Public Discussion: Solutions to the crisis following invalidation of Chisinau elections
Europe, “anti-European” Gagauzia’s main advocate, Op-Ed
Europe, “anti-European” Gagauzia’s main advocate, Op-Ed
The Gagauz autonomy has a stable place in European monitoring studies and reports on Moldova. Comrat could put this degree of attention to use, and solve a large palette of issues. For that, as Moldova strives for closer ties with the EU, Gagauzia must manifest a clear voice.
The European Vector
After the EU and Moldova signed the Association Agreement, any talk of choosing a foreign development vector has become virtually useless. There are arguments in favor of any geopolitical direction, but the real choice has been already made. All of the Governmental policies and decisions revolve around the Agreement. And Gagauzia, with its particularities, is part of this process.
The European Union, in turn, strictly monitors the means Moldova employs in fulfilling the responsibilities it has assumed, and regularly issues reports and recommendations for Moldovan authorities. These documents consistently touch upon Gagauzia. The autonomy’s status is usually pointed out in the context of Chișinău’s failure to fully observe European norms and practices with regards to national minorities. Furthermore, there are mentions of violations of the Law on the Special Legal Status of Gagauz-Yeri.
Both of these aspects are part of the latest European study on the degree of implementation agreements the EU has signed with Moldova, Georgia, and Ukraine. Specifically, the document claims that there are still issues concerning Gagauz people’s access to study their native language and the official language of the state, and that the state is insufficiently involved in solving these issues, and that all of this translates into issues of professional growth and public involvement.
Additionally, the study reminds that Moldova’s legal system and territorial-administrative infrastructure do not grant absolute autonomy to Gagauzia within the state structure:
“Numerous decisions adopted by central authorities in fact contradict autonomy competences. Thus, Gagauzia cannot fully exercise the rights it was granted in 1994.”
As a recommendation, the study authors propose the creation of an efficient mechanism that would ensure observance of an existing legal and institutional framework in the matter of national minority rights, and to correlate national legislation to the Law on the Gagauz Autonomy.
The “Gagauz Factor” in Moldova’s Development
The Moldova 2020 Development Analysis is also noteworthy. It was developed by the European Union in cooperation with a group of donors to our country. Based on this document, the EU was planning to provide support for Moldova, and judging by the frequency with which Gagauzia is mentioned, the Gagauz factor is taken into consideration in Brussels, when decisions concerning Moldova are made.
Unlike Transnistria, Gagauzia didn’t deserve a separate segment in the Analysis, but the authors have stressed certain conclusions and recommendations for Moldova’s authorities.
For example, medium term goals mention the possibility of strengthening the dialogue with Gagauzia, through social-economic and infrastructural cooperation, under the 2015-2018 Government Plan. A reference is made to the necessity for greater efforts in the fields of studying the state language and national minority languages. Surprisingly, an emphasis is put on the lack of uniformity in economic production throughout the country. Chișinău, which is inhabited by 23% of the population, yet contributes with 56% of total production. The south region, Gagauzia included, contributes only 7%, the Analysis claims. On another note, the Europeans mention the lack of clear separation between central and local authority competencies. The study also doesn’t ignore the fact that the Center rarely takes into account proposals issued by the leader of Gagauzia, although he/she is also a member of the Government, and the Popular Assembly has the right to legislative initiatives.
Gagauzia in Documents from the Venice Commission
Gagauzia is mentioned not only at the EU level, but also within the Council of Europe, especially the Venice Commission (VC). When PDM-PSRM have decided upon the electoral reform, the VC published an Opinion mentioning the necessity to guarantee the electoral rights of national minorities, especially those of the compactly-settled Gagauz people.
The document mentioned that an efficient representation of the Gagauz minority will depend on the manner in which election precincts are set. Moreover, it is pointed out that neighboring precincts should not include parts of the Gagauz ATU. This recommendation has later been taken into consideration by the authors of the Electoral Code amendments. And although Moldovan authorities have ignored other remarks by the VC, the attention the Commission devotes to the autonomy doesn’t wane. Furthermore, this attention is permanent and isn’t focused only on electoral aspects.
In late 2001 – early 2002, VC experts have actively participated in discussions on the amendment bill to strengthen the Constitutional legal status of Gagauzia. Following Moldovan legislation studies and discussions with Moldovan and Gagauz leaders, the VC issued its Opinion on the matter. The document stipulates that Gagauzia’s competences must be ensured by constitutional guarantees. Gagauz politicians still use these ideas in their debates with Moldovan authorities.
This brief overview of documents shows that the European structures pay a great deal of attention both to the Gagauz ethnic group, as well as to safeguarding the interests of the Gagauz Autonomous Territorial Unit. It is possible that the “Gagauz question” is on the outskirts of Europe’s attention, and the list of subjects could be supplemented with issues such as environment, potable water deficit, civil society development, etc. Yet, if that is a matter of concern, it should be first and foremost addressed with Gagauz authorities, who care little about this agenda.
The leadership of the Gagauz autonomy has systematically cooperated with European partners, although predominantly in the sphere of fundraising. The ATU leader had even created a donor Council that included around ten international partners, mostly Europeans who implement social and infrastructure projects in the region. In terms of volume of funds provided, the European Union is one the lead foreign partners. It is likewise possible to work with the EU on other segments. For example: when Venice Commission experts visited Chișinău on matters related to the electoral system reform, and have met with interested parties, no one from Gagauzia has requested a meeting with them.
The complexity and correctness in Europe’s perception of Gagauzia’s problems and priorities depends on how Comrat presents itself. Europe, with an image that is by far not favored in the region, outside of the main political preferences of the Gagauz population, provides the greatest political and diplomatic support of all foreign partners. It is true that the Europe is Gagauzia’s principal and most efficient advocate. The task for local authorities is to put this potential to good use, even if it means to go against deep rooted geopolitical stereotypes.
Veaceslav Craciun, Comrat
IPN publishes in the Op-Ed rubric opinion pieces submitted by authors not affiliated with our editorial board. The opinions expressed in these articles do not necessarily coincide with the opinions of our editorial board.
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