22 Jan 2020 18:03

Chisinau's decision to ban cars with Transdniestrian license plates from traveling abroad was adopted in 'test mode' - Moldovan deputy PM

CHISINAU. Jan 22 (Interfax) - The decision of the Moldovan government to ban vehicles with Transdniestrian license plates from traveling abroad was applied in test mode and "was temporary," Moldovan Deputy Prime Minister Alexandru Flenchea said.

"This decision was in effect only from January 10 to 20. In this way, we wanted to draw citizens' attention to the existing opportunities to travel abroad using their own cars while observing certain regulations," Flenchea said at a joint press conference with OSCE Special Representative for the Transdniestrian Settlement Process Thomas Mayr-Harting, who is paying a visit to Moldova.

The decision to introduce neutral license plates for Transdniestrian cars, thus enabling free travel abroad, was made in 2018, the deputy prime minister said.

"Unfortunately, since then, only 3% of car owners in Transdniestria made use of this opportunity and changed their license plates. Therefore, we decided to draw attention to it and study this situation by means of this decision," Flenchea said.

"We are grateful to the media on both banks of the Dniester for responding. There were many reactions, including critical ones. We are grateful to everybody because we succeeded in drawing attention to this issue," he said, adding that this decision of the Moldovan government ceased to be in force on January 20.

Taking questions from journalists, Flenchea declined to comment on Ukraine's intention to ban the entry of vehicles with license plates of the unrecognized Transdniestrian Moldovan Republic into its territory effective as of April 1, 2020.

"I cannot say anything about that. I represent the Moldovan government, not that of another country. We do our utmost so that Moldovan citizens on both banks of the Dniester River are able to exercise their rights in full," he said.

Flenchea also said he had informed the newly appointed OSCE representative of this.

"We talked about human rights and the need to observe human rights in Transdniestria. This applies, among other things, to freedom of travel and the right of students in Transdniestria to attend schools which teach in the Moldovan language using the Latin script, as well as other decisions," said.

"For instance, journalists from Transdniestria were able to attend the press conference freely, whereas journalists from the right bank of the Dniester cannot come tomorrow to Tiraspol, where Mr. Mayr-Harting is to hold a joint press conference with my counterpart in the negotiating process Vitaly Ignatyev," Flenchea said.

Transdniestrian drivers were compelled to procure neutral license plates and driver's licenses issued by recognized states on January 10.

The Moldovan Reintegration Bureau referred to the Protocol of April 24, 2018, which conditioned international travel by Transdniestrian drivers on having vehicles with neutral license plates and an MD sticker, issued upon registration at special posts in Tiraspol and Ribnita, on the windshield. The rule did not apply to trucks and public transportation.

Tiraspol announced that in retaliation it would prohibit cars with Moldovan license plates from crossing the Moldovan-Ukrainian border on its Transdniestrian section as of January 24.

Moldovan President Igor Dodon and leader of the unrecognized Transdniestrian Moldovan Republic Vadim Krasnoselsky discussed the issue in a telephone call on January 17. Dodon said later that "the government's decision was in force in test mode for 10 days, and it was overturned on January 20."