of its ideological orientation.

Vladimir Turcan, one of the four, who is most likely going to take over the party, said that Moldova Unita "will actively promote the consolidation of Moldova's statehood and the modernization of the country based on social democratic and patriotic values."

Between 2001 and 2009, the Party of Communists (PC) essentially had no rivals on the left side of the political spectrum. After the PC lost elections on July 29, however, several groups have announced their plans to move to the left to take some of its electorate. Mr. Turcan's project is one of these. In addition, a Moldovan multi-millionnaire - Nicolae Ciornii - has also announced he intends to form a left-wing party. It is not yet clear if Mr. Turcan and Mr. Ciornii will unite their efforts.

Russian Embassy in Chisinau installing barbed wire

Unimedia writes that the Russian Embassy in Chisinau has installed barbed wire around its walls. It is unclear why the Embassy is doing this, but there have recently been some protests in front of it, most notably by the Hyde Park NGO, who wanted to express solidarity with protesters detained in Moscow on New Year's Eve.

Neighbor news Jan 11 2010: Ukraine's Dilemma; Ukraine visa-free travel to Israel woes; Romanian economy contracts; Dacia sells well in Germany

Financial Times: Ukraine’s dilemma

Israel Beiteinu, Shas bang heads over Ukraine visa cancellation

Ukraine PM calls rival a coward over TV debate

Macroeconomic indicators - Romania scores fourth contraction in EU GDP

Dacia sells twice as many cars in Germany than in Romania

Famous American journalist Dan Rather to host TV documentary on black market organ trafficking, Moldova mentioned

Famous American journalist Dan Rather, who hosts a news show entitled Dan Rather Reports on HDnet, will present a documentary on the black market in organ trafficking today.

Moldova will be covered in the documentary.

An excerpt from HDnet's announcement about the show:
"But renowned University of California, Berkeley anthropologist Nancy Scheper-Hughes has been chasing kidney traffickers for more than a decade - and she brought us along on this hunt, spanning three continents, to some of the world's hot spots for organ trafficking: a poor village in Moldova, where more than a dozen young men had sold their kidneys; the streets of Istanbul, Turkey, where she tried to track down the whereabouts of a rogue surgeon known as "Dr. Vulture;" and to Israel, where we filmed a violent confrontation between one alleged broker and a family member of a recipient recovering from a botched, black market transplant."

The television station is not available in Moldova via cable, unfortunately. It is provided by on demand cable companies in the U.S.

Russian journalists: Russia thinks Romanian Pres Basescu is an "enemy" because of his attitude toward Moldova

In a news story about Romanian Foreign Minister Theodor Baconsky's recent statements that Romania should reinvent its ties with Moscow, Actmedia mentions a January 5 Russian radio show during which a number of journalists spoke about Romanian President Traian Basescu and Moldova.

An excerpt:
"The radio station « The Moscow Echo » on 5th January the topic under discussion was president Basescu and the musical theme Bond opened the show. The presenter underlined from the very beginning that Basescu “ hardly” won the elections, exactly when Romania celebrated 20 years since the Revolution, Realitatea TV stated on Friday. Invited in the studio was the deputy director of the press agency ITAR TASS, Mikhail Gussman. He mentioned the fact that Traian Basescu was referred in the Russian press as the “ secret enemy of Moscow” and the presenters said that this was due to the fact that he said about Romania and the Republic of Moldova “ they are two states, one people”."

The full text is available here.

Moldova could get associated membership in the E.U. as negotiations begin

Negotiations for an association agreement between Chisinau and Brussels are scheduled to begin today.

The ruling Alliance for European Integration has said that one of its main priorities is European integration. These negotiations are widely seen as a first step in this direction.

Deputy Foreign Affairs and European Integration Minister Natalia Gherman will represent Moldova. The European Union will be represented by Gunnar Wiegand, head of the European Commission's unit for Russia, Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia.

Negotiations will focus on three main issues. First, closer cooperation with the E.U. in the resolution of the Transnistrian conflict. Second, a free trade agreement. Third, visa-free travel for Moldovans to the European Union.

Moldova to pay 17% more for Russian gas in 2010

Moldova will have to pay 17 percent more for Russian gas in 2010.

The Russian gas giant upped the price for 1,000 cubic meters from 199 U.S. dollars in the fourth quarter of 2009 to 233 in the first quarter in 2010.

Moldova is wholly dependent on Russian gas deliveries.


Transnistria to hold local elections on March 28, 2010

The breakaway region of Transnistria will hold local elections on March 28, 2010.

The Supreme Soviet, the local legislature, decided on this date yesterday.

Legislative elections are scheduled for December 2010. Transnistrians will also be electing a head of state in 2011.

Speaker: Referendum to reform Constitution needs to take place before June 2010

Speaker and interim President Mihai Ghimpu spoke on Moldova's public television station today, announcing that authorities intend to amend 69 articles in the Constitution.

The commission for constitutional reform, which Mr. Ghimpu heads, made these proposals, which will have to be voted on by Parliament and put forth for a referendum.

Mr. Ghimpu noted that a referendum will have to take place by June 16, 2010, the date by which Parliament has to be dissolved. He added that authorities will consult with German and Romanian experts in order to draft a proper constitution.

Parliament has to be dismissed because legislators failed to elect a President after the Party of Communists refused to accept the Alliance's candidate.

It is not yet clear what articles in the Constitution will be changed. The most contentious ones have to do with the official language of the country and with military neutrality. According to the Constitution, the official language in the country is "Moldovan with a Latin script." Many people in the country, however, want the language to be called "Romanian" instead because even some Communists, who do not want this amendment to be changed, have admitted that Moldovan is virtually the same language as Romanian.

Moldova is also, according to the Constitution, militarily neutral, which does not allow it to join military blocs like NATO. The current Alliance for European Integration has been accused of seeking NATO integration by the Communists.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Neighbor news Jan 10 2010: Tymoshenko challenges Yanukovych to debate; Romania/Schengen; Police, Adjective and the Oscars; Yuschenko vs. Tymoshenko

Western Information Agency: Tymoshenko challenges Yanukovych to Jan. 15 debate

Optimism about Romania joining Schengen Area

Police, Adjective could be dark horse in foreign film Oscar race

Yushchenko says Tymoshenko should "take rest"

World news Jan 10 2010: Yemen's most wanted; China top global exporter; U.S. to support Iran opposition; Josipovic wins in Croatia

Yemen's Most Wanted

China cements export lead with December surge

U.S. Shifts Iran Focus to Support Opposition

Social Democrat Ivo Josipovic elected Croatia president

The Economist: Moldova may be considered for European Union membership "in another optimistic couple of decades"

The Economist recently wrote an article entitled Wrongly Labelled, in which it argues that the tag of "Eastern Europe" is being rendered useless by the economic crisis.

The feature includes a passage on Moldova, as well:
"The ’stans vary (Tajikistan is poor, Kazakhstan go-getting). But all have slim prospects of joining the EU in the lifetime of anyone reading this article. That creates a second useful category: potential members of the union. It starts with sure-fire bets such as Croatia, and other small digestible countries in the western Balkans such as Macedonia. It includes big problematic cases such as Turkey and Ukraine and even—in another optimistic couple of decades—four other ex-Soviet republics, Georgia, Moldova, Armenia and Azerbaijan (the last, maybe, one day, on Turkey’s coat-tails)."

Headquarters of three pro-Western parties fall victim to flag thieves, Communist sympathizer suspected in one case

The headquarters of three pro-Western parties in Moldova - the Liberal Party (LP), the Moldova Noastra [Our Moldova] Alliance (MNA), and the Actiunea Europeana [European Action] Movement (AEM) - fell victim to flag thieves this weekend.

The LP and the MNA are members of the ruling Alliance for European Integration.

In all three cases, someone tore up or stole the flags displayed by the parties at the entrance.

It is unclear if the three cases are connected, but police have announced that they have a suspect in the case of the MNA headquarters. A young man, who is a member of the Communist youth organization, allegerly tore the flag, to keep it as a souvenir, as he told police.

There were some reports that a flag was stolen from the Liberal Democratic Party, but it is unclear if that happened or not.


Saturday, January 9, 2010

Government says movie theaters will have to provide Romanian subtitles, breaking virtual monopoly of Russian dubbing in the country

Prime Minister Vlad Filat asked Culture Minister Boris Focsa today to put together regulations imposing movie theaters in the country to use Romanian subtitles.

Currently, virtually all movie theaters in Moldova release films dubbed in Russian, citing free market reasons for this policy. Russian-dubbed films are cheaper, they say, and most people in Moldova prefer them to ones subtitled in Romanian.

Recently, a Facebook group advocating the boycott of Patria, the largest movie theater chain in the country, managed to attract more than 1,000 members. Patria releases films dubbed in Russian.

In the past, Chisinau also had a small movie theater that released films in their original language (mostly English), which Russian dubbing available through headphones. The theater seems to have gone out of business, however.

Government to build monument in honor of victims tortured during mass repression campaign in April

Prime Minister Vlad Filat headed a cabinet meeting today, during which he asked State Minister Victor Bodiu make the necessary preparations for the construction of a monument to honor the victims tortured during the mass repression campaign in April. The monument is supposed to be installed in front of Parliament by April 7, 2010.

Right after legislative elections on April 5, the Communists won 60 seats out of 101 available in Parliament. Thousands of peaceful protesters filled the streets on April 6 and 7 to demonstrate against what they believed were stolen elections. On April 7, however, a group of protesters began throwing rocks at police forces and eventually made their way into the Parliament and Presidential building, setting a few floors on fire.

In the evening, police forces began a mass repression campaign against the protesters, detaining more than 700 people and torturing more than 300 of them, according to a recent Soros Foundation report. At least one death - that of Valeriu Boboc - has been tied to the repression campaign.

It is still unclear who gave the orders for these arrests, and a few former officials appointed during Communist rule (2001-2009) are being investigated for wrongdoing. A few police officers are also being investigated for accusations of torture.


World news Jan 8 2010: France may impose Facebook tax; Bomb suspect met with al Qaeda; Portugal votes for gay marriage; Is the West choked with fear?

France considers tax for Google, Yahoo and Facebook

Yemen Says Bomb Suspect Met With Qaeda Figures

Portugal Parliament Votes to Permit Gay Marriage

After Attack on Danish Cartoonist, the West Is Choked by Fear

Neighbor news Jan 8 2010: Patriarch Kirill loath to meet Pope; Romania puts Italy on travel warning list; Merkel may visit Romania in 2010

Patriarch Kirill loath to meet with Pope over situation in Western Ukraine

UK, France and Germany not taking sides in Ukraine vote

Romania includes Italy on travel warning shortlist after murder
Angela Merkel might visit Romania in 2010

Regnum: 2010 a good year to "eliminate all anti-Russian activities" in "Russophobic" countries like Moldova

Regnum, a popular Russian news agency, recently hosted an editorial by Dmitri Jermolajev.

Mr. Jermolajev, who had a Latvian visa revoked in 2008, says that "countries exhibiting Russophobian tendencies are not a threat in themselves. The problem is that these countries have become pawns of the USA and the European Union, through which Washington and Brussels hold Russia in check."

A full story on this topic is hosted by Estonian news portal Eesti Elu.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Moldova Noastra rebel party members may join small pro-Western party

Jurnal de Chisinau has spoken with Anatol Petrenco, the head of the Actiunea Europeana [European Action] Movement (AEM), who confirmed that a group of Moldova Noastra [Our Moldova] Alliance (MNA) members were in talks with him to join his party.

The MNA members are unhappy with the reelection of Serafim Urechean as the party's leader. The party has also been struggling with low polling numbers (it may not be able to cross the five-percent threshold to gain seats in the legislature during early elections in 2010 or 2011).

Moldova Noastra is a member of the ruling Alliance for European Integration, but the possible departure of Veaceslav Untila, the M.P. leading the rebellion, will most likely not affect the Alliance's strength. Mr. Untila has repeatedly said he supports the ruling coalition.

AEM is known as a small pro-Western party that failed to gain any seats during the 2009 legislative elections. The party did, however, run an active campaign and seems to have attracted a number of young people among its ranks.

Headquarters of small pro-Western party vandalized again

The headquarters of the Actiunea Europeana [European Action] Movement (AEM), a small pro-Western party that did not gain any seats during the 2009 legislative elections, was vandalized yesterday.

Unidentified attackers removed the Movement's flags, which were posted in front of the building. One of them was a European Union flag.

The AEM office was vandalized in November 2009, as well. Authorities have not yet identified the criminals in that case.

AEM was one of the parties that organized protests against the Commonwealth of Independent States summit in Chisinau in October 2009 and ran on an adamantly anti-Communist ticket in April in July.

Its leader - Anatol Petrenco - is a famous Moldovan historian.


World news Jan 7 2010: Brown survives leadership plot; Cuba; 100 intellectuals about the internet; America's rise; Russia and China arming Yemen

Brown calls leadership plot 'storm in a teacup'

The Guardian: Cuba is a poor, hungry backwater

100 intellectuals say how the internet has changed the way they think

The Atlantic: How America Can Rise Again

Russia and China providing weapons to Yemen

Neighborhood news Jan 7 2010

Romania: 15% less tourists last year compared to 2008

Evenimentul Zilei: Romania returns to 2004 unemployment

Ukraine: Candidate for President Opposes Membership in NATO

Gazprom: Ukraine's Naftogaz Fully Paid For December Gas

Wyoming man who hit a Moldovan woman with his car sentenced to six months in jail

Jason Puzio, a 27-year-old Wyoming man who ran over a woman in a hit-and-run accident, was sentenced to six months in jail yesterday.

Mr. Puzio had hit Marina Sorocean in November 2008. Ms. Sorocean was a Moldovan housekeeper who had just arrived in Wyoming when the accident happened. The collission broke Ms. Sorocean's pelvis and spine.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

World news Jan 6 2010: Dems in U.S. could have tough 2010 election; Der Spiegel on issue that will shape the world in 2010; Iran; Muslims in Europe

Democrats in U.S. could face difficult election year in 2010

Der Spiegel: The Issues that Will Shape the World in 2010

An opposition manifesto in Iran

Christopher Caldwell on Muslim Integration in Europe

Neighborhood news Jan 6 2010: Will left-wing rival to PSD emerge?; Five place to visit in RO; Ukraine after elections; Ukraine's town of twins

Analysis: Ukraine faces even tougher year after election

Ukraine's twin town revels in special status

Russians poised to buy Ukraine steel group

Vasile Dancu: Another left-wing party will be born if PSD does not get clean

Five places to visit in Romania

Romania 20 Years Later, Not Exactly Bread and Roses

Meet "Vladimir Filatov," Moldova's Prime Minister

Azeri news agency APA recently posted a story about Prime Minister Vlad Filat's televized speech, during which he spoke about the Russian loan Chisinau hopes to obtain from Moscow.

Mr. Filat would be surprised to find out, however, that he is actually Mr. Filatov.

The Moldovan P.M. should not complain. Other Moldovan officials are often in a similar situation. The "h" in Speaker and interim President Mihai Ghimpu's name often disappears mysteriously, making way for Mr. Gimpu.

In addition, Chisinau mayor Dorin Chirtoaca often becomes Chirtoca.

In any case, Moldovan officials will probably have to learn how to deal with this problem and hope that the incorrectly spelled names are at least somewhat close to their actual names. :)

Moldova loses another case at ECHR, Government has to pay 20,000 Euros who was tortured by police

Moldova recently lost another case at the European Court for Human Rights.

The Government will have to pay 20,000 Euros to a young man who was tortured by police officers during an investigation.

According to a report filed by the Commission of the European Communities, in 2008"Moldova ranked third as per the number of applications allocated to a judicial
formation in the ECHR per capita (3.21 applications per 10 000 citizens)."

The country has lost a considerable number of cases and has had to pay millions of Euros for cases lost at the ECHR.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Neighborhood news Jan 5 2010: Is Timoshenko the next Evita?; Yanukovich could win first round; Romania could impose junk food tax; Romania in Afgh.

Is Timoshenko the next Evita?

Jamestown Foundation: Yushchenko and Yanukovych forge an electoral alliance

Yanukovych Could Win First Round in Ukraine

In Ukraine, movement to honor members of WWII underground sets off debate

Corina Cretu: PSD needs to become more active and more visible overseas

New Romanian mission in Afghanistan

Horezu becomes member of European Association of Pottery-Making Towns

Romania mulls junk food tax

World news Jan 5 2010: U.S. re-opens embassy in Yemen; 1,000 homeless in Solomon Islands after tsunami; Inside the world of Russian hackers

U.S. Ends Its Closure of Embassy

1,000 people homeless on Solomons after tsunami

The Evil (Cyber) Empire: Inside the world of Russian hackers.

P.M.: Communists made hundreds of documents secret to hide misappropriation of millions of lei

Prime Minister Vlad Filat said on Tuesday that the Party of Communists, which was in power between 2001 and 2009, made secret hundreds of documents to hide the misappropriation of millions of lei. The funds were apparently distributed to pro-Communist businesses and individuals.

Mr. Filat stressed that the Government would not get involved in the activity of police investigators, but that it would provide evidence. He said the people guilty of wrongdoing will have to go to jail.

The Communists have not yet commented on Mr. Filat's accusations.


Romanian P.M.: Ratification of small border traffic treaty with Moldova a priority for Romanian legislators

Romanian Prime Minister Emil Boc asked the ruling Democratic Liberal Party to ratify a fiscal responsibility law, a law on local administration reform, and a law on a small-scale border trade and population flow agreement with Chisinau.

Mr. Boc said that he spoke with his Moldovan counterpart Vlad Filat on Monday and assured him that the treaty would be ratified.

The agreement allows Moldovans living around the Romanian border to travel to within 50 kilometers on Romanian territory without a visa. Moldovans currently need visas to visit the neighboring country.

The move indicates an improvement of ties between the two countries after the Communists often had very tense relations with Romania during their time in office (2001-2009).


Moldova passes CIS presidency to Russia

Moldova passed the presidency of the Commonwealth of Independent States to Russia on January 1, 2010.

Chisinau headed the organization in 2009. The Moldovan capital also hosted a summit this year.

Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov has said that "2010 in the CIS will be the year of veterans. The decision was made by the heads of states at the summit in Chisinau."

Moscow also plans to host one informal summit celebrating 65 years since the end of World War II and a formal summit in December.

Moldova one of top four offenders in international human trafficking to Canada

Along with China, Romania, and the Philippines, Moldova is in the top four worst offenders in international human trafficking to Canada, says The Expositor, a local Canadian newspaper.

The paper covers Naomi Baker, a local Canadian woman who founded an organization called Canada Fights Human Trafficking.

The full article can be read here.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

World news round-up Jan 4 2010: Bulgaria on Turkey's E.U. bid; Russia seeks to allay E.U. fears; Pipeline politics in Central Asia; Yemen; Iran

EUobserver: Bulgaria puts conditions on Turkey's EU membership

Russia seeks to allay EU fears over oil supply crisis

Pipeline politics in Central Asia

Dealing with the Yemen Dilemma

Iranian Officials Close Opposition Ayatollah's Mosque

Neighborhood news Jan 4 2010: Ukraine gas crisis; Ukrainian immigrants in Poland; Romanian health care; Romanian former spy endorses U.S. legislator

Ukraine Fears New Gas Crisis

Ukrainian women largest immigrant group in Poland - report

Romania - lowest rate of health care spending amid EU member states

Thousands of Romanians travel back to countries where they work

Ohio U.S. House hopeful: getting endorsement of former top Romanian spy

Organizers of anti-Semitic attack will not get criminal charges, authorities say they do not have enough evidence

The General Prosecutor announced today that it would not open a criminal investigation on the organizers of the anti-Semitic attack on December 13 because authorities do not have enough evidence.

The organizers of the incident, a group of Christian fundamentalists, will get administrative charges instead.

On December 13, a group of people removed a menorah from downtown Chisinau, dismantled it, and moved it elsewhere. The group said it was trying to defend Moldova's Christian identity.


Global Post: Moldova covered in an editorial on "The Myth of the Happy Hooker"

The Global Post recently posted an editorial entitled "The Myth of the Happy Hooker," which covers the sex trafficking trade in Moldova and other Eastern European countries.

An excerpt:
"They made the first girl stand in the middle of the room. They ordered her to take off her top. She hesitated so they beat her. Then it was my turn. I lifted my top for a second and pulled it right down. Then I noticed the curtains fluttering out the open window…. Time slowed. I heard a ringing in my ears and the room faded. I remember that I said a prayer — ‘God give me wings.’ I ran across the room and jumped over the men on the couch and out the window.”

The full story can be read here.

New Bulgarian citizenship law amendments could allow granting 30,000 citizenships a year, Moldovans Bulgarians targeted

Amendments to the Bulgarian Citizenship Act were recently introduced and will be deliberated upon by the Council of Ministers in the first week of 2010 and, then, by the legislature.

The amendments aim to eliminate middlemen from the process of obtaining citizenship and increase the number of citizenship to be granted every year to 30,000. This decision was driven in part because of a desire to curb the demographic crisis in country, which, according to statistics, indicates that the Bulgarian population is dwindling by about 32,000 a year.

Moldova has a small Bulgarian minority, which mostly resides in the south. According to the most recent national census (2004), there are about 65,000 Bulgarians in the country.

Further details on this topic are available here and here.

Government expects 28-percent increase in state external debt

The Moldovan Government predicts a 28-percent rise in its external debt, an equivalent of around 1.19 billion U.S. dollars in 2010.

At the end of the third quarter of 2009, Moldova's total external state debt reached more than four billion dollars.

In December 2010, the state's external debt is expected to be worth about 23.5 percent of the Gross Domestic Product.

The country has been borrowing considerable sums of money from the IMF and other organizations in order to cover a huge budget deficit.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Neighborhood news Jan 3, 2010: Yuschenko says some candidates are Moscow stooges; Romania may recognize Kosovo; IMF in Ukraine; Mail-order brides

Yushchenko calls Yanukovych and Tymoshenko Moscow stooges

Floods hit Balkans

Thaci: Kosovo has European perspective, Romania may recognize it

IMF lets Ukraine use reserves to cover gas payments

Md. lawmakers push for restrictions on mail-order bride business

Fewer Romanians spent New Year’s in country or abroad

World news round-up 3/1/10: Terror in the West; 2010 elections in America; Muslims in Europe; Can the West avoid Russia's fate in Afghanistan?

Two terror narratives in the West

The 'Californiazation' of America

2010 situation grows more difficult for Democrats

Muslims in Europe: A Report on 11 EU Cities

Can the West avoid Russia's fate in Afghanistan?

Moldovan NGO stages protest in front of Russian Embassy in solidarity with anti-Putin demonstrators arrested in Moscow on New Year's Eve

Hyde Park, a Moldovan NGO that has become notorious for its public protests in Chisinau, staged a demonstration in front of the Russian Embassy yesterday.

Hyde Park representatives said they thusly wanted to express their solidarity with the arrest of dozens of anti-Putin protesters in Moscow on January 31, 2009. Lyudmila Alexeyeva, an 82-year-old woman who heads the Moscow Helsinki Committee and who recently received a prestigious award from the European Union, was among the detainees.

Unimedia carried some video footage from the protest. Some of the police officers tried to prevent the Hyde Park activists from filming and stepped on a portion of snow on which the protesters had written "article 10 and article 11" of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

75-year-old woman accused of dealing drugs, gets four years in jail

Olga Vladimir, a 75-year-old woman from the village of Teleseuca (Donduseni), has been sentenced to four years in jail for dealing drugs after police officers found a few pieces of hemp in her backyard.

Ms. Vladimir, who has several health problems, is now in prison.

Neighbors have been quoted as saying that her son, who passed away a few years ago, may have had a drug problem or that she may have been set up by the police. Some human rights experts like Stefan Uritu say that neighbors sometimes throw hemp seeds in their neighbors' backyards if they have disagreements. Police officers may also do so to increase the number of cases they have discovered.

Mr. Uritu, who is head of the Helsinki Committee in Chisinau, said that he does not think the woman is guilty.


Neighborhood news 1/2/10


Ukraine signs law protecting state owned mines from bankruptcy

Pro-Russia party leads in Ukraine polls


Slowdown signs - Romanian jobless rate may rise to 10pct in 2010

Romanian pair stuns Lleyton Hewitt and Sam Stosur

Pirates capture ship with 10 Ukrainian nationals, 2 Romanian on board

World news round-up 1/2/10: Belarus vs. the European Parliament; Kazakhstan to head the OSCE; Yemen's terror factory; Nation state obsolete

Minsk hopes the European Parliament changes its mind about conditioning full participation in Eastern Partnership with free elections

Kazakhstan takes helm of OSCE amid concern over rights

Fighting Yemen's Terror Factory

Nation State Has Outlived its Usefulness

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Neighbor news 1/1/10


The presidential hopeful who changed his name to trick voters

FACTBOX-Ukraine's election: portraits of main players

Tobacco, alcohol advertising bans take effect in printed media


Emil Boc: Year 2010 better than 2009

Bucharest could be in top 10 great holiday escapes for 2010

Unirea appoint new coach

World news 1/1/10: Medvedev on Russian-U.S. ties; China's rise and Asia's eventful decade; Obama's "cold-blooded" foreign policy

Medvedev: Russia-U.S. ties strengthened in 2009

China's Rise Marks Asia's Eventful Decade

Obama's Cold-Blooded Foreign Policy

Transnistria could be part of a Euroregion planned by the European Union for cross-border cooperation

Vladimir Yastrebchak, the foreign minister of the breakaway republic of Transnistria, said on December 30 that the region could be part of a Euroregion Dnestr [Imedia: Russian for the river Nistru, which acts as a natural border between Moldova and Transnistria, and Moldova and Ukraine] project, planned by the European Union for cross-border cooperation. The project would include a series of districts from Moldova and Ukraine.

The project had stalled when the Communists were in power, but it is still unclear what shape Transnistria's participation will take. The separatist region is not recognized by any country in the world and cannot therefore be listed as a separate country, but leaders there have insisted that the raion of Camenca, which is under Transnistrian control, needs to be listed as a Transnistrian raion.

In confidence-building attempt, Chisinau to facilitate border crossing by Transnistrian residents with Russian and Ukrainian passports

Deputy Prime Minister Victor Osipov, who is responsible for the resolution of the Transnistrian conflict, announced on December 31 that Chisinau would "facilitate the crossing of the Moldovan-Ukrainian border for Russian and Ukrainian citizens residing in Transnistria during the winter holidays."

This policy will apply from December 29 to January 18 since a considerable amount of people in this region celebrate the winter holidays according to the Julian (Old Style) calendar, according to which Christmas and New Year's take place 13 days after the New Style dates (December 25 and January 1).

Mr. Osipov said that Chisinau made the decision in an attempt at "confidence-building" and the "creation of favorable prerequisites" for the resolution of the Transnistrian conflict.

Speaker and interim President: Early elections "will not happen" in 2010

On December 31, 2009, Speaker and interim President Mihai Ghimpu addressed the Moldovan people on New Year's Eve during an address broadcast on Moldovan National Television.

Mr. Ghimpu spoke about "the end of Communist dictatorship" and thanked the "will of the majority of the people on July 29" (when the Communists lost) and the "sacrifices young people made on April 7" (when large-scale anti-Communist protests took place in Chisinau) for helping dethrone the Communists.

He also noted that "there are forces that want to put a stop to the processes of democratic development and European integration by throwing Moldova into a new electoral campaign. I assure you that this will not happen because you are the ones who decided in favor of change."

It was somewhat unclear if Mr. Ghimpu was referring to 2010 or to the next few years. Some analysts and politicians have suggested that the Constitution does not specify when early elections need to be held. Moldova has to hold another legislative poll because M.P.s failed to elect a President after the Party of Communists refused to vote for the ruling Alliance's candidate.

The Speaker added that Moldova would start negotiations with the European Union for an Association Agreement in January, which would hopefully allow the free travel of Moldovan citizens in Europe.


Speaker and interim President awards Romanian professor with Order of Honor

Speaker and interim President Mihai Ghimpu recently awarded Dan Dungaciu, a Romanian professor at the University of Bucharest, with the Order of Honor, one of the most prestigious state awards.

Mr. Dungaciu is a notorious analyst in Chisinau because of his analyses and commentaries about Moldova. He has written several studies and books about Romania and Moldova.