About a week before the meeting of the EU-Moldova Association Council, planned for March 14 this year, the Government of Moldova has stepped up efforts in order to impress the European Union (EU) and other international players (the U.S, the Council of Europe). Among the most significant recent moves made by the government are: (1) the transfer of the Petrenco group under house arrest (February 22); (2) nomination of the Moldovan expatriate Sergiu Cioclea as a candidate for the post of National Bank governor as a result of an open contest, with the participation of representatives of civil society (March 2); (3) the Constitutional Court’s decisions concerning the restoration of the formula that allows for the direct election of the head of state, which was used before the introduction of constitutional amendments in 2000 (March 4).
The pro-active attitude of the government and its readiness to adopt decisions in an unusually rapid way are aimed at achieving two major objectives: elimination of the protest spirit in society and restoration of the confidence of the foreign partners, in particular the European ones.
“Seduction” of Europeans
After the radicalization of the protests at the start of this year, the government realized that it will no longer be able to ensure political stability if it does not make more visible concessions to the protest movement and civil society. Also, the government convinced itself that high-quality political rapprochement with the EU is not possible without pro-reform rhetoric, while without this it is impossible to restore the previous regime of European financial assistance. In the Conclusions of the EU Council of February 15, the Europeans says it explicitly that they are in favor of reformers, laying emphasis on the obtaining of tangible results (justice sector reform, banking sector, corruption combating, etc.).
The current performance of the government will be objectively assessed within the Association Council. That’s why the government, given the approaching meeting, intends to strengthen its positions in relation to the other parties that are in (extra)parliamentary opposition. Eventually, the given meeting can be used by the Democratic Party to extend its legitimacy in the country and outside it. This context makes the political survival instincts to prevail over the real intention of the government to implement the Association Agreement.
It is evident that the Europeans will have to recognize the progress made by the government even if a large part of this is partial and/or unconvincing. By the acceleration of reforms, for now temporary, the government expects recognition and positive assessments from the Europeans. For these reasons, the authorities swiftly started to do the overdue actions, aiming to carry out about 90% of the measures stipulated in the EU Council’s Conclusions of February 15, such as: to negotiate with the IMF; to select the National Bank governor at a contest; to review Article 78 of the Constitution, concerning the election of the head of state; to adopt the law on the prosecution service, etc. Though most of the actions were met with skepticism and disproval at home, the government seems to be convinced that these will have the necessary impact on the European partners.
Instead of conclusion…
It’s for now not clear for how long the pro-reform rhetoric of the government will last. It is yet visible that the government adjusts the reform agenda and makes sure that its interests remain protected. Anyway, the authorities have to achieve results, even if many of these are criticized. This way the government considers that it can gradually overcome the political isolation, obtaining a broader recognition on the part of Brussels.
In such a situation, the Europeans should continue exerting pressure on the government through active monitoring and regular public communication of the mistakes made by the authorities, including on the occasion of the Association Council’s meeting of March 14. The EU should more actively plead for the protection of the people’s interests and should also become an impartial referee in relation to all the political players of Moldova, regardless of their geopolitical orientation. Brussels’s position in Moldova and the efficiency of pressure that this can apply to the political class are directly proportional to the support offered by the population. Ultimately, the EU must at any cost avoid the experience of the seven years of European integration in oligarchic style, which seriously affected the Moldovans’ perception of the European idea.
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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