22nd Mar 2018

EU starting to lose patience with Moldova deadlock

  • Time is running out for the pro-EU alliance led by Vlad Filat (Photo: European People's Party)

Moldova needs to elect its president as soon as possible and end a two-year long political deadlock, the EU envoy in Chisinau said Wednesday (16 November), with the parliamentary procedures for the election of the president delayed by another month.

"Unfortunately, there was no candidate for the presidential elections on 18 November. I hope such a candidature will be found and the president elected as soon as possible. It would be much better for Moldova to elect a president than to hold another round of early elections," EU ambassador Dirk Schuebel told Moldovan media in Chisinau.

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In Brussels, diplomats concede that the EU's patience is starting to wear thin as the squabbling parties forming the Alliance for European Integration led by Prime Minister Vlad Filat are unable to come to a compromise with a group of defectors from the Communist opposition that are needed to secure the key two votes for the parliamentary majority required to elect the president.

If the parliament fails to gather the necessary majority two times in a row for the election of the president, fresh general elections will be called. This already happened last year and nobody in the ruling coalition wants to go down that path, as Communists are inching upward in the polls - just five percent behind the Alliance.

The king-maker of the Alliance and desired candidate for the presidency is Marian Lupu, an older defector from the Communist Party and leader of the splinter Democratic Party. But the newest Communists-turned-Democrats say they will not give their vote to anyone but Zinaida Greceanii, the former Communist Prime Minister who was in charge when a crackdown on protesters took place, in April 2009.

That is a no-go for the alliance's staunchest democracy defenders, such as Mihai Ghimpu, leader of the Liberal Party, one of the three parties within the ruling coalition. In his view, accepting the Greceanii compromise would be a betrayal of the April 2009 victims beaten and killed at the orders of the Communist regime. It was thanks to those protests that Filat's pro-EU alliance was swept into power and Moldova became a beacon of light in the EU's eastern neighbourhood, with Ukraine sliding back to pro-Russian autocracy and Belarus under a dictatorship.

But in Brussels, the Greceanii compromise is not so unpalatable. An informal meeting on Monday of foreign ministers from Moldova, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic and Estonia, along with the EU enlargement commissioner and other top diplomats put some more pressure on Filat's team to iron out a compromise.

And just last week, EU ambassador Schuebel told the Moldovan press that "Zinaida Greceanii would be a good candidate," reminding that "the EU had a good experience of co-operation with her when she was prime minister."

The Polish EU presidency also signalled that the pro-EU track is more important than political squabbles. "Poland will continue to support a pro-EU course in Moldova. I have conducted very intense diplomacy with Chisinau and we'll continue to help, irrespective of the coalition," foreign minister Radek Sikorski said on Monday.

Correction: In a previous version of this article, Mihai Ghimpu was referred to as speaker of the Moldovan parliament. While he continues to be leader of the Liberal Party, he has not been speaker of parliament since December 2010. We apologise for this error.

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