Moldova: Dodon is moving beyond rhetoric

Natalia Streсul, Foreign Policy Association of Moldova (Moldova, Chisinau)

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The key events of January 2017 included the actions of Moldova’s President aimed at establishing direct contact with the leader of Transnistria, a coplex economic situation that urged the European Commission to allocate financial assistance to Moldova as well as Igor Dodon’s visit to Moscow and his statements on the change of Moldova’s foreign policy vector.

Domestic Policy: Transnistria on the Agenda

January 2017 turned out to be fairly controversial for the country’s political life. The most important events probably include the official meeting of President Dodon with Vadim Krasnoselsky, the leader of Transnistria. It was the first top-level meeting in the past eight years that took place on the territory of Transnistria and caused a storm of opinions and comments from local analysts and experts.  It resulted in a decision to take a comprehensive approach to current problems in Moldovan-Transnistrian relations. The approach includes discussions with experts from both banks of the Dniester, as well as in the 5+2 format (Moldova, Transnistria, Russia, Ukraine, OSCE, USA, EU), aiming to develop specific recommendations and mechanisms for the conflict resolution. On the one hand, the visit can be viewed from the perspective of President Dodon’s interest in solving the Transnistrian crisis. On the other hand, the fact that it took place before Dodon’s trip to Moscow seems quite controversial. Moreover, the issue of federalization for the Republic of Moldova (as envisaged by the Resolution of the Party of Socialists led by the newly-elected President Dodon) remains open; therefore this causes reasonable concerns.

Economy: Macro-financial Assistance as a Tool of the EU’s Crisis Response

As the Republic of Moldova is facing an extremely complex economic situation, the EU’s financial support will have a huge impact when dealing with it. On January 13, 2017, the European Commission decided to provide 100 million Euros to Moldova under the new program of macro-financial assistance to cover short-term financial needs of the country, as agreed by the Republic of Moldova and the International Monetary Fund. Of this amount, 40 million Euros will come in the form of grants. 60 million Euros will be provided as short-term loans under convenient terms. The macro-financial assistance is a tool of the EU’s crisis response available for partner states bordering the EU.  This timely step on the part of the EU allows for the stabilization of the economic situation in Moldova. 

Foreign Policy: Can Moldova’s Priorities Change? 

Experts have been concerned about the statement President Dodon made during his visit to Russia on January 17, 2017. The statement focused on possible abolition of the Association Agreement with the EU as the agreement has not brought any benefits. This was followed by an immediate response from the Government of Moldova and a wide group of politicians, experts and analysts. In particular, the Prime Minister Pavel Philip said: “We will not approve any interference with the Association Agreement with the EU. The Agreement is part of our governance platform, a strategic pillar of our activity.”

President Dodon made the statement focused on possible abolition of the Association Agreement with the EU as the agreement has not brought any benefits

Clearly, Russia has always been a strategic partner of the Republic of Moldova and these relations should be maintained and developed. Yet, Moldova has chosen the European foreign policy vector of development and has thus undertaken certain commitments which it has to comply with. Not only the EU supports Moldova’s aspirations, but also it provides significant financial assistance to promote democratic reforms.

The analysis of January developments leads to the following conclusion: a dual nature of Moldova’s foreign policy has taken shape and is manifesting itself. It can lead to destructive trends and processes that could further aggravate the already difficult political and economic situation in the country.