Sunday

21st Jul 2019

Moldova's new PM to continue pro-European course

  • Woman selling apples in Chisinau. Inflation in Moldova is around 8 percent (Photo: Tony Bowden)

Moldova's pro-European government has a new prime minister, seven weeks after Chiril Gaburici quit over allegations that he had fake school diplomas.

Valeriu Strelet received a slim majority support from the eastern European nation's parliament on Thursday (30 July), according to international media.

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Later in the day he was sworn in as prime minister. A banking crisis, corruption, and inflation are among the most pressing challenges faces him.

Moldova, virtually landlocked between its bigger neighbours Romania and Ukraine, chose to continue its pro-European course in elections last November, but has suffered from both a political crisis and a banking scandal.

Shortly before the elections, at least €900 million went missing from Moldova's banking system. The figure represented around one eighth of the country's GDP.

In response, the National Bank of Moldova has started printing money, resulting in inflation of around 8 percent and a devaluation of the country's currency. The central bank has steadily increased its interest rate from 8.5 percent in January to 17.5 percent on Thursday.

On top of that, prime minister Gaburici was accused of falsifying his high school and university diplomas, and resigned in June, only four months after coming to power. The coalition of three centre-right and centre-left parties was initially unable to approve a previous candidate for the post.

Strelet, a compromise candidate, was voted in Thursday with the slimmest possible margin. He received the support of 52 of 101 MPs.

He promised to fight corruption, ensure rule of law, and improve the state of Moldova's economy.

“The safest way to achieve these goals is the European integration”, Strelet said.

His appointment was welcomed by the EU and the US.

In a statement, the EU noted “the reform of the justice sector and the fight against corruption need real decisive action”.

The EU recently signed an association agreement with Moldova, but it noted the agreement “will only be able to unfold its full benefits to all citizens if Moldova lives up to its reform commitments”.

Moldova's pro-European course should be seen in the wider context of the struggle for influence between the EU and Russia in former Soviet states.

In an apparent move to strike a balance, Strelet told parliament his government also “intends to encourage a political dialogue with the Russian Federation for the normalisation of bilateral relations in trade, economic, energy and migration spheres".

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