Moldova’s rapprochement with the EU is difficult and very vulnerable. The situation is made more difficult by the destructive political processes, the delinquency spread inside the current political class and its mediocrity, which hamper the improvement of governance. As a result, powerful negative effects are felt on the economy and the people’s welfare. The current crisis in the financial-banking sector triggered off by the bank fraud clearly shows the vices of the Moldovan political class.
Even if a feeling of alert and despair prevails in society, things can be remedied. The realization of the potential of the Association Agreement with the EU represents one of the few available instruments that would enable to discipline the political class, to reform the state institutions, to ensure civil society grows mature and to stimulate the appearance of the ‘middle class’ by developing the business community. Surely, the objectives must be prioritized and achieved without deviations, but the European side should also become actively involved as it also assumed commitments through the Association Agreement.
Thus, the interest of the authorities must center on the development of a pro-reform behavior based on the rule of law, market economy and the respect for human rights (democratic principles) in the institutional, political and public conscience in the country. The setting of realistic, measurable and palpable measures is mandatory for reconnecting the government and the public and meeting protesting groups’ demands. Instead, the representatives of the government launch illusory messages about Moldova’s chance to obtain the status of EU accession candidate. Such a statement was made by the leader of the Democratic Party Marian Lupu on March 28 this year. According to Lupu, the necessary political decisions should be taken and an information campaign should be carried out (campaign “2019 - together in Europe”) with the aim of obtaining the status of accession candidate for Moldova until 2019. This schedule is also related to the fact that Romania will hold the presidency of the Council of the EU in the second half of 2019.
The Democrats’ leader is not the first politician who formulates ambitious, but unrealistic proposals concerning the submission of the application. Earlier, Iurie Leanca anticipated that Moldova could become an EU member state in 2019. If Leanca’s scenario was realizable in time, what Lupu suggests is far from the realities in the country and the region.
First of all, the European capitals have suspicions about the government of Moldova. Though this is engaged in reforms, not many believe in the integrity of reforms given that the state institutions remain profoundly politicized and serve the interests of the government whose ties with the oligarchs are maintained intact. Furthermore, such an approach is inappropriate because an application for entering the EU should first enjoy support among the people. In reality, the European course is powerfully undermined by the presence of Eurasian aspirations in society, which are promoted by the pro-Russian parties of Moldova. Also, the European course continues to face an image crisis, caused by the ostensible pro-European parties that have governed since 2009.
Secondly, Moldova is far from meeting the elementary aspects that would create positive preconditions for enjoying the support of the Europeans so that the application for accession is at least accepted for examination. The Europeans know that justice remains yet unreformed, the business climate is unpredictable and the democratic institutions function inappropriately.
Last but not least, it is very risky to file such applications when Europe is rocked by crises, while the national governments are focused on internal problems. Normally, if a beneficial result for the country is wanted, all the factors are taken into account, including those from inside the EU, so as to maximize the chances of a possible application for accession on the part of Moldova. Otherwise, the action will be to the detriment of the country’s European agenda.
Essential element for continuing on the path of European integration
To start discussions about the application for accession, the Moldovan authorities must obtain the recognition of the European perspective for Moldova. The Association Agreement does not offer this perspective, but this can be obtained at the level of public discourse and in the political messages of the European institutions. When the Europeans confirm the European perspective by officials documents (political statements, conclusions of the Council of the EU, etc.), the discussions about the application for accession in and for Moldova can get shape and meaning too.
The example of the Western Balkan countries shows that the European perspective was given first and the state was regarded as a ‘possible candidate’, being mentioned as such in strategic documents (Feira European Council of 2000 and then Thessaloniki European Council of 2003). Moreover, the political class in the Western Balkans regarded the EU as the only viable option, including such countries as Serbia, which has close relation with Russia and was long dominated by anti-NATO feelings.
Consequently, Moldova must have a mainly pro-European political class, with an extended period of validity owing to the substantial support on the part of voters. This should also excel in reforms so that the country obtains the status of ‘potential candidate’. Without these elements, any intention to submit an application for accession is doomed to failure.
Instead of conclusion…
Marian Lupu’s statements generate bewilderment. The authorities have exaggerated, but illusory ambitions concerning the obtaining of the status of candidate until 2019, when they actually cannot even unlock the direct budget support provided by the EU.
The formulation of this political objective when the government has low credibility in the country and in the West is not a sound and responsible political decision. Furthermore, the application for entering the EU is not supported in the country, the European course being practically at the same level of popularity as the geopolitical initiatives of Russia (Eurasian Economic Union).
The Moldovan realities as the European ones increase the risks of having a possible application for accession submitted before 2019 rejected from the start. The current and future authorities, if they continue the European agenda, should center on the meeting of the European standards as regards legislation, institutions and principles (rule of law, human rights). The improvement of the political and economic situation in the country by implementing reforms supported by the EU and the U.S. could contribute to gradually preparing the population for the ‘application for accession’. Also, Moldova’s concentration on reforms must coincide with the resolution of the current crises in the EU.
Finally, a realistic and successful application for accession means: integral, credible and pro-reform political class, deep-rooted European agenda, population that generally supports the European course and a Europe that is ready for enlargement.
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.
Follow Dionis Cenuşa on Twitter
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.