Thursday

19th Sep 2019

Opinion

What's going on in Moldova - and what next?

  • The Moldovan parliament in Chisinau. Over the weekend, as private jets evacuated prominent members of the Democratic Party and their allies, Moldovans celebrated the peaceful power transition (Photo: Ryan)

A little more than a week ago, a political crisis erupted in the Republic of Moldova.

Parliamentary elections in February led to a hung parliament, with no clear winner among the three main parties. Then, after a prolonged hiatus, president Igor Dodon's Russia-friendly Party of Socialists struck a surprising deal to form the government with the pro-EU political alliance ACUM, led by Maia Sandu and Andrei Nastase.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

  • The former Democratic Party government of Vladimir Plahotniuc leaves behind a poisonous legacy (Photo: Wikimedia)

The new alliance, controlling 61 of the 101 seats in parliament, coalesced around the common goal of displacing from power the Democratic Party of powerful tycoon Vladimir Plahotniuc.

The former government refused to relinquish power and the Democratic Party deployed paid protesters to block access to governmental buildings. Tensions in the capital Chisinau increased.

This last Sunday was to be the make-or-break day as the new coalition planned to hold a mass rally in the centre of Chisinau and the risk of provocations and violence between supporters of the two camps was high.

Fortunately, this scenario was narrowly avoided as the US, the EU and Russia threw decisively their weight behind the new government, forcing Plahotniuc to cave in.

Over the weekend, as private jets evacuated prominent members of the Democratic Party and their allies, Moldovans celebrated the peaceful power transition.

Looking beyond the euphoria that surrounded the celebrations, the new government is facing many challenges.

What next?

The former Democratic Party government leaves behind a poisonous legacy: hollowed state institutions, a corrupt or controlled justice sector, shaky finances, shadow schemes of extracting state resources, large chunks of servile mass-media and a system of illegal interceptions practiced on a wide scale.

Addressing all these problems will likely be a tall order for the new government.

And the list of challenges does not end here.

The two sides of the new governing coalition are divided on many topics, most notably on the foreign-policy orientation of the country.

Dodon's Party of Socialists has also often supported Plahotniuc's initiatives and interests and is likely to pay lip service to comprehensive reforms of the state.

On the top of this, the agreement among the main international players which helped achieve a non-violent power transition might prove to be a short lived one. It is to be expected that Russia will strive to make the Socialists the dominant political force in Moldova.

While the acute phase of the crisis has been overcome, Moldova should remain in the focus of the European Union.

The EU, the most influential international partner of Moldova, has an opportunity to act. While the Republic of Moldova is a small and poor state, it sits at the EU's borders and has an association agreement with the EU.

Moreover, the EU has a substantial leverage over the country given its dependence on exports and aid from the EU and international financial institutions.

Thus, the EU can play a decisive role in helping Moldova reform after the recent developments.

This would matter not just for Moldova and the EU but stability in Moldova would also serve the interests of another of EU's and Moldova's neighbours – Ukraine.

The EU institutions and individual member states have already shown support to the new government. More needs to be done and it is in the EU interest to consider taking a number of actions that would pave the way for change in the country.

Moldova heavily depends on international donors. As the Democrats did not fulfil a number of EU and IMF's conditionalities, Moldova has missed important cash inflows from international partners.

Mass withdrawals?

This puts the incoming government in a difficult situation. The country's financial situation may be even worse if reports about massive withdrawals of money from the system during the last week will prove to be true.

In order to contribute to the financial stability of the country and support clear reform commitments of the new government, the EU and the international institutions will likely have to mobilise macro-financial assistance.

Over the last year, the Democrats worked to undo some of the banking sector reforms implemented earlier under external pressure.

They appointed a loyalist to run the central bank and sold the third largest bank in Moldova in a murky transaction before elections. Thus, the EU should pay special attention to this sector and consider sending advisors to assist Moldova in re-starting reforms of the banking system.

In recent years, the Republic of Moldova has shown that despite the development of relations with the EU, a country's state institutions can still be captured by oligarchic interests.

Thus, investment in independent state institutions, especially in the justice system, and support for a clean and competitive political system would be key for Moldova's development.

Given that the Constitutional Court has lost credibility by failing to maintain its independent role, the EU could start by deploying an EUJUST mission to support Moldova in reforming the institution.

The creation of anti-corruption courts staffed by judges selected with participation of international donors could also be considered.

Plahotniuc's Democratic Party constrained the participation of the sizeable Moldovan diaspora in politics and violated the rules of party finances.

As recently-released video recordings vividly demonstrate, Russia provided illegal funds to parties in Moldova.

The EU should consider measures that would support the Moldovan authorities in ensuring that the next elections are held with the respect of the highest electoral standards.

This would include insisting on and supporting the strengthening of the transparency of financing of political parties, the investigation of illegal party financing and the broadening of opportunities for the diaspora to participate in the political life of the country.

The European Union has a direct interest in the peaceful development of the Republic of Moldova but also the opportunity to support a neighbouring country going through a difficult and sensitive period.

While the tensest phase of the political crisis has passed, the reconstruction is in its very early stages and Moldova will need its international partners by its side.

This year, the EU and its neighbours celebrate 10 years of their Eastern Partnership initiative, and, as the EU has learned over the past decade, inactivity and disengagement in the neighbourhood often costs more than a pro-active and forward-looking policy.

Author bio

Stanislav Secrieru is a senior analyst at the European Union Institute for Security Studies, where he covers Russia and the EU’s Eastern neighbourhood.

Paul Ivan is a senior policy analyst at the European Policy Centre in Brussels, where he works on EU foreign policy in its Eastern neighbourhood.

Disclaimer

The views expressed in this opinion piece are the author's, not those of EUobserver.

Moldova's election to test EU credentials

Backsliding on rule of law and democracy have led to EU penalties for Moldova - a former success story for EU policy in the former Soviet region.

EU tells Moldova it is still corrupt

In an annual progress report, European Commission says "independence of justice, law enforcement as well as national anti-corruption authorities need substantial improvement".

Moldova turns from EU to Russia

Moldova's president said he would like to scrap an EU treaty and has started preparations to join a Russia-led bloc.

Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'

As ex-national leaders, we know it's not easy to withstand public pressures and put collective interests ahead of domestic concerns. But without strong institutional leadership, EU values themselves risk ringing hollow, not least to those seeking protection on Europe's shores.

A new Commission for the one percent

We are only baffled by how nakedly Ursula von der Leyen's commission represents the very crisis affecting the EU. These commission nominees can expect their toughest questioning yet, they must be held accountable to those they should be representing.

How EU trains discriminate against the disabled

EU law requires us to give two days' notice to get the assistance we need, even for our daily commutes. We can't travel like everyone else. It is frustrating, annoying and time-consuming. In short, it is unacceptable.

News in Brief

  1. Kovesi has 'sufficient majority' for prosecutor post
  2. France, Finland give UK ultimatum for Brexit plan
  3. Minsk talks bode ill for EU's peace summit on Ukraine
  4. Poll: Poland's nationalist rulers to win October election
  5. Irish lawyers clash with EU commission in Apple case
  6. NGOs take aim at EU smartphone pollution
  7. EU adds €100m to research and Erasmus budgets
  8. Ambassador: UK Poles should 'seriously consider' leaving

Defending the defenders: ombudsmen need support

Ombudsmen are often coming under attack or facing different kinds of challenges. These can include threats, legal action, reprisals, budget cuts or a limitation of their mandate.

Column

The benefits of being unpopular

Paradoxically, the lack of popularity may be part of the strength of the European project. Citizens may not be super-enthusiastic about the EU, but when emotions run too high in politics, hotheads may take over.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. France, Italy want 'automatic' distribution of migrants
  2. Europe's refugee policy is test of its true 'way of life'
  3. A new Commission for the one percent
  4. Juncker: No-deal Brexit 'palpable'
  5. Germany adopts blockchain strategy and says no to Libra
  6. Revanchist Russia continues to rewrite European history
  7. How EU trains discriminate against the disabled
  8. These are the crunch issues for the 2019-2024 EU commission

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  2. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  3. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  4. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  6. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  7. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersSeminar on disability and user involvement
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersInternational appetite for Nordic food policies
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Nordic Innovation House in Hong Kong
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Region has chance to become world leader when it comes to start-ups
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersTheresa May: “We will not be turning our backs on the Nordic region”

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us