Judging by November’s main developments, the parliamentary elections set to take place on February 24, 2019 in the Republic of Moldova represent a true Rubicon both to local authorities and European partners. This is not so much about who is going to win the elections, but rather how exactly this is going to happen. The outcome is what both the country’s image in the EU and its status within the context of European dialogue depend on.
When there is a will, there is a way
The government of the Republic of Moldova passed the law on a single wage system in the budget sector on November 8. The authorities assure that this development will lead to higher salaries for people working in education, healthcare and social security. The government has also approved Moldova 2030 National Development Strategy with 10 goals for the country’s sustainable development, including education quality, efficient governance, enhancing people’s access to infrastructure,improving labor conditions etc.
On November 20 at the sixth Annual Moldovan European Integration Debate Forum the Head of the European Union Delegation to Moldova Peter Michalko voiced the concerns of European partners regarding the upcoming elections in February 2019. Michalko stated that “it is not our wish to push Moldova closer to the EU. When there is a will, there is a way. Without will we cannot make Moldova closer to the EU. We want these elections and any other elections to be free and fair, and the will of people to be respected regardless of their choice”.
In the course of talks on the Transnistrian issue Claus Neukirch, the head of the OSCE mission to Moldova, stated that “this year, by making small steps, we have secured progress” in finding a solution to this problem. Neukirch reminded that six agreements were signed, and five of them had already been implemented meaning the opening of the Gura Bacului bridge, the mechanism allowing both students and teachers to cross border points on the Dniester more easily and also apostille for diplomas of students coming from the left bank of the Dniester River that lets them continue their studies both in the Russian Federation and in the EU countries.
Punishment for bad behavior
On November 14, the European Parliament adopted a new resolution on financial support for the Republic of Moldova with a special emphasis made on the upcoming elections in the Republic of Moldova. The European Parliament members decided to freeze the macro-financial aid to Chisinau authorities until “the progress in democratic standards is seen”.
The MEPs stated that financial assistance will only be provided after the parliamentary elections on condition that they are transparent and take place according to the principles of democracy.
Whether this is a coincidence or not, after EU criticism, on November 20, Sergiu Cioclea, the Head of the National Bank of Moldova, announced his resignation. It is alleged that his resignation has to do with adopting a controversial Capital Amnesty Law. On this account a member of the European Parliament Siegfried Muresan stated that “Sergiu Cioclea’s resignation from the post of the NBM head is a proof of Chisinau authorities’ failure to return the stolen billion and punish the guilty”.
No sooner said than done
The fourth joint meeting of Romanian and Moldovan governments took place on November 22. The Prime Minister of Romania Viorica Dancila underlined Romania’s role in paving the European way for the Republic of Moldova and highlighted the importance of more active relations between the two states as well as the support offered in order to implement European reforms in Moldova.
In his turn, the Prime Minister of Moldova Pavel Filip emphasized the special nature of relations between Moldova and Romania, with Romania being “a true friend in need”. He added “true unification requires a pragmatic approach that will include the interconnection of energy, education and infrastructure sectors in order to create a single space where people will not feel that they are crossing borders“.
As a result of this meeting, there were 11 bilateral agreements signed in vital sectors for the Republic of Moldova such as security, economic cooperation, natural gas supplies and its transportation to the Republic of Moldova.
Within the context of criticizing European authorities, Petras Auštrevičius, the European Parliament rapporteur on Moldova, said that “Moldova is the first country where the EU introduced such measures as freezing financial assistance”.
European Commissioner for European Neighbourhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn stated that “we will support regular citizens, mass media and civil society – but not the government. We will pay special attention to regular citizens. Citizens should not suffer because of politicians”.
In the view of recent developments the Prime Minister Pavel Filip expressed his concern over the dramatic escalation of tensions between Moscow and Kyiv stating that “Russian acts of aggression affect security in the entire region. The Republic of Moldova condemns unilateral and provocative actions of the Russian Federation. We support Ukraine, as we always have, including in their efforts to defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity”.
Andrian Candu, the Speaker of the Parliament, also made a statement in this regard in his social media stressing that “We need to stand in solidarity with Ukraine and support its right to use its territorial waters in accordance with the international law”.