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The formation and voting in of the Government headed by Pavel Filip by 57 MPs, who represent the ‘parliamentary alliance’ created around the Democratic Party (PDM) that is managed from behind by the oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc provoked new protests in Chisinau. The European institutions reacted swifter than expected. Thus, the EU Delegation to Moldova issued a message, calling for calm, on the day of the protests. A message about the political instability in the country and its consequences were included by the European Parliament in its resolution on the DFCTA that was adopted the next day after the protests (January 21). The fact that the EU players reacted swifter than the state institutions, such as the Presidential Office, and simultaneously with the U.S., which is usually more dynamic, was surprising.
However, the fact that the EU and the U.S. didn’t challenge, but even welcomed the formation of a government caused surprise and criticism among the protesters and inside civil society, where it is considered that the West must be tough on the representatives of the oligarchic system. Contrary to this opinion, the Western powers (the EU, the U.S.) explain that the political stability is essential for Moldova, knowing well the cost of this stability (maintaining of the oligarchic regime) and the difficult socioeconomic situation in the country. Furthermore, some of the European politicians treat the possible early elections with reserve .
Spark that generated half-peaceful protests
The nontransparent and non-participative method in which the Government was voted in, by skipping over the usual practices (debating of the government program, questions to the Cabinet members put by the opposition, etc.), amplified by the dissatisfaction of the protesters. The three party leaders (Party of Socialists – Igor Dodon, the “Our Party” - Renato Usatyi and the Party “Civic Platform “Dignity and Truth” – Andrei Nastase), who coordinate the protests from three different centers , seek the annulment of the vote for the Government in Parliament and the holding of early elections. Nevertheless, violating the protocol norms and the principle of transparency, the Cabinet led by Pavel Filip took an oath of allegiance before the head of state and became thus fully functional. The protesters and representatives of civil society condemned this ‘series of tricks’ that disqualify and undermine the legitimacy of the new executive, limiting the margin of maneuvering when implementing unpopular reforms that could be asked by the IMF.
But before this, the Government and the parliamentary alliance associated with the PDM must survive the anti-government, anti-oligarch and anti-Plahotniuc protests by which Dodon, Usatyi, Nastase and, more recently, Maia Sandu, want to force early elections. After the excess of zeal and the episodes of violence of January 20, when some of the protesters managed to enter the Parliament Building, the protest organizers were criticized, but insignificantly, for the inability to ensure perfectly peaceful protests. Thus, civil society, the foreign partners and the ruling parties (now only the PDM, PL) called for peaceful protests. Dodon, Usatyi, Nastase and Sandu did the same. They reiterated that the protests must be peaceful, admitting yet that the actions of the government (PDM and its associates or PDM+) bear the blame for the radicalization of protests. The risk of new semi-peaceful protests remains yet great. Partially, this is due to the fact that the protesters demand early elections, while the government (PDM+) is convinced that the early elections are harmful and can take place only if the head of state is not elected this March.
Europeans’ reaction and call for dialogue
The swift reaction of the European External Action Service, which called on the protesters and the government to have a dialogue, showed that the EU Delegation to Moldova communicated efficiently with Brussels. The given message was issued simultaneously with the position expressed by the U.S., which in most of the times is faster than the EU for objective reasons. A difference in emphases can be yet seen in the messages of the U.S. and the EU. Both of them urge the sides (government and protesters) to refrain from violence. But the EU says the dialogue between the sides must be aimed at identifying together a solution, while the U.S. refers to an immediate meeting between the authorities and the protesters so as to address their concerns in an open and transparent way. Apparently, the U.S. shares rather the concerns of the protesters, while the EU calls on both of the sides to have a dialogue. The protests scheduled for the immediate period will show if one of the two (the EU and the U.S.) wants to become involved in mediating the dialogue between the government (PDM+) and the protesters (Usatyi, Dodon, Nastase, Sandu and others) or not.
The protests mounted in Chisinau drew the attention of the European MPs. However, in the resolution on the free trade (DCFTA) between the EU and Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia, which was adopted the next day after the protests, the subject of protests hasn’t been included. The resolution warns that the political instability in Moldova reached a critical level and this can lead to the destabilization of the country’s institutions and have a negative impact on the economy. It also welcomes the fact that after multiple attempts, the government was formed, but says nothing about the quality and way in which this was voted in. It calls for reforms and re-discussion of the possible geopolitical consequences of a new political crisis.
Moreover, the resolution calls on the European Commission and the member states to provide assistance to the formed government, including to deploy missions of European experts that will become involved in the activity of the administration of Moldova. According to the MEPs, this will allow to support and monitor the implementation of reforms. The document reiterates the importance of fighting corruption, creating an independent judicial system and combating the phenomenon of captive state. It also recommends investigating the bank frauds, punishing the offenders and cleaning and strengthening the banking sector. The MEPs also ask to reform the mass media sector by increasing media ownership transparency. Though the resolution does not contain any reference to protests, it enumerates the major problems faced by the country – from corruption to the captured state (which indirectly involves he oligarchic system).
Instead of conclusion…
Apparently, the European Parliament lagged behind the European diplomatic in reacting to the current situation in Moldova. The non-noticing of the fact that the political crisis didn’t leave Moldova after the new government was formed derives from here. On the contrary, the inappropriate formation of the executive led to the perpetuation of the existent crisis.
It is important for the U.S. and the EU not to remain in the shadow and to insist on peaceful protests and dialogue between the sides. However, to make themselves heard, the EU and the U.S. must explain the reasons why the validity of the newly formed government wasn’t challenged. It is also imperative to present arguments ‘for’ and ‘against’ early elections, engaging in debates Moldova’s civil society, which for now avoids firmly and openly pronouncing on this subject. The avoidance of formulating these explanations intensifies indignation among the protesters. Additionally, this generates more powerful, but unfounded antipathies and accusations that the Western powers (the EU and U.S.) support the political-oligarchic system controlled by Vladimir Plahotniuc.
At the same time, protesters’ leaders and the representatives of civil society should adopt a constructive approach in the relations with the foreign partners, using the levers of these to exert pressure on the oligarchic system. Instead of bellicose and suspicions messages, these should join together with the EU so as to eliminate political corruption, creating preconditions for the qualitative and durable replacement of the political class in Chisinau.
Dionis Cenușa is a politologist, holding an MA degree in interdisciplinary European studies from the College of Europe.
Areas of interes: European integration, European policies, EU's foreign policy, migration and energy security.
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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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