An important international conference centering on the appearance and perpetuation of political autonomous units is to take place in the Republic of Moldova in the second half of 2021. The event will be held under the aegis of the OSCE and the experience of Gagauz-Yeri and the possibility of applying the European practices concerning territorial entities will be the main subjects for discussion.
Preparations for conference
The Bashkan of Gagauzia Irina Vlah and the Head of the OSCE Mission to the Republic of Moldova Claus Neukirch last week discussed in detail the preparations for the conference. The sides said one of the tasks of the forum will be to identify suitable methods for the development of the autonomous unit as part of the Republic of Moldova by applying “the best European practices”.
The idea of organizing the event was supported by Parliament Speaker Zinaida Grechanyi. She pledged organizational support and to encourage MPs from all the groups to take part.
For the first time, the idea of an international conference was uttered in September 2020, during an online event that involved Irina Vlah, a group of deputies of the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia, the President of the Venice Commission Gianni Buquicchio and other representatives of the OSCE, which is to organize the event.
At that time, the leaders of Gagauzia related how they studied the experience of functioning of European autonomous units, especially South Tyrol, Wales and the Aland Islands. According to the Gagauz representatives, the mechanism of interaction of these regions with the central authorities of the given countries in terms of language, finances and the social sphere could be applied in the Autonomous Territorial Unit (ATU) of Gagauzia.
European and Moldovan experience
The parallel with the European autonomous units that was insistently promoted by the representatives of Comrat is rather relative. The intention to learn by the experience of South Tyrol in Italy, the Aland Islands in Finland and Wales in the UK, which have considerable territorial powers, seems logical to the Gagauz leaders. But each of the mentioned autonomous units was formed in a specific context. Their current status of highly developed territories with guaranteed powers was preceded by century-long processes that included sad pages of forced relocations of ethnic groups, forced assimilation and event terrorist acts.
Against such a backdrop, the Moldovan experience related to the creation of ATU Gagauzia seems to be rather reasonable and can be given as an example to others. In our history, the “Gagauz issue” appears as a conflict that was solved rather peacefully and swiftly. The law on the special status of Gagauz-Yeri, which was adopted in 1994, in conjunction with the main regional legislation designed later, defines all the main aspects of tax collection, functioning of languages and other moments that hold interest for the Gagauz leaders in the European context.
This way, the law on the bases of the taxation system of Gagauz-Yeri stipulates that the VAT, the income tax, different exercise ditties and other types of payments remain in the budget of the ATU. The law of 1994 provides that three official languages function in the region, while the correspondence with the governmental bodies and central institutions can take place in Russian.
In the case of Gagauzia, the problem resides not in the recognition of the powers, but in their improper execution. In Comrat, they consider the fact that the region’s powers are not guaranteed by the Constitution is a problem and, therefore, the development of the national legislation is fully or partially detached from the main legislation on the ATU adopted in 1994.
The Moldovan and Gagauz authorities tried to obtain a decision at European level concerning the constitutional guarantees of Gagauz powers. At the end of 2001, the Venice Commission was asked to pronounce on the amendments concerning the ATU’s powers to the Constitution of the Republic of Moldova. In March 2002 already, a group of rapporteurs of the Venice Commission, after having a series of consultations in Chisinau and Comrat, pronounced in favor of incorporating the provisions of the law on the status of Gagauz-Yeri into the supreme law. However, these proposals remained unimplemented recommendations.
During the past few years, the theme of constitutional guarantees for the Gagauz powers has been raised seldom and inaudibly. Given that this issue was mentioned by Irina Vlah in her speeches accidentally, it can be presumed that the Bashkan, even if she shares this view, didn’t set the achievement of this goal as a priority. The same can be said about the People’s Assembly of Gagauzia.
It could happen that in the conference set for the end of this year, the Bashkan will try to bring the theme of constitutional guarantees back into the focus. The references to the European experience could serve as a powerful argument in favor of Comrat.
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