Friday, May 25, 2007

Dreaming of Chisinau City

Now that Moldova is living the frenzy of local elections, it is in vogue to talk about how Chisinau City can be transformed into a more beautiful, developed, comfortable, friendly European capital city. As many as 19 candidates to Chisinau Mayor’s Office are sharing their visions about Chisinau, so I thought the City’s residents and visitors could share their visions as well. I invite the readers of this blog who live and/or visited Chisinau to contribute with their own thoughts and ideas. Your contributions will be used by a Czech student studying Architecture in Italy who is preparing for his master thesis a project derived from a recently approved Chisinau Masterplan (or the General Urban Plan) which can be accessed here in Romanian.

I’ll go first. After traveling extensively in many cities, I think that Chisinau as a whole and its districts in particular lack an identity. It is a little bit of everything scattered everywhere. Therefore, some deal of organization will help. From commercial redevelopment perspective, it would be good to have clearly established functional areas where various industries (entertainment/showbusiness, cultural, fashion, mass-media, restaurants, public administration, international and non-profit organizations) can develop fast, and benefit from agglomeration effects. I’d like to see thematic locations, such as Newspapers’ Square, TV Center or Music Street, each with own unique identities. I’d like to be able to go clothes shopping in a beautiful pedestrian area with plenty of vegetation, fountains and street cafés.

Chisinau is a prisoner of cars, therefore I’d love to see Chisinau become a bicycle-friendly city. For the initial stage, it would be great to have specially-marked roads leading to the major parks and recreation areas. The Bic River is severely underdeveloped. As I live in its proximity, I wish it would be transformed into a modern well-lit riverside recreation area, or a romantic riverwalk with boats, cafes and nice little shops.

This is, briefly, Chisinau City of my dreams. Who's next?

Monday, May 14, 2007

Why Are the Brits Pessimistic about Moldova?

Monday started with two articles on Moldova in the British The Economist and Sunday Telegraph .

The Telegraph article is a variation on the same old topic: Transnistria and its role in the East-West relations, while The Economist deals with the Romanian-Moldovan relations. Perhaps the British media’s increased interest in this conflict zone is due to Moldova’s recently becoming an immediate Eastern neighbor of EU. Or, more realistically, the most recent Russian actions vis-à-vis Estonia put the decade-long Transnistrian conflict into a new perspective: Russia’s continuous interference into the internal affairs of an equally sovereign albeit much smaller and vulnerable country turned Transnistria into "an authoritarian regime under Russian occupation", "irritant to the US and the EU", "one of the worst thorns in the side of Europe and NATO", "serious political obstacle to Moldova's joining the EU". This historically-rooted mess aimed to strategically position Moscow in “some future East-West conflict”. Too bad for the half-million people living in Transnistria who are being manipulated in the worst possible way, …too bad for the other 3.5 million Moldovans who are viewed by the West as a “chunk of dirt-poor, ill-run, ex-communist nuisance”…

Although I wish something intelligent could be said to dilute the pessimistic image created by these two articles, no arguments seem to rush to mind.

Later addition It looks like The Economist is going to publish an entire series of diary-type-articles about Moldova. So much attention is really flattering :) Here you can read Tuesday part, or directly on the author's - Edward Lucas - blog .

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Local Elections in Moldova: Wind of Change?

Local elections are scheduled to take place in Moldova on June 3. There are over 930 local governments in this 4-million-people country. Moldovans will elect the local council and mayors in the city/town/village of their residence. Local non-governmental (Coalitia 2007) and international organizations such as OSCE have already begun monitoring the electoral activity throughout the country.

The stakes of these elections are high and the outcomes – important for the future of the country as there is a slight hope for change in power. The Communist Party has been comfortably in power in the majority of local governments since the previous local elections of May 2003 when they gained 41% of mayoral mandates. The opposition parties – united in a social-liberal electoral structure called Our Moldova – gained 21 %, and the independent candidates – 17.5 %. Right before the 2003 elections, the mostly-Communist Parliament, Communist central government and President have initiated the highly controversial reform of the 2nd tier of government.

The Communist Party still has a very strong hold on power in Moldova. Although I would like to see the opposition parties grow much stronger than they are today, the results of the upcoming elections are hardly going to be much different than those of the previous ones.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

How a War Monument Can Cause a Diplomatic Crisis

The Estonian-Russian diplomatic crisis has rapidly escalated in the last days. The government of Estonia – an independent EU country, formerly a Soviet republic – makes a decision to relocate a World War II monument - the Bronze Soldier – from the downtown to a place in the outskirts of the city of Tallinn. Common sense tells me that, whatever the reasons, this is a type of decision that a government of an independent country (even of a city government) should have enough authority to make without having to consider the possibility of infuriating the government of another country. However, when we talk of Russia, common sense is rarely a guiding principle. The current diplomatic crisis between Russia and Estonia shows how Russian high government officials make offensive, unjustified and destabilizing declarations addressing another country’s government and, by representation, its citizens.

Here is an Vladimir Socor’s article on the situation.

In another article he reveals the elements of the sophisticated Kremlin’s assault:

They include cyber attacks from within Russia’s Presidential Administration against the Estonian presidency’s and government’s electronic communications; political demands, backed by economic sanctions threats, to change the Estonian government; siege laid by Kremlin-created organizations to the Estonian Embassy in Moscow; and instigatory coverage of the April 27-29 violent riots of Russian youth in Tallinn by Russia’s state television.

Also, he warns that Moscow’s goal is not what it might appear:

...Moscow’s operational goal is not to elicit condemnation of Estonia or Latvia. It is, rather, to portray these Baltic states as irritants to the West’s relations with Russia and to induce Western governments to remain silent, instead of supporting the Baltic states against such bullying. Moscow hopes to draw wedges among Western allies through protracted application of this tactic.