They picked Cyprus because of its long history of bi-communal cooperation.
Nonetheless, this choice still took us, and our partners, by surprise.
Sure, Cyprus had successful results to show, but how much help or inspiration could a still unresolved situation be?
We weren’t sure.
For over two decades now, Moldova has withstood an unresolved conflict of its own. The lingering Transnistrian conflict has discouraged foreign investment, impeded free movement, and degraded the quality of public services and living standards in the country.
Years of isolation have also caused social tensions between people on both banks of the Nistru River, eroding trust in the neighbouring communities.
Until a lasting political solution is agreed upon, people on both banks of the Nistru are looking for ways to overcome the negative effects of the region’s isolation.
Since 2009, their effort has been supported by the UNDP and the European Union through a programme of socioeconomic assistance based, like in Cyprus, on cooperation between the people living on both sides.
Vera Ciuchitu, a representative of Moldovan local authorities, was one of the visitors to Cyprus. She remarked:
“Cyprus’s experience is yet another proof that the concerted work of people can produce much better effects than solitary efforts. A notable example is the wastewater treatment facility that services the entire Nicosia. Even if the Cyprus dispute is older, cooperation and communication between the two communities is much better. This is because the work done together is based on technical cooperation.”
The members of the Technical Committee on Cultural Heritage, for example, are appointed by the two leaders, but decisions are taken and results achieved on the basis of technical considerations.
Our visitors had a day trip to the historic town of Famagusta where they were able to meet the RENEWAL team working on supporting youth entrepreneurship and business-to-business cooperation between Greek and Turkish Cypriots.
Through the exchange of experiences, our visitors learned that the secret of Cypriot cooperation was in tiny, patient, measured, and technical steps.
Ludmila Nicolaeva, the representative of a NGO from the Transnistria region remarked:
“Cyprus’s experience in restoring historical landmarks with common efforts is impressive and it could be an example for us to follow, too. Because we share a common past and by reconstructing historical monuments together we can build a bridge towards a better future together.”
Natalia Bordan, representative of another Moldovan NGO, seconded the sentiment:
“An initiative we would like to develop following this study visit is to create a joint cooperation centre like the one seen in Cyprus, and to merge the media centre for people on both banks of the Nistru. In this way, by learning from each other, we will create for ourselves a better living in a peaceful and safe society.”
Perhaps we all learned that small, concrete steps made in our everyday work can be inspirational not only for others, but for ourselves.