Pridnestrovie - also known by the unofficial name, Transnistria - is a new and emerging country in South Eastern Europe, sandwiched between Moldova and Ukraine. Although widely seen as part of Moldova, historically, Transnistria and Moldova were always separate. Throughout 2500 years of history, the Dniester River forming the current border has been a traditional border between Slav lands (Scythia, 450 B.C.) to the East and Romanian lands (Dacia) to the West.
The population is some 550.000. The inhabitants of Transnistria are for the most part Slavic. This is in stark contrast to Moldova, on the other side of the Dniester River, where 4/5ths of the population are of Romanian descent and where ethnic Russians and ethnic Ukrainians only make up 6 to 8 percent, respectively.
Transnistria meets the requirements for sovereign statehood under international law, as it has a defined territory, a population, effective elected authority, and the capability to enter into international relations. It is currently seeking international recognition of its de facto independence and statehood.
About requirements for sovereign statehood I have quite optimistic picture. I quote an analysis “The EU in Moldova – Settling conflicts in the neighbourhood” published by the European Union Institute for Security Studies:
"The secessionist authorities in Transnistria have managed to build a more or less functioning statelike entity. Transnistria has an organised political leadership, control over a defined territory and seeks international recognition."
The economy of Transnistria is a mixed market-based economy. Following a large scale privatization process, most of the companies in the country are now privately owned. The economy is export-oriented and based on a mix of heavy industry and manufacturing. According to the latest data from the nation's Customs, Transnistria now trades with 99 foreign countries. By the region’s standards the separatist leadership has good base to claim that economically Transnistria is a functioning entity.
Let me compare Transnistria's economical base of Kosovo - which western Powers recognized some time ago. The export from Transnistria is over 500 m$ when Kosovo's export is some 70 m$ even when Kosovo has a population four times bigger than Transnistria. Also economical base of Transnistria is much more stronger including is a supplier of ferrous metal, machine-building products, light and food industry, electrical power, specialty construction materials and woodworking products. Transnistria is an important supplier of electrical cabling, winding wire, electric insulating material, explosion-proof engines, power transformers, AC generators, laminates and laminated bakelite insulations, molds for shoe production, and low-voltage electrical devices and pumps. Industrial output is dominated by export from manufacturing enterprises (around 90% between 1997-2002).
Since a reform-oriented program of privatizations begun in 2001-2002, more than 120 large companies have successfully been privatized.
Transnistria is exporting to nearly 100 countries. Italy, Germany and the United States are important export markets, nevertheless, the bulk of the production still goes to the geographically closer CIS countries. Other notable countries for Transnistria's foreign trade include Switzerland, Romania, Great Britain, Poland, Cyprus and Turkey. Just over forty international joint ventures operate in Transnistria. Partners include companies from Bulgaria, Canada, Hungary, Germany, Ireland, Poland, Russia, and Italy; employing nearly 6,000 people in total.
There is lot of doubts about illicit trade, trafficking and smuggling related to Transnistria but again I think that problems smaller than e.g. in Kosovo where these activities have estimated over 1 bn$ turnover annually. This problem has been taken seriously in EU and "The EU Border Assistance Mission to the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine" was established in response to that. With this mission EU supports for capacity building for border management, including customs, on the whole Moldova-Ukraine border, including the border between Ukraine and the separatist Transnistrian region of the Republic of Moldova, because the Moldovan border authorities are unable to be present there. The mission works in cooperation with FRONTEX and OLAF (EU agencies for border control and organized crime) and reports about this work have been quite encouraging.
More comments about Balkan and Caucasus politics in my BalkanBlog