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On the “border” line between Moldova and Transnistria

EUBAM expert with Moldovan customs officers on the road between Chisinau and Tiraspol (Loreline Merelle@B2)
EUBAM expert with Moldovan mobile units on the road between Chisinau and Tiraspol (Loreline Merelle@B2)

(BRUSSELS2 – along the administrative line between Transnistria and Moldova) How to control a border that is not a border? This is the challenge that Moldovan authorities face at the administrative line that separates Moldova from the unrecognized, pro-Russian state of Transnistria. The European border assistance mission, EUBAM, must support them and ten experts are present along the 400 kilometers of the administrative line. "But only on the Moldovan side" as Heinrick Heinke, head of the mission office in Chisinau, insistently explains.

No contact with Transnistria

“We have no contact with the Transnistrian side.” The resolution of the Transnistrian conflict, another task of the EUBAM mission, is left to those responsible at the headquarters located in Odessa, Ukraine. For the 10 experts from the Chisinau office who assist the Moldovan authorities, the task is therefore proving delicate. Because no cooperation is possible with the authorities opposite. And the framework of their mission is strict: “We support all customs-related issues to and from Transnistria” says Heinrick Heinke.

Internal customs posts

Modern border post (BCP) on the Transnistrian side with a customs and border guard service (Loreline Merelle@B2)
Modern border post (BCP) on the Transnistrian side with a customs and border guard service (Loreline Merelle@B2)

To go to Transnistria, one must first enter the security zone and pass through the military posts of the Russian, Ukrainian and Moldovan tripartite peacekeeping force. The cars slalom between the black and white obstacles, and the tanks, guarded by men in fatigues and weapons. A few kilometers later, a stop sign is placed in the middle of the road. A Moldovan police officer, dressed in black, stops vehicles coming from Transnistria, a customs officer in blue uniform inspects them and issues the documents necessary for transit. We are in one of the sixteen ICCP (Internal Customs control Post) of the administrative line. “There are no border guards, because it is an internal post and not a border post” Heinrick Heinke tells me. So no barrier: “you are not stuck at the administrative line”. On the Transnistrian side, the atmosphere is completely different. It is a real border post with barrier, customs and guards who control all vehicles.

Prevent blockage of the flow of goods

On the four hundred kilometers of the administrative line, the task of EUBAM experts is rather “to assist Moldovan customs officers in monitoring goods trucks to ensure that there is no illegitimate blockage”. Goods trucks are thus systematically stopped by the Moldovan authorities in order to "check whether the goods transported are exempt, or not, from taxes". Indeed, if the goods come to be used in Moldova, “Taxes must be paid”. But in case of transit of goods, Transdniestrian trucks are exempt from taxes on VAT and luxury goods. And this concerns the majority of vehicles from Transnistria circulating on Moldovan territory (Editor's note: 75% of Transnistrian trade is done with the west, Read on the Club: Moldova's neutrality and a European perspective (Igor Corman). Eight experts, mainly Bulgarian, German, Romanian and Polish, regularly go to the 16 positions to improve “risk profiling” and give " advices " at Moldovan customs. A job that is also done alongside the mobile units.

Assist and train mobile units

EUBAM experts with the Moldovan mobile unit (Loreline Merelle@B2)
EUBAM experts with the Moldovan mobile unit (Loreline Merelle@B2)

We find the experts from the EUBAM mission on the road from Chisinau to Tiraspol alongside the Moldovan mobile units. Two experts, a Bulgarian and a German, as well as a Moldovan (the interpreter) assist two Moldovan customs officers, who stop vehicles on the road that seem suspicious to them, mainly small trucks coming from Transnistria, suspected of trafficking goods. of all kinds. "The training of mobile units is part of the recommendations of the EUBAM mission" welcomes Heinrik Heinke.

`Each come with their own vehicles and (a little) stuck by the language barrier (the customs officers we met refusing to speak a language other than Moldovan), EUBAM experts and customs officers are both on the side of the road with well-defined roles. “We are not proactive” details the Head of the Chisinau office. “We only intervene in the work of Moldovan customs officers if there is a violation of human rights”. Experts monitor each vehicle check and advise customs officers to ensure the correct "operation of these units".

And for men?

If the EUBAM mission insists on its role of assistance for " the goods ", it is the question of men entering from Transnistria into Moldova that haunts the Moldovan authorities.  “Supported by the EUBAM mission”, a joint declaration, signed in 2012, thus allows the registration of goods and people taking the train between Chisinau and Tiraspol at the Ribniza post. And the EUBAM mission plays its technical role. “When the train arrives at the administrative line, it must stop. We make this process easier” says Heinrik Heinke.

A brand new migration service 

Territorial office set up in November 2013 by the Moldovan authorities at the administrative line between Moldova and Transnistria (Loreline Merelle@B2)
Territorial office set up in November 2013 by the Moldovan authorities at the administrative line between Moldova and Transnistria (Loreline Merelle@B2)

But this is not the only means used by the Moldovan authorities. Since November 2013, they have also opened a migration service on six ICCPs. It is actually a small, brand new prefabricated office next to the customs service. It's a “voluntary service and not official registration as such” indicates the officer from the migration office. The service is mainly aimed "to strangers" who wish to be registered when entering Moldova via Transnistria. When we ask the migration officer the number of foreigners he registers per week, he has a little smile. “There aren’t many people… Maybe two or three people”. And the head of the EUBAM mission office insists. “No one is arrested because it is not obligatory.” Moreover, at this administrative line, he claims to have not noticed " no change " with recent events in Ukraine "on the flow of goods".

(Loreline Merelle)

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