Articles in this rubric are published as part of the "European Integration as a National Idea with a Potential to Consolidate Moldovan Society" Project, financed by the German Foundation Hanns Seidel
Impact of EP resolution: from political crisis of government to attack on EU’s image in Moldova, OP-ED
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05:33, 09 Jul 2018
 

 

Even if it serves temporary goals of the government, such an aggressive approach against the EU can produce negative effects in the longer run...


 

Dionis Cenuºa
 

The political problems in Moldova are known to the public in Brussels, especially after the banking fraud discovered at the end of 2014, which led to the first ‘freezing’ of the EU budget support in 2015. The European Parliament’s resolution of July 5, 2018, which was adopted by 343 votes for, 35 votes against and 160 abstentions, showed yet that the EU’s preoccupation reached new levels. This time it is about the invalidation of the elections in Chisinau (IPN, June 25, 2018), which was perceived as a serious deviation from the rule of law and the democratic principles. The final variant of the resolution incorporated the document proposed by the group of the European People’s Party, which has 219 members, and other critical aspects articulated by another four groups (ALDE, Verts/ALE, ECR, GUE/NGL). Namely this variant of the resolution included the request to suspend the first tranche of the EU macro-financial assistance package agreed in November 2017 (€100m) and the budget support to Moldova, according to the precedent of 2015. Contrary to this resolution, the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) with 189 MEPs promoted a draft document that states the deviations and calls on the Moldovan authorities to deal with them and on the EU to offer support.  

Even if the European Parliament’s resolution is recommendatory in character, its text exceeded, in a negative sense, the tonality of the previous documents that referred to Moldova, separately or together with Ukraine and Georgia. Since the Democratic Party (PDM) came to power, the MEPs adopted three documents of the kind. The resolution of 2016 requested to provide financial assistance, that of July 2017 and the recommendation of November 2017 specified the principle of conditionality for providing macro-financial assistance and the causes that can lead to the suspension of this (resolution of January 2016, recommendation of November 2017 and resolution of July 2017). Only in the resolution of July 2018, the MEPs expressly demand to suspend the financial assistance, including the budget support, over the non-fulfilment of the political pre-conditions.

The resolution of July 5, 2018 was met with multiple unprecedented verbal attacks on the MEPs and other European institutions that are accused of the following: 1) non-observance of the contractual commitments; 2) interference in internal affairs; 3) penalization of the population; 4) misinformation; 5) failure to do the justice sector reform. This aggressive approach partially repeats the Democratic Party’s behavior of the summer of 2017, when it tried to blackmail the EU with its discrediting (by surveys and speeches that suggested the EU can “penalize” Moldova) for the objections concerning the replacement of the proportional representation system with the mixed electoral system (IPN, July 24, 2017). Paradoxically, but besides the messages showing disapproval of the EU, the ruling party reiterates the interest in continuing the reforms stipulated in the Association Agreement and denies any accusation of influence on the Moldovan judiciary. The multiple statements made by representatives  of the power show the Democratic Party fully mobilized in order to transform the political crisis into a multitude of tactical benefits.

European Parliament resolutions of 2016-2018

The European Parliament’s position is often ignored by third countries as this is political in character and has no legal effects. The Government of Moldova is in a vulnerable situation and should thus take into account any signal transmitted from Brussels, where it has been until now looking for external legitimacy for the parliamentary elections of 2018.

The recent resolution’s potential to inspire the new antigovernment protests that are mounted periodically by the extraparliamentary opposition led by Maia Sandu and Andrei Nastase considerably motivated the Democratic Party to start an information war. Therefore, through political statements and/or official positions, Vladimir Plahotniuc, Pavel Filip and Vitalie Gamurari filled the national media landscape with justifications about their integrity and correctness, on the one hand, and with accusations of tendentiousness and politicization against the EU institutions, on the other hand.

The spoiling of the resolution’s image as a credible and justified document adopted in a transparent way became an objective for the Democrats. These noted that the resolution wasn’t adopted by ‘consensus’ and criticism was leveled at this. In reality, according to procedures, the resolutions are adopted by a simple vote of those attending. Also, the existence of criticism inside the EP reveals the democratic nature of this institution and points to the existence of Euro-skeptical forces that often sympathize with non-democratic regimes.

So, of the total of 751 MEPs, 538 took part in the vote on the resolution and 60% of these voted in favor. This is an absolute majority. Moreover, the number of those who rejected the document is of only 6%. Even if the European Socialists represent the second power in the EP, these didn’t manage to attract those who abstained or to ensure the participation of the own representatives: 189 European Socialist MEPs versus only 35 votes against the resolution (See Table below).

 

Table. Results of vote on Resolution of July 5, 2018 vs. representation of political groups on European Parliament

Votes given for resolution of July 5, 2018

For

Against

Abstentions

343

35

160

Representation on European Parliament

European People’s

European  Socialist

ECR

ALDE

Verts/ALE

GUE/NGL

EFDD

ENF

NI

219

189

73

68

52

51

43

35

21

                   

 

If comparing the documents on Moldova adopted by the EP during the past three years, we see that the concerns of 2016 didn’t diminish at all and continue to exist or even worsened in 2018. In particular, these include the inefficiency in fighting corruption and in investigating the theft of the US$ 1 billion, failure to depoliticize the judicial system, continuous manifestation of the ‘state capture’ phenomenon, etc.

Consequently, there is now a purely negative attitude to the ruling party that in 2016 was approved of by the MEPs. Moreover, in 2016 these asked the EU to offer technical and financial assistance in doing reforms, while in 2018 they make calls to suspend the provision of the macro-financial assistance and budget support to Moldova. In other words, the resolution of July 2018 shows that the EU’s perception of the current situation in the country is comparative with or even more negative than that reported before 2016.

How can the statements of PDM’s representatives be interpreted?

The abundant statements made by the representatives of the ruling party contain a series of attacks on the EU, such as: 1) non-observance of contractual commitments; 2) interference in internal affairs; 3) penalization of the population; 4) lack of objectivity; 5) failure to do the justice sector reform.

The most robust criticism of the EP resolution was formulated by Prime Minister Pavel Filip (Gov.md, July 7, 2018). He accused the MEPs of contributing to the suspension of the macro-financial assistance after the disbursement decision was announced by Commissioner Johannes Hahn at the end of June (Free Europe, June 27, 2018).

Firstly, the assertions made by the Democrats insinuate that the EU does not fulfil the commitment to provide financial assistance even if the Moldovan authorities fulfilled all the necessary conditions (PDM, July 6). Deliberately, the government ignored the political pre-conditions specified in the agreement on the provision of the €100 million in macro-financial assistance, which are as essential as the sector conditions.

The second accusation is similar to that adopted in 2017, when the introduction of the mixed electoral system was forced. Thus, the Democrats describe the EU’s requests to Moldova concerning the validation of the Chisinau early mayoral elections and the calls to suspend the first installment of the macro-financial assistance as interference in domestic affairs. Such an approach endangers the future relations of partnership with the EU, which cannot exist without mutual confidence and precise fulfillment of the contract provisions (“pacta sunt servanda”).

The third accusation describes the EU’s decision to stop the macro-financial assistance as an action aimed against the citizens. Premier Filip uses the kindergarten children to underscore that the EU’s decision will have unfavorable consequences for vulnerable categories of people. This way, public pressure is exerted on Brussels and attention is simultaneously distracted from the party to blame – the government.

The fourth accusation was made against the EP for the resolution adopted on July 5, which is considered politicized and abusive, and also against the EU Delegation to Moldova for not reflecting the government’s position in the information issued to the media. In other words, the authorities say the resident European diplomats do not correctly communicate with Brussels and the reports about the developments in the country are thus “incomplete”. This way, the idea that Brussels is biased and is thus not objective when assessing the progress in Moldova is underlined as usual.

Ultimately, the Moldovan authorities shift the responsibility for the failure to do the justice sector reform that was implemented with European financial support onto EU experts and representatives of civil society. Moreover, the government contraposes the reforms promoted by the EU with those done to implement the program with the International Monetary Fund. This way, in an artificial way, it is induced the idea that the problem resides not in the performance, capacity or will the government, which achieved good results in reforming the banking sector, but in the quality of donors. It thus results that the EU is less qualified than the IMF even if many of the reforms coordinated with the IMF correspond to the provisions of the Association Agreement. Such a manipulating approach arouses the bewilderment of the EU that in 2017 suspended the budget support for the justice sector reform namely for the reason that the authorities were inefficient in doing the reform in 2014-2015, when the Democratic Party formed part of the government.

All these accusations maneuvered by the government show its attempt to interpret the EU – Moldova dialogue as a symmetric relationship. Thus, the government in Chisinau consciously ignores the fact that Moldova is the party that benefits from European assistance and agreed voluntarily to meet particular technical and political requirements.

Tactical benefits pursued by the government

Even if the Democrats need a good relationship with the EU at least until the parliamentary elections, the numerous unfounded accusations made against the European institutions will surely affect (IPN, July 2, 2018) the already fragile bilateral dialogue. These sacrifices are yet made because the government aims to obtain particular tactical benefits.

First of all, the Democrats reverse the search for those to blame towards the extraparliamentary opposition and the European institutions, in particular the European Parliament. This is a primitive and artificial form of avoiding any responsibility. The PDM’s consumers consist of the voters on whom the party already banks in elections.

Secondly, the offensive of the statements made by the PDM is used to discourage the suspension of the budget support that consists of non-refundable grants. These are important for the government as they are used to implement projects in regions, where this is looking for supporters.

Last but not least, by such aggressive calls the government is trying to obtain a minimum effect of cohesion around it in the context of the antigovernment protests that the opposition will want to intensify.

Instead of conclusion...

By using harsh narratives, the government aims to avoid any responsibility for the suspension of the macro-financial assistance of which it is accused by the extraparliamentary opposition and the European institutions. Even if it serves temporary goals of the government, such an aggressive approach against the EU can produce negative effects in the longer run.

The image of the European Parliament’s resolution needs to be immediately rehabilitated in Moldovan citizens’ eyes and the extraparliamentary opposition can use this moment to update the protest narratives. The EU will keep the distance so as not to be used in the information war launched by the PDM, but this should not exclude denials from the European side.

Such negative episodes test again the Moldovans’ perception of the European integration of Moldova. This way, the government that considers itself pro-European and that wants to “constitutionalize” the European integration, by its unfriendly gestures towards the EU favors the pro-Russian forces and, respectively, the Eurasian course.

 
Dionis Cenuºa

 


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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