EU assistance for Moldova, hastening of reforms and government’s survival, OP-ED
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05:30, 12 Feb 2018
 

 
The EU should use the weaknesses of the ruling party and the electoral context to obtain more concessions and, respectively, sustainable changes in terms of reforms...


 

Dionis Cenușa
 

The European theme powerfully influences the public narrative in Moldova. The success or failure to implement the EU - Moldova Association Agreement serves as a government quality indicator. That’s why the more modest are the results, the smaller are the political and electoral prospects of the ruling parties.

A specific feature of the Agreement is that its results often cannot become immediately palpable and this needs time and radical legal, institutional changes and changes in the state’s behavior towards the people and vice versa. At the same time, neither the Agreement, nor the Association Agenda, which prioritizes the reform objectives once in two years, contains instruments that would assess and simultaneously stimulate reforms. Therefore, the assessment mechanism connected to the EU macro-financial assistance improves the principle of conditionality (IPN, October 9, 2017). Before providing an installment of the total of €100 million accessible to Moldova until 2020, the EU must check how the government of Moldova fulfills its commitments, namely the list of 28 sector conditions, and an undetermined number of political preconditions.

It’s true that this provides a unique platform for the government to be monitored by the EU institutions, opposition and civil society. As a result, some of the reforms can be hastened. But the government manages to adjust this type of “improved conditionality” that is applied by the Europeans to Moldova. This way, the Democratic Party can choose the policy priorities and can focalize all the political, institutional and communication resources so as to achieve maximal results.

On the one hand, this form of prioritizing the efforts helps the government to easier shape the wanted public opinion. On the other hand, this offers the authorities the possibility of convincing the European partners that the commitments are being fulfilled. Only the principledness, profoundness and length of the EU assessment of the fulfillment of each of the 28 sector conditions and the real functioning of the democratic institution can thwart the government’s strategy.

EU commenced assessment process

In February 2018, assessors of the Director General for Economic and Financial Affairs of the European Commission started to assess the fulfillment of the first ten sectored conditions by the Moldovan side. Besides meetings with Moldovan officials responsible for the examined sectors, the European officials asked for the viewpoint of representatives of civil society.

The assessment report will most probably be published in February-March and a positive or negative decision will be taken based on this as to the provision of the first installment of assistance. Thus, if the assessment is positive, the first €30 million will be disbursed by this autumn. A negative or even partially negative appraisal will include punctual sub-conditions and eventually a repeated assessment of a lesser extent. This could push the provision of the first installment towards the period of the election campaign prior to the parliamentary elections, which is the end of 2018.

Besides a positive assessment, the government also needs appreciation of the Moldovan democratic institutions. Though it seems an ideal and practically impossible situation, the government understands that the first installment could not be received other way. Unlike the sector conditions, the political preconditions are more interpretable. Both the anti-government opposition and civil society and the government too count on this detail in deciding the fate of the first installment.

Eligible or not for EU macro-financial assistance?

Through the agency of the priority reform action roadmap for July-December 2017, assumed by the Government and Parliament on July 5, 2017, the Democrat Party committed itself to do a number of reforms. A part of these reforms were inspired by the sector conditions for obtaining macro-financial assistance, which were already discussed with Brussels, before the launch of the roadmap. This interconnection between the sector conditions and the “roadmap” is not accidental. It was caused by the necessity of diminishing attention devoted to the adoption of the mixed-member electoral system (July 20, 2017). Through this method, the acceleration of particular reforms that were earlier delayed (integrity system, public procurement, fight against money laundering, etc.) reoriented the public agenda to other debates than those on the voting system.

The assessment reports compiled by representatives of civil society confirm that the authorities achieved particular progresses on ten sector conditions. Many of the conditions saw modest progress and multiple shortcomings in the fulfillment process, while some are not finalized and this significantly diminishes the impact of the medium- and long-term measures.

More exactly, of the total of ten conditions, five were implemented with deficiencies, while two weren’t fulfilled completely. Thus, only three conditions were met without major defects. (See table below

 

Table. Assessment of sector conditions based on appraisal of “roadmap” by civil society

Sector condition assessed by EU

Measure included in “priority  reform action roadmap” (July-December 2017)

Appraisal of “roadmap” measure by civil society

1. Implementation of new public administration reform strategy in order to optimize central public administration.

1.1. Parliament will adopt the package of laws that refer to the reformation of central public administration.

1.2. Government will approve regulations concerning the reformation of central public administration.

Not fully implemented

2. Ensuring of efficient functioning of National Contestation Settlement Agency

1.5. Parliament and Government will ensure the functioning of National Contestation Settlement Agency

 

Not fully implemented

3. Adoption of law on state-owned and municipal enterprises in a move to increase transparency and accountability of state-run enterprises. The new law will introduce legal audits of annual financial situations and will make the publication of audit and financial situation reports on websites of state-run enterprises and Public Property Agency mandatory.

5.5. Parliament will adopt law on state-owned and municipal enterprises

Fully implemented

4. Adoption of a new law of the Audit Office and creation in Parliament of the Public Audits Committee that will be responsible for public audits of individual audit reports of Court of Auditors.

1.3. Parliament will adopt law on Court of Auditors

Not fully implemented

5. Adoption of law on prevention of money laundering and fighting of terrorism financing.

2.5. Parliament will adopt law on prevention of money laundering and fighting of terrorism financing

Not fully implemented

6. Selection by Integrity Council, in a transparent way and based on merits and competitiveness, of the chairperson and deputy chairperson of National Integrity Authority.

2.8. Parliament and Government will ensure functioning of National Integrity Agency

Initiated, but not implemented

7. Ensuring by Parliament of the efficient functioning of Criminal Assets Recovery Agency by providing sufficient budget resources and personnel.

2.7. Parliament and Government will ensure efficient functioning of Criminal Assets Recovery Agency

Initiated, but not implemented

8. Adoption of a new law on energy in order to strengthen the energy sector governance and regulation framework, including the independence of National Agency for Energy Regulation and implementing the Energy Community Secretariat’s revision recommendations concerning the Agency.

5.7. Parliament will adopt law on energy in accordance with  Energy Community Secretariat’s recommendations

 

Fully implemented

 

9. Implementation of measures by the government to reduce the administrative burden when starting and running a business. The Ministry of Economy and Infrastructure will review the whole nomenclature of necessary permits and licenses and will reduce their number.

5.1. Parliament will adopt amendments and supplements to Labor Code in order to adjust it to modern market economy requirements and improve business and investment climate

5.2. Parliament will adopt law to amend and supplement a number of legal acts (in order to adopt the new nomenclature of permissive documents and reduce the number of licenses and permissive documents)

Fully implemented

 

10. Adoption by Parliament of a new law on the Customs Service to ensure high integrity standards and good practices.

1.4. Parliament will adopt Law on Customs Service

Not fully implemented

 

Based on these judgments, the first installment of the macro-financial assistance should not be disbursed until all the shortcomings in the seven problematic conditions are removed. In particular, it is about the ensuring of the excellent functioning of the National Integrity Authority, which should obstruct the corruptible instincts in the public and political sectors. Special attention should also be devoted to the Criminal Assets Recovery Agency whose role is essential in restoring the maximally possible amounts of the stolen funds following the banking frauds and not only.

The political preconditions are the most difficult part in the EU’s assessment as Moldova permanently fulfills these inappropriately. The modification of the electoral system in favor of the ruling party and in a non-transparent way is the main concern. According to the findings of civil society, the government fully fulfilled only 12 of the measures of those recommended by the Venice Commission concerning the electoral system change. Fourteen measures were implemented with deficiencies, while six measurers weren’t implemented at all. Based on these assessments alone, the first installment should not be provided. That’s why the political preconditions are the area where the government of Moldova finds it more difficult to camouflage the failures and insinuate progress.

Instead of conclusion

If the EU took a decision based on the assessments of civil society, Moldova should not receive the first installment of the macro-financial assistance. Neither the political nor the sector preconditions were completely met.

It’s certain that the government will present the own view on reforms and will try to balance the view on the quality of the fulfillment of the sector conditions. That’s why the expectations of the public in Moldova should be realistic. The European assessors will have a very objective report that will also contain concerns and additional demands over a number of sector conditions (integrity, public procurement, etc.). The assessment of the political preconditions remains a surprise for now, even if the situation in the country actually does not predispose to favorable results for releasing the first installment.

Amid the Moldovan realities, the EU macro-financial assistance can have a favorable impact for accelerating painful reforms that have been avoided by the government until now. The EU should use the weaknesses of the ruling party and the electoral context to obtain more concessions and, respectively, sustainable changes in terms of reforms.

 
Dionis Cenușa

 


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.


(2) comentarii
realist
09:32, 12 February 2018

Partidul de la guvernare nu am vazut sa se eschiveze de la reforme, asa ca nu cred ca UE trebuie sa preseze guvernarea, pentru ca deja se fac

Serafim
11:41, 12 February 2018

Eu cred ca dupa 2 ani de guvernare, sau vazut bine progresele ce lea facut guvernul si reformele facute, nu cred ca exista vre-un dubiu ca acest guvern nu va continua lucrurile ce vor dezvolta țara.

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