How to fix Moldova
Major political and economic reforms require determined action, consolidation of the main political forces, and close involvement of civil society.
This is the lesson that Lithuania learned in the course of its successful reform process in the 1990s. Strong support from international partners was another key factor in Lithuania’s success.
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Today, Moldova urgently needs both a consensus on main reform priorities at home and strong, but conditional support from the EU.
The new government, led by Pavel Filip, faces an enormous task: society is divided, the public has little confidence in the government due to massive corruption, and the country will very soon face difficulties in paying pensions and salaries.
European forces (even the European idea itself) have been compromised by so-called pro-European politicians, who seem unable or unwilling to fight corruption.
Reformers must walk the walk
A billion US dollars stolen from Moldovan banks and the somewhat vague investigation of the case that followed were the last straw.
Deeply rooted impunity and a lack of accountability have prompted the public to search for saviours.
Some of these saviours portray themselves as being “pro-Moldovan“ but, sadly, align themselves with Russia, a country that continues to occupy a part of Moldova’s territory and recently attacked Ukraine.
Russia’s troops in Transnistria are there in breach of international law.
An intense information campaign, aimed at undermining Moldova’s pro-European choice, also makes the current government’s task harder.
The protesters in Moldova keep demanding early elections despite warnings by a number of experts, who say that such elections could push the country into even deeper political and economic uncertainty.
A temporary government would basically have no opportunity to negotiate new loans, which the country urgently requires.
First of all, Moldova needs genuine political stability based on the consolidation of major political forces determined and willing to implement the reforms that people demand.
The new government’s initiative, to start a dialogue with protest leaders, is a step in the right direction.
Secondly, Moldova needs vigorous reforms leading to tangible results.
The new government has already made reform commitments. Its pro-European orientation is also critical.
But if the country doesn’t implement reforms and continues to stagnate then its strategic orientation won’t make much difference.
Europe will not tolerate corruption or support the self-proclaimed “European forces” unless they walk the walk.
Reforms must be the new government’s calling card, or it will lose what little support it has among its own people, as well as that of international partners.
The achievements of previous governments were important. Moldova was considered as a frontrunner among the EU’s eastern partners.
Severe and politically motivated sanctions imposed by Russia caused huge losses in Moldova’s eastern markets. But it managed to keep the economy on track and it is starting to feel the benefit of its EU free-trade accord.
Today, Moldovan citizens can also travel visa-free to the EU’s Schengen area because Chisinau met strict EU benchmarks.
This is also an important incentive for the reintegration of Transnistria. But as a result of poor public information, few of these achievements are being attributed to the government. They’re taken for granted.
There’s a sense of deja vu in Moldova’s recent protests.
In April 2009, the EU stepped in to persuade opposition parties to accept the outcome of disputed elections and to work with a new government.
Today, civil society is calling for a more active EU role in facilitating dialogue with politicians.
The EU must not hesitate to act, to try to stop Moldova from sliding into deeper economic and political crisis. But EU support depends on Moldova’s performance in rooting out corruption.
Moldovan people have clearly chosen a European future. But when all’s said and done, that future lies in the Moldovans’ own hands.
Linas Linkevicius is Lithuania's foreign affairs minister.