Chisinau looks again for support in Brussels


The ‘parceling out’ of reforms and their prioritization (‘roadmap’) as well as their implementation under the supervision of the Europeans represent methods of pushing reforms that are painful for the current political system. The question is if the reforms are implemented till the end and are irreversible or they are adjusted to the interests of the current government…

Dionis Cenuşa


Moldova’s commitments defined in the Association Agreement with the EU were confirmed by the new Minister of Foreign Affairs Andrei Galbur during a visit paid to Brussels on February 8, 2016. Given the EU’s unclear attitude to the new Government of Moldova, Galbur’s visit to Brussels has major political significance for the current government. On the one hand, Galbur was to establish his own relations with officials of the European Commission, who during the last few years had a dialogue with the official Chisinau mainly though former foreign affairs minister Natalia Gherman. On the other hand, Galbur had a not at all simple mission – to produce a positive impression of the Government headed by Pavel Filip, whose legality and legitimacy are challenged by people protesting in the country.

EU’s precaution and official Chisinau’s determination

The visit to Brussels represents the first visit paid abroad by Andrei Galbur since taking up duties. It couldn’t have been otherwise as namely the reanimation of the European agenda can help unlock the foreign assistance intended for Moldova. Without this assistance, the current government, which is accused of having close ties with oligarch Vladimir Plahotniuc, would not manage to survive from political viewpoint. Therefore, Galbur met with one of the key players from Brussels – Commissioner for European Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Johannes Hahn. The task of the Moldovan official was difficult because last yearend Hahn was one of the major critics of the political situation in Moldova. Thus, last December Hahn suggested that the situation can change if three conditions are met: appearance of a new generation of politicians, re-launch of the policy and cleaning of the system.

Regardless of Galbur’s real motivation, his messages intended for the European partners will be treated with reticence. The EU’s precaution results from the fact that the Filip Government is regarded as a part of the oligarchic system. But the dose of suspicion can reduce when there is palpable and irreversible progress on the reform agenda. This fact explains the powerful pro-reform commitments made by Galbur and by Prime Minister Pavel Filip by the letter sent to the President of the European Commission through the agency of Johannes Hahn.

EU wants reforms in practice

The acceleration of reforms and the close monitoring of their implementation are two essential aspects to which European Commissioner Hahn referred. This noted that a ‘roadmap’ is needed for doing the most pressing reforms (banking sector, justice, prosecutor general, corruption fighting). According to Hahn, the ‘roadmap’ must contain deadlines and must indicate the authorities responsible for doing reforms. Moreover, Hahn asked that this document should be published so that the progress made by the government could be monitored. Furthermore, Hahn expected that the given document would be drawn up by February 12. These suggestions had the character of demands that the Moldovan authorities pledged to satisfy.

The Government of Moldova aims is to regain the foreign partners’ confidence and, indirectly, to increase its legitimacy in Moldova, strengthening thus the political position of the Democratic Party and its satellites. In Brussels, they still realize that by ‘parceling out’ and prioritizing the made commitments, particular objectives of the Association Agreement can be easily achieved. Nevertheless, the major goal is to carry out the national plan of action for implementing the Association Agreement and taking the measures that remained overdue in 2015.

Besides the pressure to which the government is subject by the protesters, less by nongovernmental organizations, the zeal shown by the authorities is also determined by the meeting of the EU – Moldova Association Council planned for mid-March. The success of this meeting depends on the government’s performance and on protesters’ behavior. The latter ones could make use of the moment to step up the pressure on the government particularly in the presence of the European officials. Also, the meeting of the Association Council will be held in the context of the expiration of President Nicolae Timofti’s term in office and this even can become the source of the future political destabilization in Moldova.

EU’s messages omitted by Moldovan authorities

The possible consequences of the IMF mission’s visit to Chisinau were also discussed in the meeting of Hahn and Galbur, but cannot be found in the press release of the Moldovan side for unknown reasons. The given aspect is important because the European Commissioner underlined that the unblocking of the European assistance would depend on the results of the assessment by the IMF mission. Hahn also promised that the assistance intended for Moldova will not be annulled or reduced and will be allocated in the same amount, but depending on the way the political, financial and macro-financial conditions are met.

Discussions on all fronts

During the visit to Brussels, the Moldovan minister also had an official meeting with the NATO Deputy Secretary General Alexander Vershbow. Unlike the dialogue with Commissioner Hahn, the discussions with the NATO official centered on the reforms stipulated in the Moldova – NATO Individual Partnership Action Plan. Galbur reasserted the Moldovan side’s determination to modernize the national military and defense sector. The NATO official reiterated the organization’s support for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Moldova and confirmed NATO’s readiness to provide expertise and assistance for the reforms aimed at strengthening the Moldovan security and defense system.

Besides visiting Brussels, Andrei Galbur also took part in the annual Munich Security Conference on February 12-14, 2016. On the sidelines of this conference, Galbur had meetings with the European Commission Vice President and High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Moguerini as well as with other national leaders of EU member states and with the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Victoria Nuland. For the Moldovan official, the Munich Security Conference represented a suitable platform for contacts and dialogue for popularizing the actions of the Filip Government, which is mainly in disgrace with the public opinion in Moldova.

Moreover, in Munich Galbur discussed with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov. The discussion focused not on the European agenda, but on the strengthening of the relations between the ministries and the resumption of negotiations on a number of agreements (on labor migration, fighting of illegal migration, readmission, etc.). Earlier, ex-foreign affairs minister Natalia Gherman suggested that the signing of the accords depends on the political benevolence of Moscow. Most probably, these issues will be addressed in April, in the context of the meeting of the CIS foreign affairs ministers that will take place in Moscow.

Instead of conclusion…

Andrei Galbur’s visit to Brussels confirmed the fact that the EU is ready to reopen the ‘window of opportunity’ for the Moldovan authorities, but in exchange for palpable or measurable reforms. Commissioner Hahn made reference to the Moldovan people’s interests and pleaded for political stability. Galbur’s mission was to convince the European side that the government is involved in reforms.

The local realities in Moldova, where the protesters demand early elections and the replacement of the oligarchic political system, are a problematic aspect that was apparently left in the shadow. The ‘parceling out’ of reforms and their prioritization (‘roadmap’) as well as their implementation under the supervision of the Europeans represent methods of pushing reforms that are painful for the current political system. The question is if the reforms are implemented till the end and are irreversible or they are adjusted to the interests of the current government. Full transparency in the reform agenda is needed and viable solutions should be identified together with civil society and the European partners, which would favor the national interests of the country, not the current government or political groups that tend to take over. 


Dionis Cenuşa


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.

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