Moldova: Endangered European path

Victoria Bucataru, Foreign Policy Association of Moldova (Chisinau, Moldova)

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The democratic downfall of the Republic of Moldova triggered the revision of the EU – Moldova relations and the positioning of the main development partners. A resolution on the domestic political crises was adopted in the European Parliament, followed by the harsh reaction of the Moldovan government and political elites. Continuing to disregard the European commitments, the Moldovan parliament hasty approved the package of tax initiatives and capital amnesty apprehended with deep concern by the international organizations.

The “new” fiscal reform approved by the Parliament

On July 26, three legal acts, referred to as the Package of Tax Initiatives and Capital Amnesty and promoted by the ruling coalition, were approved by the parliament in the final reading. The Speaker of the Parliament, Adrian Candu, declared that the current legal acts are in the interests of the citizens and will benefit the business climate. Having different opinion, the opposition parties expressed their dissatisfaction by leaving the parliamentary session and stating that the fiscal reform was voted in haste, disregarding the legal procedure, and includes dangerous provisions. Right after the vote in the Parliament, the main development partners issued press statements evaluating the package as being “inconsistent with the policy reform program supported by the World Bank Group” and “not in line with the objectives of the International Monetary Fund-supported program”. In addition, the U.S. Embassy in Moldova emphasized in a press statement that “the law on the voluntary declaration and fiscal stimulation (also called the Capital Amnesty Law) legitimizes theft and corruption, and will have detrimental effect on Moldova’s business climate”. Civil society representatives publicly articulated their disagreement with the procedure but also the fiscal reform content because it comes in contradiction with Moldova’s efforts to fight money laundering and diminishes the efficacy of the Kroll investigation ($1 billion theft).

On July 19, the parliament adopted the National Defense Strategy and its implementation plan for the period of 2018-2021. The document became one of the main national security and defense strategic elements adopted so far. According to the representatives of the ruling coalition, the National Defense Strategy is in line with the changing regional security environment and refers to the new emerging threats. Addressing the MPs, the Minister of Defense, Eugen Sturza, mentioned the common effort of 23 institutions engaged in the elaboration of the Strategy. The leader of the Democratic Party, Marian Lupu, stated that the central point of the document is the neutrality status enshrined in the constitution of the Republic of Moldova.

However, separate voices qualify the document as a “utopia” arguing the effectiveness of the neutrality status, the genuine commitment to implement the strategy, and its lack of vision. On the same day, the President of the Republic of Moldova, Igor Dodon, presented to the public a policy document calling for additional legal efforts to safeguard the neutrality status of the country through international recognition. Analyzing the document, the representatives of the domestic expert community drew the president’s attention to the international law provisions which clearly define the neutrality status and the international practice. Experts also reminded about Dodon’s positive positioning towards the Russian military stationing on the Moldovan territory which contradicts the essence of the neutrality status.

Before going on holidays, the Moldovan MPs voted the parliamentary election date. They decided to hold the elections on February 24, 2019 using the mixed electoral system. This means that one half of the deputies are elected by party lists, and the other by single-mandate constituencies. The mandate of the current parliament expires on November 30, so the chosen date for the next elections was the latest possible by law. In experts’ opinion, such decision bears a purely strategic reasoning as the current political situation does not favor the ruling coalition.

Foreign policy: the Republic of Moldova in the spotlight

The domestic political crisis, generated by the invalidation of the Chisinau townhall elections, captured the attention of the international community, which culminated in the resolution adopted in the European Parliament on July 5. The resolution was passed with the vote of 343 of out 538 Euro-parliamentarians. The document directly informed the Moldovan counterparts about the “grave concern over the further deterioration of democratic standards in Moldova” and “urged the Moldovan authorities to guarantee the functioning of democratic mechanisms, insisting that both the executive and the judicial branches of power mutually respect the separation of powers, fully endorse democratic principles and obey the rule of law”.

The resolution emphasized once again the very poor progress in conducting a thorough and impartial investigation into the 2014 banking fraud ($1 billion theft) and “called on the Moldovan authorities to address the recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR and the Venice Commission on electoral reform”.

According to the Brussels Summit Declaration, the Heads of State and Government participating in the meeting of the North Atlantic Council in Brussels on July 11-12, 2018  assured the public of the support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldova within their internationally recognized borders. The Declaration also reinforced the recent message of the UN Resolution, “calling on Russia to withdraw its troops from the territory of the Republic of Moldova, and to continue to engage constructively in the Transnistria Settlement Process”.

Although the final Summit Declaration reaffirmed the unity and commitment of the Allies among themselves and towards their partners, the raised tensions between the U.S. and the European Member States have blurred the sincerity of the statements and increased the mistrust.