• The 7 April protests: MEPs said a police crackdown should not see Moldova excluded from the summit (Photo: benia.livejournal.com)

Moldova welcome at EU summit despite crackdown

16.04.09 @ 09:31

  1. By Andrew Rettman
  2. Andrew email

BRUSSELS - A special gathering of MEPs together with the Romanian foreign minister in Brussels on Wednesday (15 April) said Moldova should be invited to an EU summit for eastern partners, despite recent violence.

"The EU will defend the rights of the democratic opposition, NGOs, those detained and killed in prison. On that we shall not compromise. But it is not through isolation that we can run our eastern policy," Polish centre-right MEP Jacek Saryusz-Wolski said.

"The Eastern Partnership should project stability, the norms and values of the EU to its eastern vicinity. We don't see why it shouldn't include [problematic] countries," the Romanian minister, Cristian Diaconescu, added.

The European Parliament is likely to re-iterate the stance at its plenary session next week, in what could come as a blow to young opposition activists in Moldova who believe the EU has been too soft on Chisinau so far.

The Eastern Partnership summit in Prague on 7 May will see the EU upgrade relations with Moldova and five other post-Soviet countries, Belarus, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Ukraine.

The Czech EU presidency has indicated it might invite representatives at the level of foreign minister or lower to meet the 27 EU leaders, in order to avoid giving an excessive air of legitimacy to governments that stand accused of human rights abuses.

Acting Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek is to visit Moldova on 22 April, while the EU mulls sending a formal fact-finding mission.

A fresh report by the Vienna-based pro-democracy club, the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe, obtained by Reuters on Wednesday said it had "verified some claims" of ill-treatment of people arrested after post-election protests on 7 April.

Chisinau mayor Dorin Chirtoaca says that a second person, 22-year old Ion Tabuleac, died in police hands.

Meanwhile, Moldovan authorities have tried to ease tension by holding a recount of votes in the disputed poll, which originally gave 49.48 percent to the incumbent Communist party. The Constitutional Court is due to rule on the recount on 21 April.

President Vladimir Voronin - dubbed the "quintessential homo sovieticus" by one MEP on Wednesday - has also announced a general amnesty for imprisoned protesters, but continued to attack Romania for allegedly organising the unrest.

Romanian President Traian Basescu this week said he would fast-track Romanian citizenship for up to 1 million Moldovan applicants, threatening to aggravate the bilateral dispute.

Romania's foreign minister in Brussels on Wednesday denied that Bucharest is trying to undermine its neighbour, however. "We support and will continue to support the independence and territorial integrity of the Republic of Moldova," Mr Diaconescu said.

OSCE under fire

The OSCE has been forced to defend its election-monitoring credentials after issuing a largely positive preliminary verdict on Moldova's 5 April poll.

MEPs such as British liberal Emma Nicholson, who took part in the OSCE-led monitoring mission, have complained that the body issued its verdict too quickly and declined to insert strongly critical views from some monitors into its communique.

"At the time we were all in agreement on the statement," OSCE Parliamentary Assembly spokesman Klas Bergman told EUobserver. "We stand by that statement."