Doc. 9571

24 September 2002

Functioning of democratic institutions in Moldova

Report

Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee)

Rapporteurs: Mrs Josette Durrieu, France, Socialist Group, and Mr Lauri Vahtre, Estonia, Group of the European People’s Party

Summary

On 24 April 2002, the Assembly adopted Resolution 1280, in which it invited Moldovan political forces to pursue a constructive dialogue, and requested the Moldovan authorities to adopt a number of measures, which they agreed to implement as a matter of political compromise. The co-rapporteurs took stock of what had been done by the authorities since April last.

A certain number of commitments has been respected (registration of the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia to the register of religious denominations, moratorium on certain reforms, suspension of the judicial proceedings against PPCD parliamentarians). Some measures which were taken to meet the other undertakings are not totally satisfactory (reform of the national broadcasting company “Teleradio-Moldova”, modification of the status of parliamentarians).

The Assembly expects the Moldovan authorities to implement the decisions taken to the letter, without altering the content, and without breaching their commitments at a later date. It warns the authorities to refrain henceforth from taking any new measures or adopting any new legislation that contains provisions which are manifestly in contradiction with the standards of the Council of Europe and the principles of the European Convention on Human Rights, or in contradiction with Resolution 1280 (2002).

I.        Draft resolution

1. At its part session in April 2002, the Assembly reacted to the worrying events that were threatening stability in Moldova and expressed its concern in the face of the deterioration in that country’s political climate. It also noted with satisfaction the proposals put forward by Moldova's political forces, including members of the parliamentary opposition, to end the crisis.

2. On 24 April 2002, the Assembly adopted Resolution 1280, in which it invited Moldovan political forces to pursue a genuine and constructive dialogue; it requested the Moldovan authorities to adopt a number of measures, listed in paragraph 10 of the Resolution, which they agreed to implement as a matter of political compromise.

3. The Assembly notes that the Christian Democratic People’s Party ended its demonstrations on 29 April, and welcomes the return to calm in the country.

4. The Assembly welcomes the fact that the Moldovan authorities:

 

5. The Assembly notes that international financial institutions have re-established their aid to Moldova.

6. Nevertheless, the Assembly expects the authorities to implement the decisions taken to the letter, without altering the content, and without breaching their commitments at a later date, particularly those regarding freedom of the media, freedom of religion, freedom of assembly, the rights of parliamentarians, the autonomy of local authorities and the independence of judicial institutions. It also expects that the judicial proceedings mentioned in paragraph 4 iii. will not be reopened.

7. In addition, the Assembly notes that the authorities have sought to meet the other undertakings made in April, by adopting on 26 July 2002 a new law on the national public broadcasting company “Teleradio-Moldova“, by amending on 26 July 2002 the 1994 Law on the Status of Members of Parliament, and by amending on 12 July 2002 the 1992 Law on Religious Organisations.

8. However, it is unable to consider that the authorities have fully satisfied their commitments; the content of these laws continues to draw comment and controversy. It invites the authorities to:

9. It notes that the Moldovan authorities are co-operating with the Council of Europe, as they had undertaken. In particular, they have submitted numerous legislative texts for expert appraisal, notably laws concerning local self-government and organisation of the judicial system. The Assembly urges the Moldovan authorities to pursue this co-operation, and in particular to apply the recommendations made by the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe in the field of local and regional self-government in Moldova.

10. The Assembly has expressed its relief concerning the reappearance of Vlad Cubreacov. It regrets that the investigation carried out by the authorities failed to produce results and demands that light be shed on this incredible case.

11. The Assembly declares its willingness to assist the Moldovan Parliament in revising its rules of procedure and to provide the desirable expert input.

12. It calls on the Moldovan authorities:

13.       The Assembly warns the Moldovan authorities:

II.       Explanatory memorandum by the co-rapporteurs

I.        INTRODUCTION

1.       Events in Moldova at the beginning of 2002 – demonstrations organised by the Christian Democratic People’s Party for three and a half months; disappearance of the parliamentarian Vlad Cubreacov; challenges to reforms affecting local self-government, the status of Russian language and the teaching of history; lifting of the parliamentary immunity of certain opposition politicians; strike at Teleradio Moldova; worsening situation in Gagauzia – were enough to prompt fears at the Council of Europe for the country's democratic stability.

2.       At its part-session last April1, the Parliamentary Assembly expressed grave concern over the worsening of the political climate in the country while noting with satisfaction the proposals made by Moldova's political forces for a way out of the crisis.

3.       It is those proposals, in the form of a political compromise, that appear in paragraph 10 of Resolution 1280 adopted by the Assembly on 24 April 2002 and which the Moldovan authorities undertook to implement.

4.       The rapporteurs of the Parliamentary Assembly's Monitoring Committee therefore visited Moldova on 11 and 12 September 2002, to take stock of what had been done by the authorities2.

5.       The Secretary General of the Council of Europe is to visit Moldova on 14 and 15 October 2002.

II.       IMPLEMENTATION OF COMMITMENTS UNDER RESOLUTION 1280 (2002)

6.       The sole undertaking made by the political opposition – the ceasing by the Christian Democratic People’s Party (CDPP) of its demonstrations – has been fulfilled. The demonstrators halted their protests on 29 April. Iurie Rosca has stated on several occasions that he did not intend to organise any more daily mass protests. The political climate can but benefit from this. The implementation of all the other measures advocated by the Assembly in its resolution is the responsibility of the Moldovan authorities.

7.       Two of these commitments were to be fulfilled by a specific deadline, namely 31 July 2002 (closing date of the parliamentary session). These are the trickiest points: revision of audiovisual legislation and execution of the European Court of Human Rights judgment in the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia case.

8.       Our talking partners gave a positive response on the latter count: the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia has been registered and the Church has expressed its satisfaction. We have duly taken note.

9.       Comments from the parliamentary opposition on the other points in Resolution 1280 (2002) abounded with reservations. Dumitru Braghis did say however that all the other problems "are perhaps on the way to being settled", but the parliamentary opposition has received no information. He said that he had been asking to meet President Voronin since February and no reply had been forthcoming. He appeared somewhat disillusioned. He seems to have attempted to participate in efforts to find solutions to the problems at hand, particularly by jointly organising a round table of political parties both in and outside Parliament and by tabling a bill for the reform of the audiovisual sector (see following section and further, paragraph 52 onwards).

A.       Revision of audiovisual legislation and amendment of the status of Teleradio Moldova to make it an independent public corporation

10.       On 26 July 2002, Parliament passed a law on the national public broadcasting corporation "Teleradio Moldova".

11.       Three bills on the public audiovisual services were drawn up, by the three parliamentary factions respectively: the CDPP's bill was sent directly to the Council of Europe by Iurie Rosca for expert appraisal - it was rejected immediately by Parliament; the bill tabled by the Braghis alliance (draft "Law of the Republic of Moldova on the national public audiovisual institution" prepared by the electronic press association); and finally the draft "Law on the public audiovisual institution" initiated by President Voronin. The latter two bills went before Parliament. Council of Europe experts made a comparative analysis of the two bills, which was sent to the Moldovan authorities on 22 July 2002. The experts thought it desirable that the law incorporate the elements yielded by the two bills.

12.       It was the Braghis bill that was chosen by Parliament as the basis for debate and adopted at its first reading. However, at the second reading it was substantially altered by amendments drawing on the main elements of the presidential bill. Those amendments prompted Mr Braghis to withdraw his initial bill, considering that a law bearing the stamp of his parliamentary faction could not contain provisions that it disagreed with. Mr Braghis believes that the right kind of compromise would have been a synthesis of the Braghis/electronic press association bill with the addition of certain items from President Voronin's bill. The law, in the form passed, has undergone preliminary assessment by a Council expert, who found that it contained several forms of direct political interference in the activities of the public corporation.

13.       Compromise is doubtless still possible, as the dossier is not closed. The authorities are aware of this and may yet propose amendments acceptable to all sides. It is possible that the time for seeking compromises and solutions is now over. The opposition is rethinking its action strategy. However, the authorities told us that amendments to the law might be tabled in Parliament in autumn.

14.       The new law satisfies neither the Council of Europe nor the journalists, and it is bitterly contested by the opposition. In Mr Rosca's eyes, it changes nothing with regard to the authorities' control over the audiovisual sector and the conversion of the broadcasting corporation into a public institution is merely a cosmetic change. He has doubts as to the independence of the editorial line, owing to arrangements for setting up the observers council, which controls the activities of Teleradio Moldova, and the conditions in which its members are appointed.

15.       The membership of the observers council is contested on all sides. The proposed configuration (5 members appointed by the President, 5 by the Government and 5 by Parliament) flagrantly gives the communist party total control over appointments as things stand today. The institutional system, one feature being a president elected by Parliament, will leave power over the media in the hands of the majority party (or a majority coalition) whatever its political leanings, communist or not. This situation exists elsewhere. If run democratically, it can work. There is the letter of the law and its application. The Moldovan authorities have freedom of choice: they may appoint individuals with distinct political leanings or independent, neutral and objective professionals.

16.       Over and above the institutions, there is and will always be the principle of exercising fundamental rights more in the spirit of the law than in the letter of the law. Mr Braghis sums up the situation as follows: before the law was passed, the communist party ran the Teleradio Moldova company on a de facto basis and censorship was illegal; today it runs it quite legally and censorship has been legalised. Legislation has been passed but the situation has not changed. The outcome is the same.

17.       The authorities assured us that the members of the council would be drawn from civil society and recognised for their public reputation (artists, writers, composers etc) or their professionalism.

18.       It is true that the members of the observers council are "independent in their acts and may not express the interests of the bodies that appointed them". But it is also true that they may be dismissed from their post by the body that appointed them, for no specific reason. The Director General is appointed by Parliament, on a proposal from the observers council and also dismissed by Parliament on a motion from the observers council.

19.       The financial independence of Teleradio Moldova, necessary to remove it from the hold of the state budget, is not on the agenda either. According to the authorities, licence funding cannot be envisaged.

20.       Tension within Teleradio Moldova has slackened off but is still palpable. Some of the corporation journalists and staff we met are living in fear of being sacked to make way for young journalists recently recruited; some say that they are under great psychological pressure. Others believe that they suffer disguised censorship, through "stylistic changes" to presenter texts and commentaries. Ion Gonta, President of Teleradio Moldova, formally denies the allegations of censorship and political interference. The atmosphere left something to be desired.

21.       The Moldovan authorities must really take a considerably more constructive approach to this question to improve the functioning of Teleradio Moldova and set up a real independent public broadcasting service. We are not convinced that the authorities have fully realised this. V. Stepaniuc admits that not all of the Council of Europe's recommendations have been taken into account.

B.       Execution of the European Court of Human Rights judgment of 13 December 2001 in the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia case

22.       The Assembly had asked that the Moldovan Government take a decision of principle without delay to register the Church and define implementing arrangements and application measures under Council of Europe supervision, by the deadline of 31 July 2002.

23.       On 2 July 2002, the Moldovan authorities paid the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia the sum of 27,000 euros which the Court had ordered it to pay by way of just satisfaction.

24.       On 30 July 2002 the authorities issued the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia with a certificate of entry in the register of religious organisations, in accordance with the revised legislation on religious organisations.

25.       The Law of 24 March 1992 on religious organisations was amended by a law of 12 July 2002, which modified and simplified the registration procedure; faiths may now be entered in the register on the basis of a single declaration. It is no longer necessary to register religious organisations at local level: the two-tier registration system has been replaced with a single declaration procedure.

26.       It is undeniable that the situation has been defused. The representatives of the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia have expressed their satisfaction but still show concern and fear that certain recently adopted legislation might work to their disadvantage. This is particularly the case of an amendment to the Criminal Code3 and a government decision adopted on 11 June 2002 laying down the procedure for registering places of worship in order to determine ownership of religious buildings. The Metropoly of Bessarabia views this as a step towards nationalising all assets and moveable and real estate property owned by Churches, of whatever denomination. It also sees a link between these two measures: if the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia was not able to register its places of worship with the local authorities, occupation of those places would effectively be illegal and fall within Article 143 of the Criminal Code.

27.       The Minister of Justice pointed out that this article did not prevent the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia building its own churches or using the property in its possession, but was intended to prevent the leaders and followers of one of the two orthodox churches occupying de facto places of worship or premises belonging to the other.

28.       As regards the heritage aspects, the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia is not making any claims for the return of places of worship or other property; it is asking to retain full ownership of the places of worship it has built over the last 10 years and the property it owns at present. It has 120 parishes in Moldova (the Moldovan orthodox church has 1,200). The government decision of 26 September 2001 proclaiming the Moldovan Metropolitan Church the rightful successor to the Church of Bessarabia, which existed up until 1944, has been contested in the Court of Appeal by the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia. The case is ongoing.

29.       We also met his Grace Vladimir, Metropolitan of the Church of Moldova. We were reassured by the reasonable and logical views he expressed. The two Metropolitans are not opposed in cultural, spiritual or even heritage terms. It is accepted that the sharp disagreement between them is based on canonical principles and is solely a matter of arbitration between the two Churches. The word schism was pronounced and accepted as a reality by the Metropolitan. The Metropoly of Bessarabia is clearly considered as the schismatic part. The Assembly can go no further here in its investigations; it cannot become embroiled in theological matters. As regards heritage, he wishes places of worship and other buildings to be returned to those who built them. The Metropoly of Moldova has already gathered data on the situation in its parishes.

C.       Status of parliamentarians and the rights of the parliamentary opposition

30.       The Assembly asked the authorities to revise the 1994 Act on the status of member of parliament, regarding the provisions governing the lifting of immunity and removal from office.

31.       Last April we deplored the fact that a parliamentarian could be removed from office. Under the 1994 Act on the status of member of parliament it was Parliament that had the power to do so. Such sweeping powers are unacceptable. A law amending the 1994 act was passed on 26 July 20024. This provision has been deleted, but it is now the Constitutional Court which has the power of removal from office. A member of parliament may be removed from office by decision of the Constitutional Court once a final criminal sentence has been passed on them. This applies regardless of the sentence and the type of offence committed, as long as the offence is listed in the Criminal Code or Administrative Code (a mere motoring offence would suffice).

32.       When we spoke to Vadim Misin, Deputy Speaker of Parliament, we again stressed that parliamentary office was bestowed by citizens and was irrevocable, except in very specific and well-defined circumstances (death, resignation, incompatibility with other elected office, incompatibility with other functions – appointment to the government, employment in the civil service or army, private functions etc). We firmly call on the authorities to strictly observe those principles. In this connection and in the light of the commitments set forth in Resolution 1280, we believe that the Law of 26 July 2002 is not satisfactory. The irrevocable nature of parliamentary office is one of the base principles of our democracies.

33.       It would also appear that pursuant to the revised 1994 act, members of parliament may no longer organise public meetings with the public without first obtaining permission from the mayor.

34.       A recent bill amending the Law on the organisation and holding of public meetings would aim to transfer the prerogative to give prior permission for such events from mayors to local councils. The Christian Democratic People’s Party condemns this bill as an attempt to hinder initiatives by opposition parties.

35.       We stress that the Moldovan authorities must refrain from such initiatives which, in jeopardising freedom of assembly and freedom to demonstrate, can only be viewed in negative terms by international observers.

36.       Parliamentary immunity is threatened in its very existence by the draft constitutional amendment aimed at removing parliamentarians' constitutional guarantee of immunity. The Venice Commission was highly critical of this draft in an opinion issued last July (see paragraph 50). However, we had the impression that the authorities did not intend pursuing this course in the immediate future and that this draft revision of the Constitution was no longer on the agenda. We hope that this is the case.

37.       The revision of Parliament’s rules of procedure in order to widen the opposition’s rights, also called for by the Assembly in April, is said to be in progress. Mr Braghis told us that he had asked that the text be referred to the Council of Europe for expert appraisal, which Parliament has refused to do.

38.       Mr Braghis criticised the situation concerning the rights of the opposition: he claims that his group is entitled to two committee chairmanships under the rules, whereas it holds only one at present, on the social affairs committee. When we asked the Deputy Speaker of Parliament about this, he replied that the Braghis faction originally comprised 19 members, which entitled it to two chairmanships. The present situation is the result of defections by four of those members, one of them the chairman of the committee on human rights and national minorities, who has become an independent but kept his chairmanship. The majority in power does not intend to challenge this situation.

D.       Investigation into the disappearance of Vlad Cubreacov

39.       Vlad Cubreacov reappeared on 26 May. The circumstances of his reappearance, like those of his disappearance on 21 March, remain largely unexplained and most mysterious.

40.       During our visit we held talks with the Prosecutor General and the Minister of the Interior. We were to meet Petru Bobu, the prosecutor of Chisinau, who had led the investigation team in the Cubreacov case, but were told that he had "resigned" two days prior to our visit on "health grounds". What we heard during our talks cast serious doubt on the credibility and professionalism of the authorities in this affair. The investigation was said to have stopped at the borders of Transnistria and the investigators can proceed no further with their inquiries. The Prosecutor General expressed the wish for assistance from the Council of Europe and the specialised investigation services of the member states. No such official request has ever reached the Council of Europe.

41.       It cannot be said that the authorities have carried out an in-depth and open investigation into this case. We spoke to the chairman of the parliamentary committee of inquiry who feels that the case remains a total mystery, although he believes that the prosecutor's office took the necessary steps during the investigation. Cooperation between the group of investigators and the committee has been good, but he remains convinced that the committee did not receive all the information nor all the support it asked for. It will therefore cease its work.

42.       The fact that the investigation has not yet been closed and has made precious little progress demonstrates that the case is distinctly suspicious. Information is filtering through in dribs and drabs from both the authorities and the individual himself. Those we spoke to were cryptic.

E.       Other commitments

43.       Some of the other specific commitments contained in Resolution 1280 have been honoured:

-       the suspension of criminal proceedings against the leaders of the CDPP, with the proviso that proceedings have simply been suspended and the prosecuting authorities could reopen them at any time. The Assembly must remain vigilant. The same two CDPP MPs, I. Rosca and S. Secareanu, were sentenced to fines once again on 30 April;

-       the extension of the moratorium on reforms concerning the teaching of the Russian language and changes to the history curriculum. The moratorium remains, but the question is clearly still topical: the government has set up a study group to develop a concept for history teaching in educational establishments. The Council of Europe will be involved. V. Stepaniuc acknowledges that the problem of the status and teaching of the Russian language and the teaching of history remains and that the moratorium is not much help in finding a solution.

44.       The situation of local self-government and the reform of the judiciary, on the other hand, continue to give serious cause for concern. In April 2002 the Assembly limited itself on these two points to asking the authorities to co-operate extensively with the Council of Europe. It expects no less of them today.

-       Local self-government

45.       Our recent visit to Chisinau coincided with the visit of a delegation from the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe, who had come to assess the situation in Gagauzia, as well as progress on territorial reforms, with a view to a new debate in the CLRAE in November 2002. On 5 June 2002 the CLRAE adopted Recommendation 110 on local and regional democracy in Moldova, in which it expressed a number of reservations about the reforms in progress and called on the authorities to implement the recommendations it had made. The Assembly will therefore have to be very attentive to developments in this area.

46.       On this last point, I. Rosca considers that threats continue to hang over the local authorities and their financial independence.

-       Independence of the judiciary

47.       I. Rosca expressed deep concern about the independence of the judiciary: between November 2001 and August 2002 57 judges (court presidents and vice-presidents) had allegedly been dismissed.

48.       Braghis too expressed concern at the abuses; he underlined that the President did not respect the constitution when appointing judges, but did not confirm the figures; nor did the international observers.

49.       V. Stepaniuc refutes the allegations and explains that no judges were dismissed; the President of the Republic simply refused to appoint certain candidates to the posts of president or vice-president of certain courts. The High Judicial Council nominates two candidates to the President for each post and the President chooses one of them. The Minister of Justice also considers the allegations unfounded and maintains that no applicants were rejected for political reasons. The appointments were perfectly in keeping with the constitution and the legislation. He admits certain magistrates have not taken kindly to recent legislation and initiatives in this field aimed at improving the functioning of the judiciary and the training of judges and making the courts more efficient.

50.       In April the Assembly asked the authorities “to undertake no reform concerning the judicial system, the status of the judiciary, the High Judicial Council or the Constitutional Court without having previously obtained and taken into account the recommendations of the Council of Europe’s experts”.

51.       On 5-6 July last the Venice Commission approved an opinion on the draft law on constitutional amendments prepared by the Moldovan authorities5. The draft law addresses parliamentary immunity (see paragraph 36), judicial organisation, the status and dismissal of judges, and the membership and powers of the High Judicial Council. As we have already said, the authorities seem to be less zealous about this issue.

52.       Under the targeted co-operation programme adopted by the Committee of Ministers, 31 laws concerning the judicial system have been sent to the Council of Europe for expert appraisal. The Criminal Code, the Code of Criminal Procedure, the Civil Code, the Code of Civil Procedure and the law on the Public Prosecutor’s Office also fall within the scope of this co-operation.

III.       INITIATIVES OF THE PARTIES

-       Political party Round Table

53.       The political party Round Table inaugurated on 8 April 2002 at the initiative of D. Braghis and D. Diacov and involving about twenty political parties or NGOs is continuing its work. It is a useful instrument of political dialogue. Many participants have expressed frustration as regards its functioning because few constructive decisions come of it. According to D. Braghis and I. Rosca, among 18 meetings, the Communist Party has only attended once, on 4 September (V. Stepaniuc told us that the Communist Party had attended 6 of the 11 meetings).

54.       The Council of Europe’s assistance was requested at the beginning of April to organise the round table meeting of all the political parties. We see that meetings are now held regularly without any help from the Council of Europe.

-       changes to the election law

55.       The present electoral system is criticised by D. Braghis, particularly the voting system (at present proportional representation with a 6% representation threshold). The Braghis Alliance has started collecting signatures with a view to organising a referendum to change the election law. The process is now nearing completion. The Braghis Alliance has collected some 220,000 signatures (213,000 of which have been validated by the Central Electoral Committee).

56.       The idea is to introduce a mixed system, with 50% of seats allocated from lists by proportional representation and 50% by majority vote in single member constituencies. This initiative, now the spearhead of its action, shows the offensive approach adopted by this opposition group.

57.       The normal procedure is for the matter to be taken up in Parliament within six months. It is now for Parliament to examine the referendum project and decide what action to take: it can either pass a law on the subject or submit it to popular referendum and set a date accordingly. The CDPP has completely dissociated itself from this initiative. D. Braghis is afraid that manoeuvring by the communist majority in Parliament will short-circuit his initiative and that the government will hinder the referendum process. By choosing to pass the law, the parliamentary majority has the power to block a referendum proposed by popular initiative.

58.       Communist MPs have already set about meticulously verifying the lists of signatures, which according to D. Braghis is against the law on referenda. V. Stepaniuc maintains, on the contrary, that Parliament is entitled to verify the validity of the signatures. It seems that the law on referendum does not provide for this possibility. D. Braghis also denounces the pressure being brought to bear on certain signatories of the referendum bid. Sanctions have been taken against public officials; we were given the names of four people who had been dismissed. D. Braghis sees this as an illustration of the new human rights situation in Moldova.

59.       What happens next remains to be seen. We got the impression that it was a sore subject for certain members of the majority in power whom we asked about it.

IV.       SETTLEMENT OF THE TRANSNISTRIA QUESTION

60.       At a meeting in Kiev on 2-3 July, a plan for settling the conflict in Transnistria was drawn up, under the aegis of the mediators (Russia, Ukraine and the OSCE).

61.       This draft was approved by the mediators on 19 August as a possible working variant and was published by the OSCE on 30 August. The plan proposes a federal solution for the State of Moldova. It contains three parts: the provisions concerning the statute (42 points), guarantees and peacekeeping forces, and a timetable for implementing the statutory provisions.

62.       Discussions on the first part between the Chişinău authorities and the self-proclaimed authorities of Tiraspol have been ongoing since 22 August. Mr Sturza, the chairman of the state commission for the Transnistrian conflict settlement, who is leading the negotiations, is reasonably optimistic about their outcome. He has told us that the Transnistrian authorities seemed to agree with the first five points of the plan:

-       the principle of establishing a federal state;

-       the principle of Moldova's territorial integrity within its 1990 frontiers;

-       the principle of the Republic of Moldova as a sovereign state;

-       the principle of Transnistria as a component of this Moldovan federal state;

-       the principle of Transnistria as a subject of the federation with a statute giving it a wide measure of self-government (it would have its own constitution, its own representative institutions, its own legislation, though this would have to be in compliance with the constitution of the federal state, a flag, coat of arms and so on; however, the federal state would be responsible for foreign affairs, the judicial system, the armed forces, the currency and customs. There would be a single citizenship. Russian and Ukrainian would be recognised as official languages, alongside Moldovan, in the Transnistrian constitution).

63.       If the negotiations succeed, Moldova will have a new constitution. General elections will then be organised in the country, and would be held simultaneously in Moldova and Transnistria. It is intended to ensure the participation of the Transnistrian representative institutions in the federal bodies of Moldova, in particular through the establishment of a bicameral parliament.

64.       One unknown factor remains: what happens to Igor Smirnov, his family and his system? Mr Sturza thinks that Smirnov can accept this draft; if he agrees to sign, everything will change. And if not, the people of Transnistria will opt for the draft proposed, he believes.

65.       The plan has received widely varying reactions, totally negative on the part of the PPCD and certain centre parties. Mr Rosca has even claimed to be scandalised that the Moldovan authorities, the OSCE and certain ambassadors consider Mr Smirnov to be a valid negotiating partner. Nor is he convinced that Moldovan citizens themselves know what solution to support. For pro-Romanians, letting Transnistria go strengthens quite evidently certain views, those of Great Romania.

66.       It is clear that those whom we spoke to are anxious for a return to normal in this zone. We note that negotiations are under way on a proposal and a future statute. This is not the first time. In the past there have frequently been discussions that have led to nothing. We also note that agreement seems to have been reached on five of the 42 points of the plan. We should watch how the situation develops. The CIS Summit in Chişinău on 6 October will certainly be important. President Voronin appears to favour a swift solution.

67.       However, the question of the demilitarisation of Transnistria remains completely unresolved and the withdrawal of Russian troops on 31 December 2002, in accordance with Russia's undertakings at the 1999 Istanbul Summit, is still no more than a possibility. It is now clear that these Russian troops might remain in Transnistria, under one guise or another, as a "peace enforcement" force. This would contradict the Assembly position which was most recently stated in Resolution 1277 (2002) on the honouring by the Federation of Russia of its obligations and commitments (par. 8 xv.).

68.       Russia's influence is growing. Is Transnistria a component of the system being sketched out by Russia and the United States for the positioning of their respective troops on the European chess board? Vadim Misin was keen to point out that the mission of Rudolph Perina, U.S. Department of State's special envoy on conflicts in Eurasia (Transnistria, Nagorno-Karabakh, Abkhazia), is significant in this context.

69.       The question of Gagauzia's status is not on the agenda. The authorities are aware of the Gagauzian leaders' ambitions to secure a place in the coming federal structure, but priority is being given to settling the Transnistrian question.

CONCLUSIONS

70.       The Moldovan Parliament resumed on 15 September. It will then be down to the authorities to take account of the comments of the Parliamentary Assembly and the other bodies of the Council of Europe, and in particular to revise some of the laws passed in the light of the comments and observations made, namely the law on broadcasting and laws reforming territorial organisation.

71.       Numerous legal texts will be appraised by experts in the coming months under the targeted cooperation programme adopted by the Committee of Ministers on 3 July 2002. This is fundamental, long-term work that requires a reasonable time-span.

72.       The comments made by our dialogue partners in opposition were on the whole rather more measured compared with several months ago. We expect the opposition to be active within Parliament and to exercise the functions and privileges granted to it in Parliament before taking to the streets; that is the rule of democracy. It is there to be obeyed. The communist party does not appear to have changed its working methods in Parliament, and this shows in the quality of legislative work.

73.       We must remain vigilant on a great many counts even if efforts are perceptible. Let us emphasise once again that it is often a question of method and overall approach here. The abuses which reveal the temptation afforded by the vertical power structure – lack of openness, consultation or in-depth debate of legislative bills etc – are still present. Many of those we spoke to also have little idea of the rule of law and pluralist democracy. In the workings of the state, it is still the old soviet establishment that is in control. While we concentrate on human rights protection, we forget that the elementary principles that govern democracies are not spontaneously and rapidly taken on board. This is the case in Moldova. Some of our findings do point to a determination to make progress. Without being too complacent, the country needs vigilant assistance and a little time.

74.       Progress is to be made towards the emergence of constructive and genuine dialogue between Moldova's political forces.

75.       Moldova's capability of taking on the Organisation's chairmanship in May 2003 has been called into question in some quarters. The conditions laid down by the Parliamentary Assembly in Resolution 1280 (2002) were intended to settle a political crisis. This is a changing situation. We believe that Moldova will have the political will to establish on principle a situation leaving no room for criticism of a country whose turn it will be in the scheme of things to chair the Council of Europe in 8 months' time.

Appendix I

Resolution 1280 (2002)6

Functioning of democratic institutions in Moldova

1.        The Parliamentary Assembly expresses grave concern about the events which have been occurring in Moldova since January 2002 and its anxiety about the continuous worsening and radicalisation of the political climate there, which is a threat to the country’s stability.

2.        Demonstrations organised by the Christian Democratic People’s Party (CDPP) have been going on now in the town centre of Chişinău for more than three-and-a-half months. After a period of confusion, these demonstrations, which the governmental authorities and the courts have branded illegal, have been met with manifestly disproportionate sanctions. The Assembly considers that the lifting of the parliamentary immunity of the CDPP leaders is of rather doubtful propriety in a democracy.

3.        The Assembly acknowledges and welcomes the fact that the authorities have not used force against the demonstrators and have seen fit to halt the process of certain reforms. It notes, however, that the organisers held to have acted illegally and several participants in the demonstrations have been prosecuted and convicted by the courts, and others put under pressure, as has reportedly happened to minors.

4.        The Assembly recalls that in a democracy every citizen and every elected representative have both rights and duties, beginning with the obligation to abide by the law. The political opposition has rights. They must be consolidated and honoured. The Assembly also recalls that legislation must be in conformity with the Council of Europe’s standards and principles.

5.        The Assembly is profoundly disturbed by the disappearance of Vlad Cubreacov, a member of the Parliamentary Assembly since 1996, and calls upon the Moldovan authorities to conduct a speedy, transparent and full investigation into this case, and to keep Mr Cubreacov’s family, Parliament and the Council of Europe regularly informed of the progress of investigations.

6.        The absence of progress in the investigations which have now been under way for a month may cast doubt on the declared intention to elucidate the case as quickly as possible. The credibility of the government, and even of the President, is at stake.

7.        The Assembly notes that the scale of the protest movement by journalists and staff of Teleradio Moldova underlines the need to carry out reforms quickly, so as to fully guarantee freedom of expression and promote a public broadcasting service. It urges the authorities to end the practice of censorship of television programmes and to afford all opposition political parties, both inside and outside Parliament, generous access to discussion programmes. It asks the Moldovan Government and Parliament to embark without delay on work to transform Teleradio-Moldova into an independent public corporation.

8.        It is concerned about the worsening of the domestic situation in Gagauzia and the deterioration of institutional relations between Comrat and Chişinău. It warns the authorities on both sides of the risk of a new hotbed of instability in Moldova. Any escalation must be avoided.

9.        Having noted the absence of real dialogue between the ruling party and the political opposition, the Assembly also notes the strong opposition from civil society.

10.        The Assembly expects the Moldovan political forces to pursue genuine, constructive dialogue and to agree on a compromise which should include the following elements:

i.       a moratorium simultaneously covering the cessation by the CDPP of its demonstrations, so that political dialogue may be initiated, and the suspension of criminal proceedings against Iurie Rosca and Stefan Secareanu, it being understood that the Moldovan authorities should refrain from further lifting the immunity of parliamentarians;

ii.       an extension of the existing moratorium on the reforms concerning the teaching and status of the Russian language, and changes to the history curriculum;

iii.       the revision of the 1994 Act on the Status of Members of Parliament, regarding the provisions governing the lifting of immunity and removal from office;

iv.       the revision of radio and television legislation and amendment of the status of Teleradio Moldova to make it an independent public corporation: an immediate start of work by the relevant parliamentary committee; the possible resumption of consideration of the draft legislation examined by the previous legislature; and assistance of Council of Europe experts in defining the public service status of the Moldovan radio and television corporation. This work should be completed by the end of the current parliamentary session, on 31 July 2002;

v.       the execution of the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights in the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia case: immediate registration of the Church through the adoption of a government decision by 24 April 2002; definition of implementation arrangements under Council of Europe supervision. The deadline for completion of application measures is also 31 July 2002;

vi.       Council of Europe assistance concerning the disappearance of Vlad Cubreacov and judicial co-operation from member states and their specialist investigation bodies;

vii.       the revision of Parliament’s rules of procedure in order to widen the opposition’s rights;

viii.       the organisation of a round table between all the political parties, not only those represented in Parliament, with the assistance of the Council of Europe.

11.        The Assembly calls upon the Moldovan Government and Parliament to take the above measures without delay.

12.        Moreover, it invites Moldovan political forces to urgently discuss solving the present crisis and, if needed put the solution to a referendum, by using the constitutional powers of citizens (Article 141 of the Moldovan Constitution – "popular initiative") or the president (Article 88 of the Moldovan Constitution – "plebiscite").

13.        The Assembly acknowledges that encouraging efforts to start dialogue have been made very recently, and welcomes the adoption on first reading of a bill including a number of measures to improve safeguards for the parliamentary opposition.

14.        The Assembly calls upon the Moldovan authorities to co-operate fully with the Council of Europe and its bodies, and in particular:

i.        to take into account and apply the recommendations of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe for improving local self-government in Moldova;

ii.        to submit for Council of Europe expert appraisal the future bills for the reform of broadcasting and transform the state company Teleradio Moldova into an independent public service corporation;

iii.        to revise the 1994 Act on the Status of Members of Parliament taking account of recommendations made by the experts of the Council of Europe;

iv.        to give effective priority to the action plan for legal and judicial reform;

v.        to undertake no reform concerning the judicial system, the status of the judiciary, the High Judicial Council or the Constitutional Court without having previously obtained and taken into account the recommendations of the Council of Europe’s experts.

15.        The Assembly calls upon the member states of the Council of Europe to afford Moldova increased assistance, in particular :

i.        by contributing to the country’s economic recovery and the struggle declared by the President of the Republic against corruption and arms trafficking from Transnistria and all other kinds of trafficking – in women, children, human organs, and so on – either from or through Moldovan territory. Such trafficking is run by powerful and increasingly numerous mafia networks, which must be dismantled;

ii.        by asking the countries directly concerned by Moldova’s problems to contribute to the stabilisation of the democratic process in this country whilst respecting Moldova’s integrity and sovereignty.

16.       The Assembly calls on the member states of the Council of Europe to monitor closely Moldova's economic and social development and to help it regain the confidence of international financial institutions (International Monetary Fund and the World Bank). It invites the latter to review their positions and to grant Moldova the aid it needs to consolidate the economic upturn and improve the social situation of the vast majority of the Moldovan population.

Appendix 2

(Chisinau, 11-12 September 2002)

Co-rapporteurs :        Mrs Josette DURRIEU (France, SOC)
      Mr Lauri VAHTRE (Estonia, EPP/CD)

Secretariat :       Mrs Valérie CLAMER

Wednesday 11 September

7.00 pm       Arrival of the delegation

7.50 pm       MeetIng with Mr Iurie ROSCA, Chairman of the parliamentary faction of the Christian Democratic People’s Party

8.25 pm       Meeting with Mr Vasile STURZA, Chairman of the Committee on the development of the negotiation proceedings for the solution of the Transnistria problem

9.10 pm       Meeting with Mr Dumitru BRAGHIS, Chairman of the Parliamentary faction « Alliance Braghis »

9.50 pm       Meeting with Mr Victor STEPANIUC, Chairman of the Parliamentary faction of the Communist Part of the Republic of Moldova

10.30 pm       Dinner hosted by Mr Andrei NEGUTA, Chairman of the Moldovan Parliamentary Delegation to the Council of Europe

Thursday 12 September

8.00 am       Meeting with the Ambassadors of the Members States of the Council of Europe hosted by Her Excellency Mrs Dominique GAZUY, Ambassador of France (French Embassy)

9.00 am       Meeting with representatives of Teleradio Moldova, the President of Teleradio Moldova, Mr Ion GONTA, and the President of the radio and television Coordination Council and the moldavan television

9.50 am       Meeting with representatives of the Metropolitan Church of Bessarabia

10.25 am       Meeting with His Holiness VLADIMIR, Metropolitan Church of Chisinau and all Moldova

11.00 am       Meeting with Mr Vadim MIŞIN, Vice-president of Parliament, Interim President of Parliament

1.00 pm       Working lunch hosted by Mr Vadim MIŞIN, Vice-president of the Parliament, Interim President of Parliament, and the Moldovan Parliamentary Delegation to the Council of Europe

2.30       Departure of Mrs Durrieu

2.35 pm       Meeting with Mr Gheorghe PAPUC, Minister of the Interior, Mr Vasile RUSU, Prosecutor General, and the Interim Prosecutor of Chisinau Municipality

3.25 pm       Meeting with Mr Ion MOREI, Minister of Justice

4.20 pm       Meeting with Mr Mihai PLĂMĂDEALĂ, Chairman of the Special Committee of the Cubreacov Affair

5.00 pm       Meeting with Mrs Maria POSTOICO, Chair of the Committee on Legal, Nominations and Immunity Questions, and Mr Andrei NEGUTA, Chairman of the External Policy Committee

Friday 13 September

Morning       Departure of Mr Vahtre and Mrs Clamer

Reporting committee: Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe (Monitoring Committee)

Reference to committee: Resolution 1115 (1997) of 27 January 1997 and Resolution 1280 (2002)

Draft resolution unanimously adopted with one abstention by the committee on 24 September 2002

Budgetary implications: to be estimated

Members of the committee: Mrs Durrieu (Chairperson), Mr Pollozhani, Mrs Severinsen, Mr Frunda (Vice-Chairpersons), Mrs Akgönenç, Mr Akhvlediani, Mr B. Aliyev, Mr Arzilli, Mr Atkinson, Mrs Belohorska, Mr Bindig, Mr van den Brande, Mr Budin, Mr Cekuolis, Mr Christodoulides, Mr Cilevics, the Rt.Hon.T. Davis, Mr Debono Grech, Mrs Delvaux-Stehres, Mr Dobelis, Mr Einarsson, Mr Eörsi, Mrs Feric-Vac, Mr Frey, Mr Glesener, Mr Gligoroski, Mr Gross, Mr Gürkan, Mr Gusenbauer, Mr Hancock, Mr Haraldsson, Mr Hegyi, Mr Holovaty, Mr Jakic, Mr Jansson, Mr Jaskiernia, Mr Jurgens, Mrs Kautto, Lord Kilclooney, Mr Kirilov, Mr van der Linden, Mr Lintner, Mr Magnusson, Mr Martinez Casan, Mr Medeiros Ferreira, Mr Mollazade, Mr Neguta, Mr Olekas, Mr Olteanu, Mr Pangalos, Mr Rakhansky, Mrs Ringstad, Mr Rivolta, Mr Rogozin, Mr Rustamyan, Mr Saglam, Mrs Shakhtakhtinskaya, Mr Shishlov, Mr Slutsky, Mr Smorawinski, Mr Soendergaard, Mrs Stoyanova, Mr Surjan, Mr Tepshi, Mrs Tevdoradze, Mr Vahtre, Mr Vella, Mr Weiss, Mrs Wohlwend, Mr Yanez-Barnuevo, Mr Zacchera, Mr Zierer

N.B. The names of those members who were present at the meeting are printed in italics.

Secretaries to the committee: Mrs Ravaud, Mr Mezei, Mrs Clamer, Ms Mathey


1 See the report on Functioning of democratic institutions in Moldova (Doc. 9418) presented by the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by member States (rapporteurs: Mrs Durrieu and Mr Vahtre).

2 The visit programme appears in Appendix II. The co-rapporteurs wish to express their gratitude to the Moldovan parliamentary delegation for its excellent organisation of their visit. They also thank Mrs Dominique Gazuy, Ambassador of France, for providing very valuable assistance and much of her time during the visit.

3 Article 143-1 of the Criminal Code makes the "abusive occupation of places of worship by members of another religious community" punishable by up to 15 years' imprisonment.

4 The full text of the law has been sent to the Venice Commission for expert appraisal. The opinion should be available for the Commission's next plenary session on 14-15 October.

5 See CDL-AD (2002) 14

6 .       Assembly debate on 24 April 2002 (12th Sitting) (see Doc. 9418, report of the Committee on the Honouring of Obligations and Commitments by Member States of the Council of Europe, rapporteurs: Mrs Durrieu and Mr Vahtre).

Text adopted by the Assembly on 24 April 2002 (12th Sitting).