Moldova. The beginning of the year was dominated by
extensive political demonstrations demanding the resignation
and new elections. The protests were triggered when the
Communist-led government made Russian a compulsory school
subject from the second class. The government was accused of
wanting to approach M. to Russia and was met with slogans
like "Away with Russification, away with communism".
Protesters wore the EU flag and demanded the rapprochement
of M. to "continental Europe". The protests were initiated
by the opposition Christian Democratic People's Party, which
advocates an association between M. and Romania.
Three-quarters of the Moldavans are of Romanian origin, but
M. has a large Russian-speaking minority.
Countryaah website, the government temporarily banned the activities of the
Christian Democrats, but fell short of the protests and
overturned the compulsory Russian school decision. However,
the protests continued and gained new fuel in March, when
the Christian Democrats' vice-party leader disappeared
without a trace.
Around 50,000 people were mostly in the streets of the
capital Chişinău, protesting. After a few months, the
missing politician showed up and claimed that he had been
President Voronin rejected all financial support from the
IMF and the World Bank during the year, which provided
further financial liberalization as a condition for
assistance. Voronin said that it was time for M. to act
independently after listening to the international financial
bodies for a decade and developing into Europe's poorest
country. Since the Communists returned to power in 2001,
inflation has fallen sharply and economic growth has tripled
to over 6%. Western analysts, however, warned that M's
economy would collapse, mainly because of the high external
debt, if the government rejected new external aid.
Tensions between the Moldovan government and the
separatist and Russian-speaking Dnestre Republic increased
during the year. M. refused to issue the necessary customs
documents for the separatists' exporting companies, which
caused a severe setback for the breakaway republic which has
much of the Moldovan industry.
In September, Russia and the Dnester Republic agreed to
resume the aborted withdrawal of the Russian military from
the separatist republic. At that time, there were about
2,500 Russian soldiers and about 38,000 tonnes of Russian
military equipment since the Soviet era.
Relations with Romania deteriorated during the year. M.
blamed Romania for involvement in the hostile demonstrations
and Romania responded by accusing M. of deliberately
creating tension in the region. Romania also labeled M's
government as unable to cope with its social, economic and