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The spread of the regimes led by parties with autocratic traits in the neighboring countries or countries that are close to the European Union as well as in the Western Balkan countries represents an alarming tendency that threatens the fragile democratic transformations and endanger the European integration. This is a major challenge for the EU and other Western democracies that adopt yet a pro-stability approach and tolerate the local elites that erode the elements of democracy (parliamentary elections, rule of law, political competition, freedom of the media). These circumstances are called “stabilitocracy”.
The term “stabilitocracy” was attributed by professor Srđa Pavloviæ, who this way characterizes the support provided by the EU and U.S. to some of the Western Balkan states, such as Montenegro, Macedonia, Serbia or Kosovo, which, even if they weaken the democratic constructions, are considered useful because they ensure relative stability and security in the region. As a result of “stabilitocracy”, the governments of the region ensure the protection of the Western interests (geopolitical, economic, energy, etc.), and by this protection strengthen their political power and eliminate competition from the opposition. This correlation between the fulfillment of commitment before the Western partners and satisfaction of the own political needs entails destructive consequences for the EU’s position. Besides propagating Euro-skepticism, “stabilitocracy” widens the discrepancies between the rhetoric of the EU that favors the rule of law, democracy or human rights and local reality that is unfavorable to democracy and is convenient for the authoritarian regimes.
“Stabilitocracy” vis-a-vis Moldova
Signs of “stabilitocracy” can be also noticed in the EU’s relations with Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia, where the governments controlled by oligarchic groups benefit from the European financial assistance event if this is allocated for reforms and is based on conditionality elements. More exactly, the national political elites exploit the authentic interest of Brussels in strengthening stability and its commitment to implement the Association Agreements and the existence of “frozen conflicts” and the risk of separatism to achieve narrow political objectives.
In the case of Moldova, “stabilitocracy” became more evident after 2009, when the pro-European coalitions resorted to different reforms promised by the EU, but didn’t give up the corruptible practices and the practice of deviating from democratic “limitations and balances”. Currently, the principles of “stabilitocracy” are used by the Democratic Party (PDM) to remain in power after the elections of 2018. For the purpose, the PDM stabilized the economy, using the technical and financial assistance of the Western players (IMF), and re-launched the reform agenda. Though it committed itself to do sector reforms (banking, foreign trade, energy, etc.), the government managed by the Democratic Party showed insufficient political will to efficiently fight corruption in the justice sector, to enforce the rule of law in a non-discriminatory way and to reduce political corruption.
The introduction of the mixed electoral system (July 2017) and the way in which the EU reacts to this (IPN July 2017) will show if “stabilitocracy” advances in relation to Moldova or not. Besides criticizing the change in the electoral system (IPN, July 2017), the EU should freeze the allocation of €100 million in macro-financial assistance. This will represent a proportional response, which would be in accordance with its instructions and values, to the actions of the government that distort the electoral system and political competition, following the own interests and disadvantaging the political opponents - extraparliamentary opposition.
The delay in providing the macro-financial assistance can become an essential aspect, but not the only one that is needed to root out the manifestations of “stabilitocracy”. The improvement of the system of conditionality elements and ensuring of flexibility of financing, which should be easily operationalized and stopped as easily if the European values are abandoned, are as important for diminishing “stabilitocracy”. These technics are feasible both for Moldova and for Georgia or Ukraine.
Before obtaining the European perspective that is actively sought by the governments of the three states, the democratic institutions, the rule of law and good governance should be irreversibly and sustainably improved. The Western Balkans showed that the obtaining of the European perspective and the status of membership candidate contributes to “stabilitocracy” rather than to its diminution as long as democracy is not proved functional.
Russian factor and “stabilitocracy”
The elements of “stabilitocracy” are interwoven with the hysteria around the Russian factor. Consequently, the Russian factor is used to catch the attention of the EU that is more reticent and disappointed and to provoke harsh reactions on the part of Russia, which would stimulate internal and external solidarity, of the EU and the U.S.
However, the trivialization or ridiculing of the Russian factor are counterproductive. These do nothing but relax the public opinion. Furthermore, this dilutes the authorities’ vigilance to the real risks that derive from the Russian influence, which would be activated to a maximum in Moldova in the most suitable moment for Russia.
Instead of conclusion...
As in the case of the Western Balkans, Moldova, Ukraine and Georgia face visible signs of “stabilitocracy” that advantage the governments that are actually disinterested in having functional democratic institutions.
“Stabilitocracy” is explored by the government of Moldova, in combination with the Russian factor. The commitments to do sector reforms, assumed before the EU, do not yet mean development of democratic institutions incompatible with corruptible behavior and monopolization of political power.
The EU can root out the elements of “stabilitocracy” in Moldova, starting with the delay in providing macro-financial assistance and continuing with the enhancement of conditionality. The European institutions should assume more intransigency concerning the respect for the European values (rule of law, good governance, human rights), meticulousness in monitoring the deviations and consistency in applying the consequences for violating the (pre)conditions by the government of Moldova. Thus, the EU risks distancing the Moldovan citizens and becoming irrelevant for the democratic processes in Moldova.
Dionis Cenușa este politolog, deține MA în studii europene interdisciplinare, Colegiul Europei.
Domenii de interes: Integrare europeană, politici europene, politica externă a UE, migrație și securitate energetică.
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Public Discussion: Eastern model vs. Western model for Moldova. Is there a third way?