Evidence of meeting #103 for National Defence in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was transnistria.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Excellency Ms. Ala Beleavschi  Ambassador of the Republic of Moldova to Canada

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

Darren Fisher Liberal Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

9:55 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Stephen Fuhr

Thanks.

MP Bezan.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Moldova is landlocked.

9:55 a.m.

Ala Beleavschi

Yes, it is.

We do have access to the Black Sea through a small portion. It's around 400 metres through the Danube River, and it's navigable, but it's landlocked today.

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Your Excellency, I was just looking at Transnistria's flag, and it still has a sickle and hammer on it. I believe it was the last region of the former Soviet Union to finally recognize the collapse of the Soviet Union. Did they finally recognize the collapse of the Soviet Union?

9:55 a.m.

Ala Beleavschi

Could you please repeat that?

9:55 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Transnistria itself refused to recognize the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. What year did they finally recognize it?

9:55 a.m.

Ala Beleavschi

They were very much against the dissolution of the Soviet Union because they believe that their region would be much more, let's say, limited in the context of Russia. They don't have a common border with Russia. Of course, they realized at the time when the Soviet Union broke up that there would be problems in continuing communication with Russia. I believe so.

They tried to recognize these self-proclaimed entities like South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

10 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

They were practising the Brezhnev planned economy as well, were they not?

10 a.m.

Ala Beleavschi

You will see everywhere Soviet-style architecture and monuments to Vladimir Lenin all over the country. If you travel to Transnistria, you will find yourself in the former Soviet Union, and there are Russian flags with the red flag of Transnistria. You will see that there are many signs of the past.

10 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

The way the economy works now, is it a free market or is it still more a communist style?

10 a.m.

Ala Beleavschi

Oh, no. Well, it is a very corrupt system run by oligarchs, unfortunately. There are clearly interests in Transnistria from Russian businesses, especially because they have a metallurgical steel factory that used to have a significant share in the overall Moldovan economy. Before Transnistria broke—at least it claims to have broken—from Moldova, 40% of Moldova's entire industry was from Transnistria. It was a heavily industrialized region of Moldova, and losing it was a huge blow to our economy.

At the same time, Transnistria is being heavily supported financially, subsidized, by Moscow.

I will give you one example of what is happening. You can imagine that Transnistria is having a hard time surviving today, especially with Ukraine cooperating with Moldova and not allowing them to engage in the smuggling activities. Russia is providing gas to the whole territory of Moldova, and to Transnistria, but we used to buy gas from Russia at approximately U.S. $300 per 1,000 cubic metres of gas, while Transnistrians “bought gas” at $80. This money has not been paid back to Russia. They have been given gas. They've used gas. The money they owed Russia was used to pay the salaries for maintaining the social sphere, and Russia has put this debt on Moldova. Today we have almost $7 billion in debt to Russia's Gazprom. Of this, 94% is Transnistrian debt.

Here, Russia does not recognize that Transnistria is separate. It says it's part of Moldova because of this debt.

10 a.m.

Conservative

James Bezan Conservative Selkirk—Interlake—Eastman, MB

Hypocrisy knows no limits.

10 a.m.

Ala Beleavschi

Maybe I gave you too many details, but I hope you understand how it all works. The energy sector is a leverage.

By the way, we are trying now to diversify our market of energy supplies, and we are building a gas pipeline to connect Romania with Moldova so that we at least become less dependent on Russian energy sources.

10 a.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Stephen Fuhr

MP Alleslev.

10 a.m.

Liberal

Leona Alleslev Liberal Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

Thank you very much.

That was very interesting, thank you.

Would you like to continue on the energy security conversation and give us a little bit more on that? Because of course, in order to do anything you want to do, I'm sure energy is an underpinning.

10:05 a.m.

Ala Beleavschi

Yes, absolutely, especially, as I told you, about gas. We very much depend on gas imports. Actually, 100% of the gas in Moldova is imported.

In terms of the electrical energy, we are capable of producing only 20% of our electrical energy. This comes from the plant that is situated in Transnistria. What is happening now is that they are using Russian gas to operate the plant.

We tried to diversify even that market. We used to sign contracts with Ukrainian providers, which immediately triggered huge criticism, both from Tiraspol and Moscow, who said we were trying to close the tap for Transnistria. They called it an “economic blockage” of Transnistria. Actually, this is the major source of their income, of their revenues in the budget.

It is really a very sensitive issue and very difficult to resolve. We don't want to be blamed for trying to limit or put economic pressure on Transnistria. We have to balance, and very wise policy is really needed to balance between the two.

June 14th, 2018 / 10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Leona Alleslev Liberal Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

Excellent.

Now I'd like to go back to some of that regional lens you're talking about. You mentioned what we could do in terms of looking at an agreement among the three countries together. Can you give us some idea of what your current relationship is in terms of information sharing, the training of troops or whatever, with Ukraine and Georgia, and therefore what kind of agreement you are looking for? What would that agreement look like?

10:05 a.m.

Ala Beleavschi

So far I mentioned to you that we have this agreement at the level of, let's say, the parliamentary dimension. Yes, we are co-operating very well in the intelligence services, and border and customs services among the three countries, although we don't have a direct common border with Georgia. We have very good co-operation at the departmental levels, let's say.

I am not aware if we have signed any specific agreements in this, but I know there is very good co-operation. During the visit of my foreign minister to Canada, we discussed the possibility of increasing co-operation between the intelligence services just to share information, which would indeed help modernize, if I may, first of all the army, and secondly, equip Moldova with the necessary means of how to better understand the threats that come, especially covert threats from outside of the country.

We really hope this will be one measure that Canada can help Moldova with in tackling the problems.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Leona Alleslev Liberal Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

I know that we're helping to educate the Ukrainians or working with Ukraine—

10:05 a.m.

Ala Beleavschi

I know. I've been knocking at the door of the Canadian government to connect Moldovans as well to these projects.

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Leona Alleslev Liberal Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

Would you see Moldovans and Ukrainians in the same room with Canadians? Is that what you're thinking?

10:05 a.m.

Ala Beleavschi

Absolutely. We conduct—

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Leona Alleslev Liberal Aurora—Oak Ridges—Richmond Hill, ON

So not necessarily a separate delegation to all three areas?.

10:10 a.m.

Ala Beleavschi

Absolutely. We conduct common training exercises, very often under the U.S. command or under NATO command. When these exercises are being conducted in the region, Moldova's always a part of them, along with the Ukrainians and Georgians.