The competition between the project of European integration as an independent state and, respectively, the pro-European unionism entails double political gains for the pro-Russian forces...
The shortage of public trust in the state institutions, extension of reforms anchored in the European agenda owing to the yet oligarchized political power and exploitation of societal cleavages by the populist forces multiply the doubts about the efficiency of the European integration in increasing Moldova’s functionality as a state.
The reunion with Romania is an alternative to the European integration process, according to the unionist forces. This way, Moldova would automatically become a part of the European club (EU) and would fall immediately under the protection of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Through the agency of this simplistic approach, such political forces as the National Unity Party suggest solving the multiple existentialist problems faced by Moldova, starting with corruption fighting and ending with the provision of public services of a higher quality for the population.
From a historical and profoundly sentimental subject, unionism is increasingly projected through the pragmatic angle of the public policies that already exist in Romania and are applied for the benefit of the collective interests of the Moldovan citizens, regardless of nationality. The opinions stated by supporters of unionism suggest that the European agenda that results from the implementation of the Association Agreement offers few guarantees that Moldova would ever join the EU. The slow or limited transforming character of the European integration and the lack of a clear European perspective represent the main arguments that favor the position and narrative of the unionists.
If the current and previous pro-European governments had shown consistency and coherence in coming closer to the European standards and practices, the unionists’ approach would have necessitated more time and resources for becoming more attractive. By devoting time to the formation of positive perceptions about itself and not to the change of the substance of its actions, the current government continuously contributes to distancing the citizens, on the one hand, from the state, and, on the other hand, from the Moldovan liberal democracy that has been shaken by the crises of the past eight years. Some categories of citizens choose to emigrate, while others support the idea of the reunion with Romania. Many citizens show yet themselves ready to support governments that promote non-liberal principles inspired by the Russian model, which are encouraged by the pro-Russian political forces, including President Igor Dodon.
The face and messages of unionism underwent significant changes, this becoming a more visible, accepted and powerful political movement. The European integration path covered by Romania, with the results achieved in some of the areas, such as corruption fighting, and the repeated failures of the Moldovan governments that discredited the state institutions and eroded the social contract led to the increased validation of this movement. Consequently, unionism started to be promoted as a short path to Europe and to be proposed as a method of extending a government of a higher quality on the population and the territory within Moldova’s borders.
However, Europhile unionism is for now not embraced by large political parties and this keeps it on secondary positions. It hasn’t entered the main political flow because it is yet insufficiently attractive among a majority of people and the demands by the pro-Russian forces to criminalize this movement. The form by which unionism tends to break political stereotypes resides in the Europeanization of the narrative and simplification of the political and geopolitical realities in the region.
The lack of viable proposals concerning the management of the Russian factor and of its broader implications through the agency of the Transnistrian conflict, the Gagauz autonomous unit and the phylo-Russian minorities represents one of the main weaknesses of the unionists. Not even the borrowing of the pro-European narrative can substitute the absence of a convincing view about the security aspects and attachment of many Moldovan citizens to the ideological, informational and identity space that is dominated and permanently strengthened by Russia.
Unionism and defects of pro-European government
The inefficiency of Moldovan governments is the main source that fuels unionism. Even if the European integration offers the instruments needed to build new or additional institutional and financial capacities to improve the living conditions of the population, its potential is poorly realized.
That’s why each failure of the pro-European governments advantaged the unionist forces and not only. The expansion of unionism serves as a stimulus for the pro-Russian parties that ably exploit the geopolitical phobias of the public for obtaining electoral gains.
The introduction of the mixed-member electoral system in July 2017, which enables to broaden the geopolitical discrepancies that divide further the split society, was an important twist. The expansion of the Moldovan nationalism that is promoted by the Party of Socialists and is closely connected with the Russian geopolitical space could be one of the consequences of the mixed voting. The list of losers could include the pro-European extraparliamentary opposition that, even if it reaches Parliament, could have insufficient power owing to the emerging pro-European unionist pole. The ruling Democrats are those who want to manage the political circumstances, including those related to the strengthening of the pro-European unionists, in order to ensure a comfortable entry in the future legislature.
Instead of conclusion...
The defects of the government have a destructive impact on the European integration as a project to modernize Moldova. The mimicked, partial or delayed reformation of the country helps to articulate new arguments that are advantageous to the unionist movement. Consequently, reckoning the failures of the European integration policies aimed at bringing Moldova closer to the EU, the unionists spread the idea that the entry into the EU is real only through the reunion with Romania.
The competition between the project of European integration as an independent state and, respectively, the pro-European unionism entails double political gains for the pro-Russian forces. On the one hand, this mobilizes the social categories sensible to political approaches. On the other hand, this discredits simultaneously the European integration and unionism, both being described as destabilizing elements for Moldovan statehood and the values on which this is based (Russian Orthodoxy, etc.).
The pro-European unionism will play a separate role in the election campaign of 2018 and could even fragment the extra-parliamentary opposition. The unionist movement will yet test the maturity of the political class of Chisinau, in particular of the pro-European political forces that are interested in integrating Moldova into the EU as an independent and perfectly functional state entity.
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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