The new gateway in the EU for the illegal trade in Chinese shoes has a weird name: Transnistria, the breakaway region of the Moldavia. A “ghost state” that doesn’t exist on any geographic map. Self governs, however is not recognised globally. The region is controlled by a clan of Stalinist elite and former staff members of KGB that in 1991 have taken advantage of the dissolution of URSS to auto-proclaim the independence of their fiefdom wedged between the East side of Dniestr river and the Ukrainian border.
A Russian protectorate patch of land has become the biggest European “hub” of criminal traffic. A “tax-free supermarket” that recycle money and goods. Including the extra-share shoes from China; which happen to be illegal to import because of legislation preventing them to exceed the European shares.EU Border Assistance Mission (EUBAM) is the EU task-force that from November 2005 help Moldovan and Ukrainian authorities to fight against illegal movement of goods through.
Fictitious footwear manufacturers set up in Transnistria import shoes from China and resell them illegally in Europe, including Italy. The trick lies in punch back the packages with the stamp “Made in Moldova”.
The ruse represents an unexpected and undesirable effect of the new customs procedure collectively introduced by Ukraine and Moldavia in March 2006 attributable to the efforts of EU. The agreement requires the embargo against the goods coming from Transnistria without the official Moldovan stamp.
The enterprises of the ghost state willing to export are stuck registering themselves among the official authorities of Moldova.
The system, created by Brussels to bring back the export from Transnistria to the track of law, has paradoxically become an incentive to bypass the trade barriers of the EU itself.
Since they can (and have to) get the “Made in Moldova” certificate for their export, the presumed footwear companies are indeed able to bypass the import shares untruthfully showing on the tag that the shoes that they buy in China and sell back in Europe are produced directly on Moldovan land. According to the Institute for Foreign Trade (ICE) data from May 2006 to May 2007, the shoes’ import from Moldova to Italy (second trading partner of the former Soviet Republics after Russia) has increased by 50 %: from 7.129.000 to 10.755.000 euro. Considering that major Moldovan footwear manufacturers (like Floare and Tighina) are located in Transnistria; a large part of the nominal export increases is easily attributable to the fact that from Spring 2006 Transnistria’s shoes reach Italy with the Moldovan stamp.
Difficult to say, instead, which percentage of the total increase depends on the extra-share recycle made in China in goods made in Moldavia. The phenomenon is not officially clear to the National Footwear Italian Association (Anci). According to the Vice President of the association, Franco Ballin, the only way to prevent similar situation it is the introduction at European level of a mechanism which allows getting the import sector to verify that the mark of origin corresponds to the real place of production.
It is a fact that the official authorities of Moldova don’t exercise effective sovereign on Transnistria that remains politically subject to the unrecognised government of the President Igor Smirnov. This prevents any official control that allows verifying what happens to the goods between the import and the export moment.
It is assumed that extra-share shoes come in Transnistria from East through the Ukrainian border, in particular the harbor on the Black Sea of Odessea, and go out from West with the Moldovan tag through the border with Romania. The latter with its accession to the EU in January 2007, has basically opened the gate of the single market to the clandestine goods in transit to Transnistria, “legalised” with the registration system in Moldavia.