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Juridical collisions of the regime of the customs activity of TMR: the retrospective analysis

Sergey Moser
aspirant of the Russian Customs Academy of  Federal customs service of Russia.
e-mail: rtamoser@hotbox.ru
published: «Black holes in Russian legislation» magazine. – 2010. – № 1. – P. 180-183.
Annotation: The article contains analysis of the customs problematic in the context of changing the regime of customs activity of Transdnistrian Moldavian Republic. The contradictions and legal issues related to changing of special procedure for movement of goods and vehicles across the border of Transndistrian region are being researched.
Key words:Transdnistria, regime, customs activity, check-points, border, customs seals, joint control
At the crossroads of centuries the problematic issues of unsolved conflicts usually become more acute, especially in a legal area. The ambiguity of the status quo conditions in the mutual relations among participants in the customs- legal regulation in Transdniestrian region has again become the object of discussion at the beginning of the 21st Century.
As everybody knows, in 2001 the Customs Department of the Republic of Moldova introduced the new forms of customs documents and customs seals, and withdrew from circulation all forms of customs documents and seals, used until September 1 [1], in accordance with the Decision of the Government of the Republic of Moldova №904 of 30.08.2001 “On organization of joint control at the border crossing points through the Moldavian-Ukrainian state border”. Thus, the precedent for changing the regime of the customs activity of Transdniestria was artificially created.
Let us examine this fact through the prism of juridical details, which operate in the area of contractual legal norms.
First, the actions of the Moldavian side aimed at blocking export/import transactions of Transdniestria   since September 1, 2001 did not correspond to international agreement between the Government of the Ukraine and the Government of the Republic of Moldova “On organization of joint control at the border crossing points through the Ukrainian- Moldavian border”  of 11.03.1997.
In particular, the superior body of the executive power of the Republic of Moldova instructed the Customs Department and Department of Border Guard Service together with the Ukrainian authorities to establish twelve juxtaposed control posts at the border with Ukraine (at Transdniestrian border segment) since September 1, 2001[2].
The contradiction was as follows: the list of the border crossing points to operate joint Moldavian-Ukrainian control indicated in the Moldavian Regulation [3] of 30.08.2001 did not conform with the list of the border crossing points determined by international agreement of 11.03.1997. [4]
Furthermore, the decision of the Government of the Republic of Moldova determined only those border crossing points which located at Transdniestrian border segment. Based on available information, the establishment of other posts of joint control was of no special interest to the Moldavian authorities.
Inasmuch as the authorities of the Republic of Moldova had no jurisdiction over the territory of Transdniestrian Moldavian Republic and could not physically control it, one should suppose that the intentions of the Republic of Moldova to establish juxtaposed control posts was that to place Moldavian customs and border guard officers at the Ukrainian border along the Transdniestrian border segment.
Thus, in the absence of an agreement with the Ukrainian side, the Moldavian state gave an order to the border services of the Republic of Moldova to be stationed in the territory of the Ukraine to operate joint control over cargoes moved across the Transdniestrian segment of Ukrainian-Moldavian border. (One can only surmise how the Moldavian customs and border guard officers had to carry out Government’s instructions to be stationed in the Ukrainian territory without the consent of the authorities of Ukraine. Author’s comment).
It should be noted that the Decision of the Republic of Moldova №904 was signed 30.08.2001, i.e., only one day was left to establish joint control from September 1, 2001 with Ukrainian customs and border guard officers. The order “to take up positions” was given in the absence of any agreements with Ukraine, including mutual technological schemes for customs and border control, the additional protocols between the border services of the sides, and national regulations, which regulate the legal relationships related to the operation of joint customs and border control on the territory of Ukraine.
Why the hurry? Why was it necessary to instruct the Ministry of Transport and Communications together with the Ministry of Ecology of the Republic of Moldova to provide urgently the juxtaposed offices with special trailers, with telephone communications and to accomplish works on blocking possible ways of riding round the abovementioned posts [5]? How the Moldavian side had to place quickly the trailers on the territory of Ukraine, to block possible ways of riding round the posts at Transdniestrian segment of Ukrainian-Moldavian border without the formal approval of the Ukraine? One should suppose that this Decision was drawn up without attracting professional lawyers.
One of the documents, which rather clarifies the events of September 2001, is the protocol №7 dated 9 – 10 July, 2001 of the session of the Ukrainian- Moldavian mixed intergovernmental commission for commercial and economic cooperation. It is noted, that the Republic of Moldova proposed to Ukraine to establish interaction on operating joint control at international border crossing points along the whole length of the state border. The sides have agreed to consider the possibility of introduction the new form of customs and border control from 01.09.2001. [6]
According to the results of the meeting the Commission resolved that the sides within the three-day period had to set up joint working group comprising representatives of the ministries and departments concerned, which had to present till to 01.08.2001 to the Governments of the Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova the drafts of the documents containing mechanism for implementation and operation of join customs and border control. [7] (Some of the documents were coordinated four years later within the period of 2004-2005. However these documents concerned only five border crossing points at the northern part of the border boundary – the author’s note.) The Commission also took into consideration the information relating to the intention of the Republic of Moldova to introduce new customs identification from 01.09.2001. [8]
In the course of the meeting the Ukraine did not undertake any obligations and did not assure the Moldavian side of its consent to place Moldavian border services in the Ukrainian territory. Analyzing the one-sided actions of Moldavian side of 01.09.2001, one should suppose that the Republic of Moldova understood the results of Kiev meeting in its own way.
In the context of the one-sided changing of the regime of the customs activity of Transdniestrian region one should focus its attention on another peculiarity.  The Decision of the Government of the Republic of Moldova №904 of 30.08.200 is entitled “On organization of joint control at the border crossing points through the Moldavian- Ukrainian state border”. Under the content of this document, the regulation was aimed at establishment of joint control at the border crossing points on Transdniestrian segment of Moldavian-Ukrainian border. But new customs identification was introduced for the purposes of organization of joint control at those border crossing points which were not determined by Moldavian- Ukrainian agreement. The only border crossing point included into the category of objects for organizing the joint control on Transdniestrian segment of Moldavian-Ukrainian border was the point of entry “Kuchurgan-Peromaysk”.
Considering this legal collision, it remains to state the fact that the Decision of the Government of the Republic of Moldova №904 contradicts the agreement, concluded between the Government of the Ukraine and the Government of the Republic of Moldova “On organization of joint control at the border crossing points through the Ukrainian- Moldavian state border” of 11.03.1997 and created real conditions for introduction of the economic blockade against Transdniestrian Moldavian Republic.
The Republic of Moldova introduced by this regulation new forms of customs seals and documents having withdrawn from circulation all forms of customs documents and seals, used until September 1, 2001. [9] As the regulation of the Government of the Republic of Moldova noted, Moldova introduced new forms of customs documents and seals “in order to fulfill provisions of the agreement between the Government of the Republic of Moldova and the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine on organization of joint control at the border crossing points through the Ukrainian- Moldavian state border. [10]
If the reason for introduction of new means of customs identification was the establishment of joint customs and border control with Ukraine along the Transdniestrian segment of Ukrainian-Moldavian border, then how does the statement of the official authorities of the Republic of Moldova correspond to the requirements of the World Trade Organization? (Subsequently the authorities of Moldova noted that the introduction of new forms of customs seals and documents was the WTO requirement – the author’s note.)
Several weeks before this event, the President of the Republic of Moldova stated that customs seals would be given to Transdniestria only provided that the juxtaposed customs offices would be established with participation of Moldavian, Transdniestrian and Ukrainian customs officers. [11]
Stating the insignificance of the Decision of the Government of the Republic of Moldova   №904 of 30.08.2001 pertaining to organization of joint control at the border crossing points, not determined by international agreement of 1997 and taking into account the aims of introduction of  new forms of customs seals and documents by the Republic of Moldova, one can arrive at the conclusion that the procedure of the introduction of  new customs seals and documents by the Republic of Moldova for purposes of the establishment of joint control at Transdniestrian border  does not have legal consequences.
In this case the insignificance of Moldavian customs seals is not even mentioned. Doubt is cast on the procedure and purposes of their introduction: new seals were put into circulation by Moldavian side in order to establish joint control at undetermined border crossing points.
And other interesting fact. The Department of Customs Control of the Republic of Moldova in accordance with the Directive of the Moldavian Government had to withdraw from circulation all forms of customs documents and seals, used until September 1, 2001. In accordance with logic, customs service could practically withdraw only those means of customs identification, which were at its disposal.
Concerning customs seals and documents of Transdniestria, it is necessary to note that the Republic of Moldova never issued them to Transdniestria, and Moldavian customs bodies never used customs seals of Transdniestria when carrying out customs procedures in customs bodies of the Republic of Moldova. The customs seals of Moldova and Transdniestria were different, and imprints of customs seals of Transdniestrian Moldavian Republic never contained the symbols of Moldova.
The imprints of the customs seals of Transdniestria were coordinated by Transdniestrian and Moldavian sides 11.03.1996 in Tiraspol. The Moldavian-Transdniestrian Protocol on coordination of forms of customs seals and stamps for customs document processing by customs bodies of Transdniestria” determined the form, and the text content of seals and stamps. In particular, the text of imprint contained the following inscription: “The Republic of Moldova, Transdniestris, Tiraspol custom house. [12]
Next day, for purposes of implementing the Protocol of 11.03.1997, agreements of 07.02.1996, the State Customs Committee of Transdniestrian Moldavian Republic placed an order for manufacturing personal numbered stamps and seals in Transdniestrian printing plant. [13]
The retrospective analysis of this situation makes it possible to assert that on May 26, 1994 customs services of Transdniestrian Moldavian Republic and the Republic of Moldova agreed to make an exchange of the forms of customs seals and documents (forms, stamps, seals) which were in force and withdrawn from circulation, for purposes of operational mutual exchange of information on the contraband cargoes, and customs offences.[14]
This again confirms the existing fact of recognition by Moldavian Customs Service of customs seals and documents of Transdniestria (which were different from Moldavian) and legitimate character of customs seals of Transdniestrian Moldavian Republic.
The first goods declarations kept in the archive of the State Customs Committee of Transdniestria, processed by Transdniestrian Customs, confirm the difference between customs seals and documents of Ttransdniestria and Moldova before the coordination by sides of forms of customs seals in March 1996. Nevertheless, this circumstance did not prevent Transdniestrian cargoes cleared in custom-houses of the State Customs Committee of Transdniestria from being exported to near and far foreign countries.
The Protocol Decision on Settlement of Problems Arisen in Activity of Customs Services of the Republic of Moldova and Transdniestria of 16.02.1995 confirmed the right of the customs bodies  of Transdniestria to clear cargoes. The sides determined new forms of customs seals and stamps: “The Republic of Moldova. Transdniestria.Tiraspol custom-house”, “The Republic of Moldova.Transdniestria.Rybnitsa custom-house”. [15]
A year later, 07.02.1996, the same norm was laid down in the paragraph 3 of Moldavian-Transdniestrian Protocol Decision on Settlement of Problems Arisen in Activity of Customs Services of the Republic of Moldova and Transdniestria.
The attention should be focused on the obligation of the Customs Department of the Republic of Moldova “to produce means of customs identification of Transdniestria to customs bodies of CIS-countries”. [16] In this case Transdniestrian, but not Moldavian attributes of customs activity are meant.
In confirmation of the fact of the basic difference between customs seals of Transdniestria and the Republic of Moldova let’s present the Decision of the Council of the Heads of the Customs Services of the CIS member-countries of 13.09.2001 №10/32. The Council took into consideration the information of the Customs Service of the Republic of Moldova about the withdrawal from circulation of old means of customs identification from 31.08.2001 and the introduction of new customs identification since September 1. [17]
In the Annex 3 to the Decision of the Heads of the Customs Services of the CIS member-countries were presented the forms of imprints of the old customs seals used by customs bodies of the Republic of Moldova, withdrawn from circulation from 31.08.2001. [18] On the backside of the document were presented the forms of imprints of customs seals of Transdniestria, which were indicated by Moldova as “the forms of old seals of the customs bodies of the Republic of Moldova, withdrawn from circulation from 31.08.2001”. [19]
If in accordance with Moldavian-Transdniestrian agreements of 16.02.1995 and 07.02.1996 the Customs Department of the Republic of Moldova undertook the obligations “to produce means of customs identification of Transdniestria (but not of the Republic of Moldova – author’s note) to customs bodies of CIS-countries”, then the evident discord was the information of the Head of the Customs Service of Moldova at the meeting of the Council of the Heads of the Customs Services of the CIS member-countries of 13.09.2001 relating to customs seals and stamps of Transdniestria.
Up to this moment it is unknown, on what the ground the Head of Moldavian Customs Service stated at the meeting of the Council of the Heads of the Customs Services of the CIS member-countries that customs seals of Transdniestria were the old seals of customs bodies of the Republic of Moldova. In this connection, it is possible to conclude that the information of the Department of Customs Control of the Republic of Moldova was falsified and did not correspond to reality.
At the same time, the information of the Department of Customs Control of the Republic of Moldova taken into consideration 13.09.2001was not the matter of principle because on the same day the Heads of the Customs Services of the CIS member-countries approved the Regulation№5/32 “On unified procedure of stamping transport and commercial documents of customs bodies of countries of departure and customs bodies of transit countries by customs bodies of the CIS member-countries”.
Paragraph 6 of the Regulation №5/32, to which the Republic of Moldova acceded 13.09.2001, allows goods to be cleared for home use in the customs territory without customs stamps and seals affixed by customs bodies of the CIS member-countries.[20]
Thus, in spite of the statements of the authorities of the Republic of Moldova, the Decision №904 of 30.08.2001 points to the withdrawal of customs seals, used by customs bodies of the Republic of Moldova. The virtual attempts to withdraw means of customs identification of the State Customs Committee of Transdniestria could not have juridical basis and consequences including because customs bodies of Transdniestria never entered into the structure of the Department of Customs Control of the Republic of Moldova.
One should remember that Transdniestria obtained the competence to carry out customs clearance of goods by seals and stamps of the established form in accordance with agreements signed by representatives of Russia, Ukraine, OSCE, Moldova. [21] Another question arises: how the one-sided Regulation of the Government of the Republic of Moldova of 30.08.2001 could annul the decision, expressed in the international agreement, signed by the high representatives of the countries-guarantors – Russia and Ukraine – and international organization OSCE.
Thus, the examined legal fact is the evident juridical collision as:

1.    the Regulation of the Government of the Republic of Moldova of 30.08.2001 №904 contradicts the international agreement between the Government of the Ukraine and the Government of the Republic of Moldova “On organization of joint control at the border crossing points through the Ukrainian- Moldavian state border” of 11.03.1997  because it determines those border crossing points for operating joint control, which are not specified by international agreement.

2.    the information, presented by Moldavian side in Moscow 13.09.2001 during the meeting of the Council of the Heads of the Customs Services of the CIS member-countries about withdrawal from circulation of customs seals of Transdniestria as old customs seals of the Republic of Moldova could not have juridical consequences for termination of implementation of the Agreement of  07.02.1996 stipulated the competence of Transdniestrian Moldavian Republic to carry out independently customs clearance of Transdniestrian cargoes.

In the conclusion it is necessary to note that the controversial questions of the establishment of the legal status of the customs activity of Transdniestrian region must be undoubtedly solved. However, haste, rashness and above all – juridical illiteracy in these situations cannot facilitate the completion of the process. Therefore the historical experience of trials and errors when making the qualified decisions on juridical collisions is seemed to be useful to specialists.

List of sources used:

1. П.6 Постановления Правительства РМ от 30.08.2001 г. №904 «Об организации совместного контроля в пунктах пропуска через молдавско-украинскую государственную границу». [Режим доступа]: http://lex.justice.md/index.php?action=view&view=doc⟨=2&id=305416
2. П.1 Постановления Правительства РМ от 30.08.2001 г. №904 «Об организации совместного контроля в пунктах пропуска через молдавско-украинскую государственную границу». [Режим доступа]: http://lex.justice.md/index.php?action=view&view=doc⟨=2&id=305416
3. См. пп.«а» П.1. там же.
4. См. ст. 2 «Соглашения между Правительством Украины и Правительством Республики Молдова об организации совместного контроля в пунктах пропуска через украинско-молдавскую границу» от 11.03.1997 г. [Режим доступа]: http://zakon.nau.ua/doc/?doc_id=385022
5. П.2 Постановления Правительства РМ от 30.08.2001 г. №904 «Об организации совместного контроля в пунктах пропуска через молдавско-украинскую государственную границу». [Режим доступа]: http://lex.justice.md/index.php?action=view&view=doc⟨=2&id=305416
6. См. П.7 Протокола №7 от 9-10 июля 2001 г. заседания смешанной межправительственной украинско-молдавской комиссии по вопросам торгово-экономического сотрудничества. Архив ГТК ПМР.
7. Там же.
8. П.8. Там же.
9. Ч. 2 П.6 Постановления Правительства РМ от 30.08.2001 г. №904 «Об организации совместного контроля в пунктах пропуска через молдавско-украинскую государственную границу». [Режим доступа]: http://lex.justice.md/index.php?action=view&view=doc⟨=2&id=305416
10. См. преамбулу Постановления Правительства РМ от 30.08.2001 г. №904.
11. Владимир Воронин считает бесперспективными переговоры с лидером Приднестровья // Экономическое обозрение. №28 (428) от 10.08.2001 г. [Режим доступа]: http://logos.press.md/Weekly/Main.asp?IssueNum=428&IssueDate=10.08.2001&YearNum=28&Theme=2&Topic=5021
12. П.1-3 Протокола по согласованию образцов печати и штампов для обработки таможенных документов таможенными органами Приднестровья от 11.03.1997 г. Архив ГТК ПМР.
13. Письмо ГТК ПМР в адрес типографии (оформление заказа на изготовление печатей и штампов) от 12.03.1996 г. №01-11/29. Архив ГТК ПМР.
14. П.4 Протокола рабочей встречи представителей таможенных служб Республики Молдова и Приднестровья от 26.05.1994 г. г. Кишинев. Архив ГТК ПМР.
15. П.4. Протокольного решения по разрешению возникших проблем в области деятельности таможенных служб Республики Молдова и Приднестровского региона от 16.02.1995 г. г. Кишинев. Архив ГТК ПМР.
16. П.9 Протокола рабочей встречи представителей таможенных служб Республики Молдова и Приднестровья от 26.05.1994 г. г. Кишинев. Архив ГТК ПМР; П. 10 Протокольного решения по разрешению возникших проблем в области деятельности таможенных служб Республики Молдова и Приднестровья от 07.02.1996 г. [Режим доступа]: http://mfa-pmr.org/?category_no=488&p=
17. Решение Совета руководителей таможенных служб государств – участников Содружества Независимых Государств от 13.09.2001 г. №10/32 // Сборник материалов СРТС СНГ 2000-2001 гг. Том 3. Управление международного таможенного сотрудничества ГТК России. Москва. 2003. С. 249.
18. Там же. С. 254.
19. С. 1 Приложения №3 к Решению Совета руководителей таможенных служб государств – участников СНГ от 13.09.2001 г. №10/32 // Сборник материалов СРТС СНГ 2000-2001 гг. Том 3. Управление международного таможенного сотрудничества ГТК России. Москва. 2003. С. 253.
20. П.6 Положения «Об унифицированном порядке проставления таможенными органами государств – участников СНГ на товаротранспортных и коммерческих документах печатей и штампов таможенных органов стран отправления товаров, а также таможенных органов транзитных стран». Утверждено Решением Совета руководителей таможенных служб государств – участников СНГ от 13.09.2001 г. №5/32 // Сборник материалов СРТС СНГ 2000-2001 гг. Том 3. Управление международного таможенного сотрудничества ГТК России. Москва. 2003. С. 233.
21. П.3 Протокольного решения по разрешению возникших проблем в области деятельности таможенных служб Республики Молдова и Приднестровья от 07.02.1996 г. [Режим доступа]: http://mfa-pmr.org/?category_(Translation: ElenaRozneritsa)

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